Category Archives: Church

Who Is on the Lord’s Side?

Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is on the LORD’S side? Let him come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. — Exodus 32:26

As Christians, we are called to be prophetic people — understanding and then speaking forth Christ’s heart to the world around us. We have a responsibility to consistently stand with the Lord. That often means we must first step back from the current issues of our day, not form or speak hasty judgments, and take time to inquire of the Lord about His perspective.

In our current world, the news media takes upon itself to be the judicial system. They indict, prosecute, and preside as judges, demanding that their readers be the jury. Sadly, the “jury” is often given unsubstantiated rumors, which we are duped into thinking are facts. The witnesses are anonymous “sources,” presented as tellers of truth, but they may or may not be accurate witnesses. No one seems to care anymore about vetting the witnesses to see whether their claims hold up.

As a result, many inaccurate or even false stories become the headlines of the day. And if they turn out to be untrue? There might be a lesser headline or a back-page retraction a few days later. Then again, maybe not. By that time, not only has the exposed person or people group been tried on minimal information; they’ve been executed as well.

Where do we fit into this mess? Many of us are quick to pronounce a guilty verdict based on rumors and incomplete information. We cry out, along with the non-believing world, for someone’s condemnation. How does that fit with grace and justice? How does that line up with 1 Corinthians 13:6, 7: “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (NIV)? We are eager to crucify, even as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were.

Just as bad, if not worse, is justifying someone’s sins because their agenda is the same as ours. Political ideology is an enormous idol, worshiped as much in the Church as elsewhere. It disturbs me that we are willing to compromise what God has clearly said in order to hand power to someone who fits our political persuasion. Some of our influential Christian leaders even twist Scripture to convince us that sin is either acceptable behavior, or at worst, of minor consequence (because everyone does it, after all).

What should the people of God be speaking instead of  immediate and vocal condemnation? The answer is found in the Word of God:

In the multitude of words there is no end of sin: but he who refrains his lips is wise.Proverbs 10:19

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand. Joshua went to him and said, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”

And he said, “No. But as captain of the host of the LORD have I now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped, and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” Joshua 5:13, 14

Those three passages give us guidance on how to respond wisely to the events taking place around us:

1.) We must refrain from speaking hastily.

2.) We must seek the Lord for His perspective. His viewpoint is higher and more complete than ours, but we can attain to it by inquiring of Him. Only when we have His counsel on a matter should we offer our opinions. Even then, prayer should be our first response. We must not only find out how God sees things, but also whether He even wants us to speak into them — or, should we remain quiet?

3.) We must not align ourselves with any agenda but the Lord’s. God is not a card-carrying member of any political party. He is sovereign, far above political agendas and persuasions. He is neither a conservative nor a liberal. He is only concerned with how those agendas measure up against His holy Word.

Does that mean we should not affiliate with political parties or social movements? Not at all. But we should make certain that we are aligned with Him, rather than swallowing whole an agenda just because somebody of our party or persuasion says that’s the way it has to be.

Lovers of Christ, take up your mantle to be God’s prophetic voice to our world. Seek out His counsel and stick with that. Do not let yourself be manipulated by the other voices shouting so loudly around us. Do not be like the masses, spewing natural-minded opinions right and left. We are a holy, set-apart people, with a message of light to share. Let’s start doing that.

Growing in the Prophetic (audio series)

 

Growing in the Prophetic,
Audio Series,  by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

Before Whom We Stand, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God, by Lee Ann Rubsam

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Guidelines for Good Prophecy (Part 3)

Under the New Covenant in Christ, we don’t stone prophets who prophesy inaccurately (although sometimes I see harsh comments from people who would like to!). Instead, God has given us safeguard measures to be used within the Church to protect us from false or inaccurate prophecy.

He has now made the ability to prophesy available to all believers. “For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (1 Corinthians 14:31). A key phrase in that verse is, “that all may learn.” In making prophecy available to every believer, the Lord has also allowed for us to learn how to do it right over a period of time. Learning to hear God accurately is a process. So is learning to prophesy accurately.

