Practising the presence of God

  GRAHAM SMALLMAN

  invites us

  to think about

  how we can

  experience God

 

 

 

 

The presence of God

In one form or another we all have certain expectations around a particular experience of God, perhaps in the context of nature or communal worship. For the Christian, Jesus is central to having a living and personal relationship with God Almighty. It is a mystery, yet one which can be experienced in a very personal and real way.

The Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity inspires and motivates us. Our expectations and experiences of God can be realised in ways that truly transform and empower our daily lives.

 

'Where are you?'

In Genesis 3 we read of the early encounters between God, as creator in paradise, and Adam and Eve, the created. After the events of the 'fall’, we hear those penetrating words in verse 9, spoken to Adam: 'Where are you?'  Such a question may be asked of us, as we consider whether or not we know or have known the personal presence of God, and how that relates to our walk with him.

Pause for a moment and reflect on how you have experienced God's presence over the years. Perhaps ...

  • Within your family tradition you may have been christened, dedicated or confirmed in the Christian faith.
  • Within your family you have no tradition or understanding of a personal faith in God.
  • You have ‘grown up’ and moved away from childhood Christian teaching, and you claim to have no personal faith or have embraced another faith or philosophically based tradition.
  • In the life experiences you have faced you have come to believe in a personal God and have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

 

'Here I am'

In Exodus 3 we read of an unexpected experience of Moses in the desert. He was busy caring for the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, near to Horeb, the mountain of God. God’s presence appeared to Moses as an angel of the Lord, exampled in the flames of a fire that continually burned in a nearby bush.

What a shock it must have been for Moses when he approached the bush and heard the voice of the Lord calling his name. Moses responded by saying 'Here I am'. The Lord told Moses to take off his sandals, for the place where he was standing was holy ground.

The Lord, in his compassion, tells Moses that he understands the plight of the Israelites and wants to rescue them from Egypt and take them to a promised land. God had chosen Moses to be part of that plan, and with his help, as the great 'I Am'it was fulfilled.

 

'Where have you been?'

In Luke 2 we read of the planned, miraculous and expected birth of Jesus. We also get a sense of the unease of his parents, Joseph and Mary, as they witness many unexpected life situations. Jesus represented the presence of God the Father and the Spirit in human form - a concept which is unique to Christianity, among all world religions and philosophies. Humble shepherds and angels acknowledged Jesus’s birth, and Mary treasured all her expected and unexpected experiences with Jesus and saw him grow in the grace and goodness of God.

Joseph and Mary travelled to Jerusalem, as custom expected, to present Jesus at the Feast of the Passover when he was 12 years old.  When travelling home, they realised that Jesus was not with them and thought he was with the travelling group alongside them. After three days of Jesus being absent they found him back in the Temple courts, listening and asking questions to the teachers, who were amazed at his understanding and answers.

Mary was understandably upset with Jesus, but he reassured her that it was to be expected that he would be in the presence of his heavenly Father. Mary and Joseph would have had their own expectations of the God they worshipped, yet right from the conception of Jesus until his death they were surprised by all the experiences they witnessed.

 

'Where are you, God?'

In many life situations we say, 'Where are you, God?' How can we experience and maintain such a personal relationship with God Almighty?

  • Do we find the presence of God in a church or temple?
  • Is it by doing ‘good deeds’, or giving money and time to those in need around us?
  • Is it by being religious in how we live, according to certain customs and laws?

Each of these is important, but the gospel message holds true today, as in years gone by: God revealed himself to Adam, Eve, Moses and countless others, and Jesus is our gateway to forgiveness and acceptance before a holy God. 

 

'Draw near to God'

In the book of James we read that as we draw near to God, he will draw near to us. God has his own special and unique way to reveal his presence to each of us, which will radically change every aspect of our lives and those we live with.

May we all experience the personal presence of God, whether in a way that's expected or unexpected.

As we hear the call, 'Where are you?', may we respond with 'Here I am', and also draw near to him, in faith, love and trust.