Practicing The Presence Of God

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Isaiah chapter six opens with one of the most astounding statements in Scripture as we find Isaiah is literally standing in the presence of God!

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

Verse two quickly whisks our attention away to the details of the story.

It’s important for us to know about the wings of the seraphim, the doorposts shaking, and the smoke in the temple. It’s all too incredible!

Did we mention that Isaiah is standing in the presence of God!

The scene continues to unfold as Isaiah interacts with an angel. Again more details, was it one of the angel’s from above the throne or was it another angel, what did the coal represent theologically?

By the way, Isaiah is standing in the presence of God!

And we can’t forget some of the most recognized words in Christianity, “Who will go?” “Here am I Lord send me!”
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Oh and did we mention; Isaiah is standing in the presence of God?

We have to wonder, how many of the struggles we face in life come from the fact that we are so concerned with the details of life, that we miss the presence of God in our lives?

Are we more awestruck by the angel, the smoke and the coal, than we are with the thought of being in His presence?

We devour the theological or biblical truths to be gained, but they are useless without His presence!

The most troubling part of this story is that as Christians, we live our lives in the presence of God, yet we seldom experience His presence.

Three things from this story that can distract us from the presence of God in our lives.

1.     Our Present

Our focus on the details of Isaiah’s story should serve as a warning to us. It is very easy to get so distracted by the external circumstances of our lives, that we overlook the work that God is wanting to do within us.

It would be so much easier if God’s presence was an app we could download. But if our desire is to be in God’s presence, it will require the full attention of our presence.

We must look past our present if we are to experience God’s presence.

2.     Our Past

P2Isaiah was sure he was doomed! He understood that what came out his lips was a reflection of what was in his sinful heart. He was basically saying, “I’m a sinner! There is no way I can survive being in the presence of God!”

Our past tells us that we are not worthy to be in the presence of God, and on our own, we are not. But because of what Christ did, we are! In Christ, we have been cleansed!

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

We don’t have to fear being in God’s presence and we never will!

3.     Our Purpose

Sometimes we don’t sense God’s presence because we are avoiding it. We don’t want to hear what God has to say.

Most of us have experienced a time when our plans and God’s plans didn’t match up. While God’s calling and purpose in our lives cannot be ignored, we can do a pretty good job of avoiding it.

So many people have used Isaiah’s response to portray a great step of faith, but if Isaiah is witnessing the power and presence of God, how else is he going to respond?

When we are aware of the power and presence of God in our lives, obedience is the natural response to that presence.

The details of that day didn’t distract Isaiah. He was focused on one thing; he was in the presence of God! It’s not difficult to pay attention at a time like that.

How many of the details in our day to day lives distract us from the presence of God that dwells within us?

Write down three things that are distracting you from His presence today. Ask God to help you set them aside for a while so that you can enjoy His presence!

Do We Question God’s Will?

“Resist questioning His Will.” The words seemed to scream off the page at me.

Of course my pious Christian response was, “I would never question God’s Will.” But any Christian who has ever struggled with the “why” question, has done so.

“Why did my wife have to get cancer?”Will2

“Why didn’t You heal my father?” “Why did my child have to die?” “Why didn’t You…”

How great would it be if the Christian life was always like a Southern Gospel Song? But we have to acknowledge that there are times when following Christ can be difficult at best.

It is in those questioning times we ask, “Does God really care? Is His plan for my life really good?” As we said, there are times that we all question the will of God. If not there will be!

Three possible reasons we question His Will:

  1. Stubbornness

As Christians we have all said the words, “God’s knows best!” But at the end of the day, most of us want what we want regardless of the consequences.

I remember the first time I watched someone fishing for Blue Crabs. All that is needed to catch Blue Crabs is a piece of string and a chicken neck. The fisherman tied the chicken neck on the string and threw it out into the water. Soon the string began to move. Very slowly the man began to pull the string in. At the end of the string was a crab with the chicken neck firmly in its grasp. The crab stubbornly held onto the chicken neck unwilling to let it go at any cost.

All the crab had to do to continue living, was to let go of the chicken neck. Will1 Many of us question the will of God because we are stubbornly holding on to our own version of a chicken neck! We are willing to choose the bondage of our own desires over the freedom that is to be found in God’s Will!

  1. Selfishness

Selfishness is first cousin of stubbornness. So often we are like the seagulls in “Finding Nemo”, our favorite word is, “Mine!” We all want more!

We struggle with God’s Will because so often, He will ask us to accept what we envision as being less, when He is actually preparing us for what is greater!

The Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18 was not able to follow Christ because He was unwilling to surrender the riches that were his security.

Our selfishness emboldens us to hold tightly to something that God’s Will may be asking us to surrender.

  1. Pride

Pride deceives us into believing that we know better than God. Will3

I’m not going to dig any deeper here because it is more convicting than I want to deal with at this point!

So how do we break these traits that cause us to question God’s Will?

Faith

Trying to define faith can be kind of like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

Romans 4:21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Simply put – faith is believing that God will do what He has said He will do. Search the Bible for what God has said He will do in your life and accept it as truth.

Trust

It’s hard to trust when we don’t understand. But isn’t that the essence of trust?

Trust means that we truly believe the One to Whom trust is given has our best interests at heart.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Write down three areas of your life where you need to apply faith and trust. How will you apply the verses above in each of those areas?

When God Lets You Down

We have probably all experienced those times when God did not “seem” to come through for us.

Good1If you have been a part of the church culture for long you have heard the slogan, “God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.” But we have to acknowledge that there are times when the verses and quaint sayings don’t match the reality that is in front of us.

We recently went through the agonizing process of closing down a church plant that we had worked on tirelessly for over eight years. For the final six months we did everything we could to keep it open. God’s response to all the prayers, naming, claiming and circling verses, was deafening silence.

And then we read this: Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

How do we respond when we know in our hearts that it isn’t true, but for all practical purposes, it seems like God has let us down?

1.     Talk To Instead Of Listening To Yourself

The idea is to drown out the deceptive voice of Satan who is searching your heart for a foothold to breed doubt in your mind.

Our heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. If what comes out of it goes unchecked, it will eventually drive our thoughts and actions. When we dwell on those corrupted thoughts, they can quickly turn to bitterness.

Deceitful thoughts need to be replaced by:

Quoting or reading Scripture to ourselves. The best thing to replace a lie with is the truth.

Rebuking wrong thoughts. We need to tell ourselves verbally that we will not listen to the lies that our hearts generate.

Using a visual reminder. In my office I have a picture of a sewer cover. The picture is there to remind me that in the flesh, the thoughts and intents of my heart are toxic, and like a sewer, there is no reason to go looking for what is down there.

2.     Focus On Attributes Over Attitude

When our heart is adrift we need to refocus on what God is, rather than what we perceive Him to be in our disappointment.

When we feel that God has let us down, more than ever before we need to be in the Scriptures.

“You need to read your Bible”, sounds like one of those Christianese sayings, but Scripture alone is the greatest weapon we have in this battle. The Bible, not our emotions, has to be what defines God for us.

To find the attributes of God (what He truly is), read Psalms, read Psalms and then read Psalms!

3.     Praise Over Pity

Psalm 63:3 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.

Good2When we feel God has let us down, the most unnatural thing we can do is praise Him. Truthfully, we just don’t feel it.

A wise man once said, “Say it until you believe it.” When praise is continually on our lips, it will eventually find it’s way into our heart.

Praise will always change our heart.

If you have read this far, it is probably because you can relate to the title of this blog. Which of these three steps do you need to begin working on right now? Pick one and set God free to work in your heart!