God's Presence or God's Presence?

Are you hungry for God?  So many people today are “hungry” for what God can do for them, but not hungry for God Himself. How do I know? Because I know too many people who were faithful in church when they were believing for an “impossible” healing or a financial breakthrough, who, once they got the breakthrough, stopped attending church altogether! It becomes obvious in retrospect that they wanted God’s presents but not God’s presence.

I think the one thing I wish I had as a pastor (but know I can’t have) is some kind of wand I could wave over people that would make them be hungry for God and His awesome presence.  It would solve so many problems!  Jesus’ attitude toward lukewarmness has not changed since Revelation 3. God isn’t halfhearted about us; we can’t afford to be halfhearted about Him.

Many churches in America have lost respect for the presence of God.  In some circles, it’s dispensable so that we can get more people to like us.  In others, we’re so “smart” and “clever” now that man’s programs are trusted to build the church by might and by power and NOT by the Spirit! I think a lot of it is due to how the gospel is now presented by many people – it leaves the impression that you should serve God so that you can get rich and healthy and feel good. Now please understand that healing and prosperity are covenant blessings available to ALL, not just some. If you really serve and worship God, you WILL feel good.  But they are not the goal – GOD Himself is our goal.  We don’t worship God because of all the benefits He blesses us with; we worship God because of who He is.  He deserves our worship.  Worship is not just the warm-up for the message or the time-killer to wait for latecomers.  (In case you haven’t noticed, we start at 10 sharp at PBFC; if you’re late, you miss something!)

I’m interested in being Presence-based, not purpose-driven.  Actually, I’m not driven at all; I’m led.  (Cattle are driven; sheep are led.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd, not the Good Cowboy.) Church is all about GOD and His presence.

Really, the presence of God is what makes us different from other religions. Other religions have moral codes and teaching, but they don’t usher in the presence of God. Only those who are able to go “through the veil” by trusting in the shed blood of Jesus are able to experience God’s glory.

You may think, “God is everywhere, so we’re always in His presence anyway, so what’s the big deal?” But God is not MANIFESTING His presence everywhere.  God is in the Buddhist temples, the mosques, the Kingdom Halls, the bars, the brothels and the crack houses, but He does not usually manifest His presence in such environments! He manifests His presence where there is a hunger for it. He fills the hungry. The Holy Spirit will move where He is welcomed and respected.  He does not force Himself on any person or group of people.

It helps greatly when people come to church “prayed up”. We should be asking God to manifest Himself every service before we even start. We do not wait for a “special” service to experience God’s presence – I want His presence to manifest in EVERY service we have. That should be the norm, not the exception.

It also helps when we respect the Holy Spirit and His gifts. If people are being prayed for DURING the service (AFTER the service would be different), it is NOT time to make non-emergency potty runs, leave early or jibber-jabber with those next to us. Such things grieve the Spirit because they show a lack of respect.  What we do not respect, we lose.

Let’s let our Father know that we love Him and want Him to manifest His presence when we come together.  If God could inhabit the praises of Israel, how much more should He inhabit the praises of His own children? I know for sure that I really, really want God to make His presence known in our midst. His presents are wonderful, but His presence is totally awesome. Let’s make sure that our main pursuit is His presence, not His presents!