Recently I was reflecting on the presence of God. I’ve discussed the manifest presence of God multiple times on the podcast, once with Dr. Stephen Crosby, and on another occasion a year or two earlier with Eric Gilmour.
As some regular readers of my blog or listeners of the podcast know, I’ve recorded and narrated two of Eric’s books, and I’m soon to begin working on a third one. Recently while recording the first two, I found my recording studio (aka, my office closet lined with accoustic foam) to feel as though the tangible presence of God was manifesting in there. I could try to describe to you what that means I felt I could sense. I knew Eric’s books have been birthed from intimate communion with God, and the fruit of that is obvious as you read, whether on your Kindle or out loud like I was for the audio book. But I felt like I was getting edified in my inner man reading it out loud, and it was as though God was waiting for me in the recording space, inviting me into the same thing as its author experiences regularly with him.
I feel I’ve walked a fine balance and tension when it comes to the presence of God and “how” to manifest it. Or better phrased, how to experience it, since in a sense, God’s presence is always present, but sometimes our antennae aren’t correctly tuned in to it. It’s not that we need to do something to provoke it or cause it. It’s not like we sing the correct song, and voilà, God finally shows His presence that He was withholding until his bowl of green M&Ms was delivered.
Then, on the other end of the spectrum (while it’s not really a spectrum if you think about it), one of my most popular podcast episodes is one where Stephen Crosby and I discussed how you don’t need to pray up a storm or sing a bunch of songs to get God to “show up”. One of the things Crosby said in that discussion was that the manifest presence of God is like oxygen in our lungs — it’s something we simply breathe.
I think Eric shows this in his book, Enjoying the Gospel with the following excerpt:
When I first abandoned my life to the Lord in 1996, a man of God picked me up early in the morning for a road trip. As I sat there in the passenger seat, he turned to me and said, “Let’s pray.” I immediately started to rattle off in tongues, progressively getting louder with fervency and focus. Anyone looking at me would think I was in agony, rocking back and forth in constant motion. This man of God waited patiently for me to finish machine-gunning God with tongues and desperate cries. When the smoke cleared from my war initiation with hell, the car became silent. Then with the steering wheel in one hand and his steaming coffee in the other, this man of God said softly, “Jesus, I worship you.” He sat quietly and then said it again, “I worship you, precious Lamb of God.” An in an instant, the whole car gradually filled with the undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit. The tangible glory of heaven began to touch my soul. I was frustrated; I was infuriated; I was intrigued by how God’s presence was invoked with so much ease. This man didn’t raise his voice or even appeal to God to manifest Himself; he simply looked to Jesus in adoration. I learned an incredibly valuable lesson that day, namely, that adoration is the secret to experiencing the manifestation of His presence. Oh dear reader, you must let this into your heart, a life of adoration is worth all the activity and power in the entire world. To gaze upon Him in sweet fixation and loving worship is more valuable to God than any spiritual gift or service. My favorite quote from A.W. Tozer would fit very well here, “when the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun upon the earth.”
I have been in many a setting, especially among Pentecostal/Charismatic “revival” types who would pray and
warship worship much like the young Eric did in that morning mentioned above. I know the frustration of feeling like I’ve done a lot of the right spiritual actions and continue to feel like the heavens are brass and I’m getting nowhere. But I also know when I had that mindset, I also experienced curious moments of confusion where I could suddenly and rapidly feel as though I entered into God’s presence, and didn’t do any of the correct things I had been conditioned to believe were what one does to usher in His presence.
Or at least the sense of it.
I’m reading the bookby A.W. Tozer, and I think this comment of his helps bring a lot of clarity to me.
“When I come before Him, however, I need to put away everything, quiet my heart in silence, and allow the Holy Spirit to create the focus at that moment and let His presence fill me with wonder and awe.”
Deep down in our own souls, we struggle with needing to earn and be rewarded, and not just accepting what’s been given and freely poured out on the cross at Calvary. That we don’t need to work up a storm like the Baal worshipers on Mount Carmel (see 1 Kings 18), to try getting God to show up. For all intents and purposes, if we are striving to make something happen in our prayer times or worship services, that’s a type of works. Works and grace are a mixture, and the mixture doesn’t produce Godly fruit as we may easily think, and accidentally boast we’ve caused it or it’s our own doing. God doesn’t manifest because of the correctness of the words we use when approaching Him or the actions we may or may not engage in but the “cry of our heart” which doesn’t have to be a literal cry out loud.
Be at rest.
Just adore him.
You will sense him.