God is here and people need to see it. In the past several years, I’ve read and thought a lot about God’s presence. It started with the book by David Fitch, Faithful Presence. It outlines 7 practices that the church should be doing, to enjoy, recognize and live into God’s presence in the world.
From there, I was challenged by John Walton’s book on Genesis, The Lost World of Genesis One; and the temple motif of the Garden of Eden. Again, I find God communicating his presence in the world, and his desire to be present with us, those made in his image.
Now, as I read Scripture, I see the God who his present. Yes, he is above and beyond. He is categorically different from us. But again and again, he steps into his creation with the goal of having communion with those he made for that purpose.
God’s presence in Scripture
1. THE GARDEN: 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 called to the man, “Where are you?”
2. THE PILLAR OF FIRE AND CLOUD: Exodus 13:21-22 “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”
3. THE TEMPLE: 2 Chronicles 7:1-2 “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it.”
4. THE IMMANUEL: Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means God with us.”
5. THE SPIRIT AND THE CHURCH: 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred and you are that temple.”
6. THE CITY: Rev. 21:1-3 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
These are just the highlights! I have to believe God makes himself present to so many others in so many ways. I don’t think Jacob is the only one who wrestled with God. God and I have gone a few rounds. I bet the people in Scripture aren’t the only ones to hear his voice. I’m sure millions have seen a glimpse of his glory. God speaks, he moves, he shows up. He listens, he rejoices, he cries. This is the God of Scripture. He is active and involved with his creation – especially those he made for fellowship with him – people.
All that to say, I believe the way we live in the world, makes God’s presence more tangible to the world. That’s part of our witnessing task. We’ve known God’s presence, specially revealed in Jesus Christ, and we want to make that reality known to the world. But how can we do that? One thing we can begin doing is living the way Jesus lived in the world. As we’re led by the Spirit into the life of Christ, we make that life available to others.
A Life that Displays God’s Presence
To put some handles on this, read Romans 12:13-16. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse, 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
1. Give. – practice true generosity. In my ministry, I have woefully preached tithing as an obligation. It was a spiritual bill to pay. God gives us so much more, so we can give so much more. Generosity comes in many shapes and sizes. But it’s summed up in letting go for the sake of another. You need, I have, I give. We have a generous God. Our world needs to see his generosity in us.
2. Open. – create space for others. If our lifestyle has no space for others, we have the wrong lifestyle. We need to rearrange things. We need to make room for others in our schedules and on our front porch. Our God is a hospitable God. He doesn’t keep us at arms length. He runs to us like the Father of the Prodigal. He came in our skin, so we could join him in his kingdom – now that’s an invitation!
3. Bless. – positively love all the time. We live in a time when Christians have learned to fight. We don’t need to fight. God has already won the fight in Christ. The enemy has been conquered. We live in that reality, every time we bless those who are against us. Why love them? Because God loves them. Loving this way reveals a God who took the abuse and still prayed, “Father, forgive them.”
4. Participate. – live with others, join their journey. Following someone on Twitter, or Instagram isn’t joining their journey. Rejoicing and mourning is a full-participation activity. Learning to do life with others is essential to showing people a God who is present and active in their lives. No quick answers, no trite retorts to life’s problems, just presence and participation. Sit with your neighbor. Celebrate life’s events. God is.
5. Harmonize. – play with those on the outside. Harmony isn’t achieved if everyone is playing the same note. True harmony happens when one learns to adjust their notes to those being played, so they complement one another. God calls us to show others his nature, by the way we do life with those who are unlike us. This is what God is doing all the time. He enters into our world in a way we need him to. He whispers in a voice we can hear. He graces us in a way we need. He associates with us, who are of low position, moment by moment.
When we live this way, we are recognizing God’s presence and displaying it to others. When we live like this, we are showing others the nature of this God who is present and active in the world.
How are you living into God’s presence? What’s the biggest challenge you face?