Many of the modern-day prophets who are now known for getting their words right did not start out hitting the bullseye every time. They made mistakes. But they submitted themselves to mentors who patiently taught them, picked them up and dusted them off when they fell on their noses, and then sent them back out to try again. Thank God for shepherds like that!

Each of us who wish to prophesy must be willing to submit to a mentoring process as well. Not being open to learning from others indicates pride. Most of us start out prideful to some extent, but if we are ever to be a blessing to the body of Christ, we’re going to have to be teachable and let God refine us. God shaves away our pride through correction, making embarrassing mistakes, and bearing the brunt of criticism or ridicule, as well as other forms of painful refinement. God needs broken, crucified people to speak for Him. If we’re not broken, we end up speaking only for our own egos — and, spiritually speaking, that smells really bad.

Besides mentors, God guards the body of believers, as well as the person who prophesies, from inaccurate or even utterly false prophecy through allowing corporate discernment of whatever prophetic words are given. Discerning can be done by prophetic mentors and pastors, but others in the church may also fill the discerning role. Let’s look at a couple of verses which talk about this:

Let the prophets speak, two or three, and [then] let the others judge [discern; weigh].1 Corinthians 14:29

Do not despise prophesying. Prove [judge; discern; weigh] all things; hold fast that which is good.1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21

If we’re going to prophesy, we should already have done some weighing of what we’re about to say before we speak. But once it is said, it is out of our hands. Others in the church now have the responsibility to discern what we’ve spoken. We don’t exclusively judge our own words, because we are not a law unto ourselves. We are members of a body, and the other members assist us with their discernment — for the entire congregation’s protection as well as ours. This is really risky to our pride, but if the family of God is functioning properly, there will be grace given, and we will benefit in the long run.

What if the church family isn’t functioning well? Truthfully, this is the case a lot of the time. Too many prophetic people have ended up in the boneyard because of it. But God will use even the horrible experiences to shape us and bring us into a greater depth of accuracy in the prophetic, if we will lean into Him and let Him heal our hurts, rather than becoming angry and bitter.

If you can, find a group of Christians, whether a church congregation or a home fellowship group, where you feel safe in making mistakes as you learn. This may be a group which is in addition to your church family. If you don’t know of one, ask the Lord to lead you to one. He is very good at setting up circumstances so that we come in contact with the people we need in our lives.

And don’t give up on using the gifts which God has planted in you because of some bad experiences. God hasn’t given up on you. Besides, we’ve all had some pretty bad experiences. It goes with the territory of taking a risk and stepping out into the spiritual gifts.

Next time, I will give you some criteria I use in discerning all those prophecies we see out there on the Internet.

Previous — Part 2
Next — Things I Look for in a Prophet

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

A Dream About Worship in the Church

I love how God speaks in dreams — especially symbolic dreams. They are parables which would not be understandable without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. The following is a very encouraging dream about how the Lord wants to restore worship in the church back to what it is meant to be:

The Dream:

I saw a man, about forty years old, who was the owner of a music store. There were guitars positioned here and there throughout his shop. The front side of the building had no wall, so that it was completely open to the sidewalk.

Behind the store, on the other side of the back wall, was the municipal waterworks building. I saw open water there, like a river, contained in a canal-like structure.

There was a small opening in the wall between the music store and the waterworks, at floor level. It was about 6 inches wide and 4 inches high. The owner of the shop temporarily removed a metal device from the hole, which in some way opened and closed access between the two buildings. He set it aside in a box.

The scene shifted, to where a pleasant-looking woman, about the same age as the man, was in the music store. She was the manager of the waterworks. Even though their workplaces were right next door, it seemed that they did not normally have contact with one another. The man conversed with her about how they had been sweethearts in their youth. He had fond memories of that time.

He asked her, hesitantly, if she had been in any relationships since they had parted company years before. She did not have time to answer him before he continued talking, but I got the impression that there had been no one else in her life. He longingly asked, “Will you marry me?” It was obvious that they both still cared very much for each other.

