If you happened to be at Fellowship this Sunday, you might be aware of the fact that I kind of lost it on stage... In a good way. Frankly, what happened was an answer to a prayer that I have prayed over my own life for a number of years. I have long wanted to be undone before the Lord, and He just so happened to grant me that request Sunday morning in front of 250 of my closest friends. Throughout the morning, my heart was a strange cocktail of longing for Him, joyful abandon, and brokenness. The tears started coming when I hit brokenness.
Holy Spirit is a beautiful song, and I have sung it hundreds of times, but never with tears in my eyes. However, when we sang the line in the chorus, "Your glory God is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by your presence Lord." I realized something foundational.
We have a weak understanding of presence.
To begin to understand why I would say that, we first need to agree on something. It is healthy for us to be dissatisfied in our relationship with God. If He is infinite, then we can be infinitely learning who He is, and uncovering more beauty, grace, love, justice, etc. in His character. And most importantly, we must agree that He has not called us to be in a long distance relationship with Him. He is always wanting us to draw near to Him.
James 4:7-8 "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."
Take just a second and paint a picture in your mind of what this looks like. Where are you? Where is the Devil, and where is God? Here is how it plays out in my mind.
Psalm 16:8 "I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken."
So God is on my right side, and...
1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober minded; be watchful, Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
My enemy is circling me, and with every pass, he steps between me and God who is at my right hand. Now things are getting interesting, and I hope that you can feel the tension. However, we still need to ask some good questions about these passages to paint a clearer picture.
- Why is the devil prowling like a lion?
- He does not need to convert us to demonism in order for us to be effective for his kingdom and therefore ineffective for the Kingdom of God. He just has to scare us enough to stand still.
- Our eyes are naturally attracted to movement [which is why we have moving backgrounds behind the lyrics on the screen on Sunday], and he knows that distraction is just as effective as fear.
- God is often referred to as a Lion. It is important to know that our enemy can look LIKE a lion without actually being one. James Tealy said at a conference that I went to this past week, "The most dangerous things for Christians are not the enemies of God, but those that are almost God." He then mentioned that Jesus was tempted by the devil not through intimidation, fear, or empty threats, but by scripture taken out of context. We need to know why we believe what we say we believe, or something that is close to the truth is going to rob us of a relationship with the only one who is fighting for you.
- If he is LIKE a lion, than he has the appearance of something powerful, but we know that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. [Matt. 28:19] Past tense. It is over. He has the authority. Period.
- What am I supposed to do?
- Resist him. In both James 4, and 1 Peter 5, we are called to resist the devil. In the Greek, this word simply means to stand firm, or to hold your ground. This word can also mean "to forcefully declare one's personal conviction." When was the last time you actually declared something over your own life? For me, that was right before we rehearsed Sunday morning. I declared out loud that God has called me to shepherd His people for His glory, and to put words of life and praise into their mouths. By declaring truth over myself, and our team, I actively resisted the lie that we are unqualified to bring praise to our king.
- Draw near to God. The Greek for this word simply means to approach or "extreme closeness, immediate imminence - even PRESENCE." Do you want to draw near to Him? Do you want to know that He is present?
I do. That is why I cried. I simply realized that He has shown up. He is there every week, but there are many of us who just come to church because that is what we always do on Sunday. He is simply asking that we resist, and press against the distraction and the monotony of our schedules just enough to remember that He is there, present with us in that moment. That we would just lean into that truth a little bit, and He will do everything else.
That is why I read Psalm 18 in the middle of the song. Here David goes on and on about the miraculous way in which God has saved him, when all he did was to call to Him! And in verse 19, David tells us WHY God would go to such great lengths.
He delights in us!
He really does fight for us when we are helpless because He likes us. He actually likes us. Why is presence important? Because God wants to be near you. God actually wants to be present with His children in the same way that I want to be around my kids. Wyatt is really funny! He told me a joke today that went like this...
Wyatt: Knock knock!
Me: Who's there?
Wyatt: A goat in a tree
Me: A goat in a tree, who?
Wyatt: You sound like an Owl
... I don't know about you, but I want to be around comedy gold like that as much as possible. And Logan just said "Da Da" for the first time on Sunday. The best thing about a 7 month old saying "Da Da" is that he will only say it if he is happy. If he is sad or tired or pretty much any other unpleasant emotion, the boy is calling for "Ma Ma." I want to be there so I can here him call for me. We have a father who wants to be around. Please don't ignore that fact. Please don't assume that He doesn't want to make Himself known to you.
Just take a second on Sunday or this week as you are reading scripture and simply say aloud, "I'm here." Press into Him just a little bit and see what happens. I did, and I will tell you now that it was not safe. I ugly cried in front of 250 people. We were also live streaming so it is now the internet for the rest of my life, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. This is not safe, but I am telling you now, I am pressing into Him again because He is good. He is worth it.