The scene abruptly shifted to what was happening back at the waterworks. There had been a sudden surge of flooding. The employees did not seem to know what had caused it; they just knew that it had happened. I saw a car nearly submerged in the water there. And I knew that the man in the music shop, being preoccupied with his renewed love relationship, would have forgotten to put the metal device in the hole between his shop and the waterworks, so that his shop might get flooded as a result.

In the dream, I had the feeling that what I was watching was somewhat like a soap opera, in the sense that the story was unfolding gradually, over time. Even the last scene of the flooding in the waterworks department did not have an ending — as though I would need to tune in for the next episode to find out what happened.

Interpretation:

The man in the music shop represents worship leaders, and possibly pastors, to the extent that their preferences rule how worship goes in the local church.

The front of the music shop was completely open, indicating that this is talking about public worship, not personal, private worship.

The woman who was the head of the waterworks department represents the Holy Spirit. Water represents the activity of the Spirit. (See John 7:37-39, where Jesus talks about “rivers of living water” supplied by the Holy Spirit.) Normally, the Holy Spirit would not be portrayed as a woman, but it is important to the rest of the parable, because it is a love story.

The dream is about God’s desire for our worship leaders to reunite with the Holy Spirit in their leading of worship. The man had once had a love relationship with the woman. They had enjoyed one another and done things together. But separation had taken place and had continued for a long time (as revealed by the age of the two lovers). That is what has happened over time for many worship leaders (and for the congregations they serve, as a result). What was once a free-flowing, joyous, give-and-take dance between the Lord and His people has declined, in many churches, into routine man-orchestrated events, which follow a set pattern allowing for little deviation. There is no room for the Holy Spirit to move, because there is no longer the intimate relationship with Him which was once enjoyed. And this has gone on for a long time.

The woman having had no other relationship in all those years indicates to me that the Holy Spirit has been waiting in the wings, longing for this one marriage which was always meant to be — true communion between God and His people, carried out in part through the expression of worship.

It is noteworthy that before any of the other scenes happened, the music shop owner had removed the device in the wall which governed access between his store and the waterworks. Only after that did the relationship come back together and the surging of the waters take place. It is up to worship leaders (and their pastors) to be willing to allow access to the waters of the Spirit in their worship services. They have to take this step before the rest can happen.

Even the 6″ X 4″ dimensions of the hole have significance: six is the number of man, and four represents rule. (Genesis 1:14-18 tells us that the sun and moon were created on the fourth day to rule the day and night.) So, it was the man’s responsibility to make access to his shop available.

The dream is open-ended. We don’t know whether water will seep into the music shop from the waterworks, or whether flooding might even happen there — but there is a good chance it will, because the man is preoccupied with his restored love, and has forgotten in that moment to put the device which could shut off access back in the hole. (Let’s hope he keeps forgetting, and leaves it open. What if the whole wall between the waterworks of the Spirit and the shop came down entirely?)

Summary application:

God would like to bring in the flood of Holy Spirit’s Presence upon His Church once again. This is wonderful! The Spirit’s activity and worship really belong together. There is a true love relationship between them, but they have been separated in the Church for a long time. They need to come back together. But whether they will or not is conditional on willingness.

If you are a worship leader or pastor, will you give access to the Holy Spirit in your church once again? Will you allow Him the space and time to do what He desires to do? Will you yield yourself and your congregation to experience the love relationship with the Holy Spirit which was always meant to be? You can determine how the story will end.

 

Making a Place for God’s Presence (Part 5) — For Worship Leaders

Modified Hubble Image, by Lee Ann RubsamWorship leading has got to be one of the most difficult ministry functions on the face of the planet. It is impossible to please everyone, from the senior pastor to the people in the pew. What if your pastor is telling you that he wants more Presence-oriented worship, or that he wants you to “flow with the Spirit” in worship, but you don’t have a clue how? There are some simple things you can do to get yourself there.

1.)  It starts with having a consistent prayer and Bible reading time. I know, I know. This is too basic, right? But we have bazillions of worship leaders across the nation who aren’t praying and absorbing the Scriptures every day — or, they do a quick five or ten minutes with Jesus. That’s not going to cut it, if you want to be tuned in to the Lord on Sunday morning.

As you pray and fill yourself with the Word, God communes with your spirit. You set yourself up to hear His voice — especially if you ask Him what He wants to say and then force yourself to be quiet before Him. You might not get immediate results, but over time, God will honor your faithfulness to listen for His voice. You will become more sensitive to Him.

2.)  Listen to Presence-oriented worship music. I have personally known worship leaders who listened to a little dab of worship music — just enough to come up with some songs for Sunday mornings. The majority of their listening was secular. You cannot fill your ears with music which does not have the Lord at its center, and then expect to catch the flow of heaven’s sound on Sunday morning.

Furthermore, while the contemporary Christian music on the radio is not at cross-purposes with worshiping the Lord, neither is a lot of it geared toward God manifesting His Presence in church services. Contemporary Christian music tends to be fairly us-oriented, talking about our struggles and weaknesses, with a little bit of “but God and His grace …” thrown in.

So, you’re going to have to fill your spirit up with worship music which not only touches your heart, but God’s heart, too. Do you need suggestions? There is so much available out there! Some great places to start are United Pursuit, Bethel Worship, Gateway, Jesus Culture, Vineyard, International House of Prayer (IHOP-KC), Robin Mark, Lindell Cooley, and Housefires.

3.)  Decide who your audience is going to be — God or man. Years ago, one of our church’s worship leaders decided to drill home to his team the importance of making God their audience. They were a very professional-sounding bunch, but although technical excellence was important to him, having their focus in the right place was even more of a priority.

Twice a month they spent an hour together simply worshiping the Lord with abandon, with no one else in the sanctuary except the Lord. God came down in there! (I know, because I snuck in to experience the Glory!)

If you want God to show up on Sunday mornings, make Him the focus of your worship, instead of how many or few people are there to hear you. Resist the temptation to let the size of the crowd influence your level of worship. Have a passion to pursue God together with the congregation, rather than putting on a performance for them.

4.)  It’s not about style … but it is about style. While people can connect with God through many different varieties of music, some songs are so busy and complicated that the congregation has a hard time taking hold of the Lord with them. It doesn’t all have to be slow and majestic, but it does have to be simple enough so people can sing with you.

One reason I love United Pursuit’s music is because the key concepts in each song are repetitive. Repetitive music with words which extol the Lord’s greatness and our love for Him tend to lead the congregation into a continuing upward spiral of devotion — which He then responds to.

Make sure the words have substance, but still make sense without having to search hard for their meaning. If the lyrics are too cryptic, they distract from focusing on the Lord.

If you can include in your lineup some songs which allow people to close their eyes, raise their hands, and just meditate on the Lord, that’s a good thing, too.

5.)  It’s not about energy or volume. I have heard worship leaders say that God likes it loud, and the louder it is, the more likely He is to manifest Himself. Music which is too soft can make people feel like they’re at a funeral parlor, but while that isn’t going to help them engage, neither will breaking their eardrums. Furthermore, God doesn’t suddenly wake up from a holy coma exclaiming, “Hey! They just cranked it up to where I can hear it way up here. I am impressed! I think I’ll go visit that congregation!” It sounds silly — but we sometimes act like that’s the way it is.

I have also watched worship leaders work themselves and their congregations into a lather of excitement and then announce that “God is really moving!” No, He wasn’t. There is a vast difference between being pumped up in your emotions and sensing the Lord’s Presence with your spirit. Being able to discern the difference comes through relationship with the Lord (see Point 1) and immersing yourself in true worship music (Point 2).

6.)  Prepare for the service during the week by asking God what music He would like to hear when the congregation comes together. He will be pleased that you invited Him into the decision-making process, and He will be faithful to answer — maybe by speaking directly to you, maybe through more subtle means. The Lord has specific plans for what He would like to do in any given service, and when we ask for His input into the choice of songs, we partner with His purposes. That is an exciting place to be!

7.)  Set the mood before the service. Have background worship music playing on CD which sets the tone for what you desire to accomplish once the service starts. Choose music which will make for a smooth transition into your first live song. A little thing like appropriate pre-service music prepares the soil of the congregation’s heart to enter in immediately when you and your team begin to sing.

8.)  Don’t just assume God will show up. Ask Him to. The Lord loves to be invited to manifest His Presence among us. We must maintain a holy awe of Him, where we never take Him for granted. Entreating Him to pour out His Spirit in the corporate gathering builds expectancy in us, too.

You can’t make God show up. That is entirely up to Him. If you try to develop a formula for how to bring in the Lord’s Presence you will offend Him. The song which brings worship to a deeper level one week may fall flat the next, if you’re depending on a method to manipulate God into moving among you.

The key is to make yourself and your church a prepared container, ready for the Lord to pour into. He is eager to fill our congregational gatherings with Himself, if we will make ourselves available to Him.

Previous: Part 4

Making a Place for God’s Presence (Part 4)

Modified Hubble Image, by Lee Ann RubsamLast time I spoke mainly to pastors about making a place for God’s Presence in church services. In this post, I’ll share some simple, practical ways we can invite God into our gatherings — whether church services, home fellowships, or prayer groups.

Develop a habit of expecting God to meet with you. God loves expectant hearts! He might still visit His Presence in your group if you are not expecting Him to, but if you aren’t looking for Him, you might not notice when He first starts manifesting Himself. You could unintentionally shut down the worship right when it’s beginning to cook — because you aren’t paying attention.

Prepare a place for God to show up. Most of the time, it doesn’t just happen. God likes to be entreated to come. We let Him know that He is valued above all else. My husband and I lead a couple of prayer groups in our home, and we definitely feel the responsibility of preparing the way in prayer and worship before people ever get there. We’ve done the same when we led prayer groups in church settings. Here are some ways we prepare a place for the Lord:

1. We fast.

2. We minimize distractions and appointments on days when our prayer gatherings are happening, so that our minds are fixed on the Lord.

3. We plan the worship music for the gathering ahead of time. We don’t have the luxury of a worship leader, so we use music from CDs. This really can work well! But we don’t just throw something together, or play whatever we feel like hearing. We ask the Lord, “What would you like to hear tonight?” I put together a playlist which has been thought out and prayed into. It is worth the time and effort.

4. We begin to prepare an atmosphere of the Lord’s Presence before the other people arrive. Usually, we spend a half hour or more worshiping and praying together, just the two of us. We entreat the Lord to be among us, to make everyone’s heart sensitive to Him, to move among us in the gifts of the Spirit, and to help us be of one heart and mind with Him and with each other. In a church setting, this time of preparing the way for the Lord could be accomplished by church staff joining in prayer and worship together, or an intercessor team, or both.

Preparing for His Presence to come down in the corporate gathering is a lot like a farmer getting his field ready for planting. If he doesn’t do the preliminary plowing and harrowing, sowing the seed will not produce much of a crop.

Teach the people you lead to expect God to show up. Encourage them to prepare a place in their hearts ahead of time to meet God in worship. Creating expectancy in your congregation or group is huge. We encourage our group to fast and pray ahead of time, if possible.

We suggest that, prior to coming, they ask God to give them something to contribute to our meeting. If He does, fine. If He doesn’t give them anything, He probably will sometime during our evening together, because they have prepared their hearts to receive from Him.

We encourage them to spend the ride to our gathering focusing on the Lord, so that they come with reverent hearts, ready to encounter Him. When people thoughtlessly blow into a meeting, it takes longer for them to attune their hearts to the Lord. It affects the ability of the whole group to focus on worship when some of us are distracted and unprepared.

Keep worship as the priority. It is not a preliminary to the sermon or prayer meeting. It is the most important part of the gathering — because honoring God comes above all else. Derek Prince once said, “Worship is not an appendix to the Christian life; it is not a little addition to services. It is the culmination.”

We have had people join our group who were impatient to get past worship and dive right into prayer. They wanted to immediately get to the “doing” of intercession, without taking time “being” in their relationship with the Lord. We have always resisted that, and we always will. We’ve taught them that honoring God is more important than petitioning Him, and that when we do intercede, our prayers will be much more Spirit-targeted (and therefore more effective) if we worship first.

When people connect with the Lord through Presence-oriented worship, their bodies and emotions often get healed during that time of adoring Him. Worship tenderizes people’s hearts so that they can better hear what God wants to speak to them through preaching, teaching, and the prophetic gifts. Worship is the entrance into whatever genuine Kingdom activities any of us do.

United Pursuit has a song with the words, “We’re not in a hurry, when it comes to Your Presence, when it comes to Your Spirit, when it comes to Your Presence ….” That’s where we’re at, and that, I believe, is why we experience the Lord’s Presence, week after week.

Next time, I’d like to provide some practical ideas for worship leaders for how to bring the Presence of God into the gatherings they lead.


Previous — Part 3
Next — Part 5

Making a Place for God’s Presence (Part 3)

Modified Hubble Image, by Lee Ann Rubsam

In the last two posts, I explained what is meant by the tangible Presence of God, why we need to experience Him in this way, and what that may look like. Today and in the next post, we’ll talk about simple ways we can invite the Lord to manifest His Presence in our Christian gatherings — prayer meetings, home fellowships, or church services, for instance. I particularly hope that pastors and other group leaders will find this post helpful.

The Lord truly desires to show up among His people. Has He not already said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20)? Why is it, then, that so many of our congregational gatherings are so dry? Why are people having difficulty connecting with God in the corporate setting?

It’s about attitudes and priorities. And, as with anything that goes on in the corporate gathering, the leaders — the ones who carry and implement the vision — are the place where change must start. If leaders don’t make God’s Presence top priority, it is unlikely to happen — at least on a consistent basis. I’m going to be speaking mainly to pastors for the rest of this post, but the following points can be applied by prayer and home fellowship leaders too:

If you want God to visit your service or gathering big-time, you will have to start with a major shift in what you value. Pastors face a tremendous amount of pressure to please people so that they keep coming. This is very real on a practical level, because if the people don’t come, the bills don’t get paid. It’s also real because in America, we’ve bought into the mentality that church numbers growth means we’re doing things right; we’re successful. It is definitely possible to grow a large church without the Presence of God. The people attending probably will be about as shallow spiritually as a layer of oil on water, but you can do it.

So, there’s a risk of losing people if you move toward a Presence-oriented church. You will have to decide, if push comes to shove, whether it is more important to make a place for natural-minded people to enjoy being entertained, or a place where God feels welcomed and honored. The two often don’t mix very well, so the Presence of God in your worship might mean taking heat from those who don’t want to grow deeper in the things of the Spirit. If you are willing to say, “God, I will do whatever it takes to make a place for Your Presence,” we can move on to the next point.

God’s agenda for any meeting must trump your plans. Going into any service or gathering with a plan is wisdom, but you must be willing to let God change the plan. That means, if your normal allotted time for praise and worship singing is twenty minutes, and you can see that the Holy Spirit is moving on people’s hearts, you won’t just shift into the next regularly scheduled segment of the service at the twenty-minute mark. If you do, you will grieve the Spirit. And, you will grieve the hearts of people who were beginning to be touched by Him.

Quite a few churches have adopted a separate service plan — one with a general social appeal and one for those who want to go deeper in the things of God. For instance, the Sunday morning service might feature lively praise music and a basic sermon, perhaps with an altar call. In most cases, the gifts of the Spirit won’t happen at this service, because it is thought they might scare away visitors and new or non-believers.

A service on another night of the week, once a month or more, is then provided. At these “encounter” services, more intimate worship is allowed, and at greater length. In a charismatic church, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are welcomed at this second service. Deeper preaching and teaching are presented, and prayer for healings and miracles is offered. The hope is that the Sunday morning crowd will eventually develop a deeper hunger for the Lord and begin adding the more Presence-oriented service into their church experience.

If the reasoning behind the two-service approach is to give the congregation a short period of time to adjust to more Presence-oriented services, this could help transition flow smoothly. But if the purpose is to appease both the spiritually hungry and the not-so-hungry, it is not going to work long-term. Why? Because we can’t push God from box to box, telling Him when to show up, and what He can and cannot do in a given service. It is an affront to Him. There may be exceptions, because God knows the heart behind why things are done the way they are, but eventually He will bring church leadership to the decision of who is Lord. If it is not THE Lord, the fire will die out.

I’ve probably lost some readers by now. But for those of you who want to go on, next time we will talk about practical ways we can invite God to pour out His Presence among us.

Previous: Part 2
Next: Part 4

Making a Place for God’s Presence (Part 2)

Modified Hubble Image, by Lee Ann RubsamIn our last post, I explained what we mean by experiencing the Presence of God. I mentioned that worship, meditating on the Word, and intimate prayer are ways we can, as individuals, invite God to manifest His Presence to us.

Why should we want God to manifest Himself to us? Aren’t mature believers supposed to walk by faith, not by sight?

The truth is, God has built into humankind a hunger to know Him experientially. He is intimately acquainted with us, but He also longs for us to know Him intimately. That’s the way it started out in Eden — mutual knowing of one another between God and man.

In Exodus 33:12 through 34:9, we have the story of Moses’ quest for God’s manifested Presence. “I beseech You, show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18). God readily granted his petition. He hid Moses in a crevice in the rock and allowed him to see His glory in limited measure as He passed by.

And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and … passed by before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin ….”

And Moses hastily bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. — Exodus 34:5-8

God has made us spiritual beings, who happen to reside in physical bodies. Because we are spiritual in nature, and because we were created to fellowship with God, we quite naturally long for God’s supernatural evidences to show up in our natural world. Encountering God in a manifestation of His supernatural Presence keeps us alive to Him. We need this intermingling with His Presence to sustain us and empower us to do the “greater works” of God, mentioned in John 14:12, which were to be poured out on believers with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Physical healings often take place in us too, as we worship in the Presence of our Healer.

We can encounter God’s Presence when we are alone with Him in prayer and worship, but experiencing Him tangibly should also be a regular occurrence when the Church gathers corporately. In fact, the magnitude of His revealed glory should be multiplied when we join with other believers. We are not meant for a “just me and Jesus” lifestyle. We are all members of the Body of Christ, fitted together as one entity. And when that joining together takes place, God is eager to come down among us.

Yet, many have never experienced the manifest Presence of God in the church setting. Why? We have learned to do without sensing Him in the congregation for so long that we don’t even know we can expect Him to show up.

We fill the void of His Presence with all sorts of substitutes — glitzy worship teams with all the right gestures and singing techniques, flashy lights, beautiful video presentations, music loud enough to blow the doors out. While these things are not necessarily bad in themselves (well, the excessively loud music might be!), they are calculated to appeal to our soul, not our spirit. They stimulate excitement for the mind and body, but they do not connect our spirit to the Lord. So, when the show is over, our inner man has not been satisfied. A gnawing emptiness remains.

Why are so many leaving the local church? They are not hearing the simple gospel of Jesus preached (which is a subject for another day), and they are not being given opportunity to truly meet with God in worship. When little room is made for genuine interaction between man’s spirit and the Spirit of the Lord, disappointment and boredom result. Somehow, the Church has bought into the false notion that we need to artificially entertain people, in order to compete with the world system for their attention and affection.

We can change this. It is not all that hard. It will take a few adjustments, starting with our attitudes and expanding into our actions. That’s where we will pick up next time.

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