Monday— Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob… Psalm 114:7
You may be reading this verse and wondering, “What do they mean by the presence of the Lord?” But you don’t want to say it out loud. What if you’re the only one who doesn’t know? Actually, that’s a great question, so let’s answer it. “The Lord’s presence” was experienced differently at different times. Early in the Old Testament (before Jesus came), God manifested His presence in visible and audible ways, such as a pillar of fire and a booming voice (Ex. 13:21-22). Later, when Israel had become a nation, God’s presence was revealed through His chosen prophets—and a few jaw-dropping encounters (2 Kings 2:14).
In New Testament times, God’s presence was seen in His Son, Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2). And once Jesus ascended back into heaven, God’s presence came in the form of the Holy Spirit who indwells every born-again child of God (Acts 2). Today, the presence of the LORD often manifests in response to our worship, surrender, and humble requests. Spirit-filled believers get to sense His tangible presence when we humble ourselves, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways (2 Chron. 7:14). But that presence should still evoke trembling. A flippant, over-familiarity with Jesus can so minimize our understanding of God that we lose the reverence required to be in His presence. Saturating ourselves with His word and practicing disciplines such as prayer and fasting cultivate a healthy fear of the Lord. When we strive to live every moment for Him, we experience His presence.
Challenge: You can practice the presence of God by seeking to live every moment in fellowship with Him.
Prayer: Father, I want more than a surface-level Christianity. Whatever it takes to experience your presence, I’m ready to do. I offer myself as a living sacrifice and may I never say “No” to you again. Draw near to me as I seek you. In Jesus’ name, amen. ———————————————————-
Tuesday— And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him. Judges 16:20
Samson’s downfall started with a nap. Nothing wrong with a nap, the problem was his pillow. He’d gotten so full of himself, He believed he could flirt with the enemy and ignore God’s commands, but when he snapped his fingers, God would be there. Since God had worked mightily through him in the past, Samson assumed he had God on retainer. But God is on no one’s Callback List. Samson thought he had the “God-thing” down to a science. But he had no idea that God had already left.
We might think we have the “God-thing” down to a science, too. Good church, good family, good life. We pray on the way to work and try not to cuss too much. But like Samson, we flirt with our enemy, ignore commands, and hang out in Philistine territory, assuming that when we snap our fingers, God will be there. Then tragedy or temptation hits. We awake from sleep and try to shake ourselves free. But the strength to fight evil, the wisdom to spot deception, and the desire to pursue holiness are gone. We didn’t want God’s presence when it threatened to cramp our style, but now we’d give anything to find it. And we can’t. He’s already left the building. The saddest words in the Bible are these: “He did not know that the LORD had left him.”
Challenge: Unless we practice the presence of God, we may not realize until it’s too late that the LORD has left us.
Prayer: Lord, I needed this wake-up call. I’m growing lax in my spiritual life, allowing things in that don’t belong there. I recommit to pursuing your presence in everything I do. May it never be true that the Lord has left me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of apostles’ hands, he offered money. Acts 8:18
At every chance to WOW an audience, Simon was there. He’d built a reputation for the supernatural and loved the admiring— almost fearful—glances of townspeople. Then the apostles of Jesus came to town, and their magic was cooler than his. They healed his neighbor, and old blind Ben was reading now! Simon itched to do that kind of magic. Jealous at first, he then decided to follow them. Ah-ha! So he had to believe and be baptized? He could do that. Giddy with excitement, he headed to the water. He did what they asked, but the WOW factor never came. Frustrated, he offered to pay the apostles if they’d let him in on their secret, but that only made them mad. They were stealing his show! How was a guy to compete with the Holy Spirit?
With the benefit of hindsight, we see Simon’s problem. But not so much when we’re in Simon’s shoes. “How do I get in leadership around here?” Jean asked on her first day at a new church. Bob demanded, “Why don’t ya’ll have healings and miracles on Sunday mornings like they did back at Woo-Hoo Chapel?” Roy agreed. “They’ve got the Spirit over there at Rah-Rah Church. Trapeze artists and everything!” Simon would have fit right in. But the presence of God is not a carnival side-show. God’s power can’t be bought, demanded, or coerced. In fact, God’s presence can be costly. He reveals to us areas of disobedience, confirms to us truths that may be uncomfortable. Simon couldn’t buy it or manipulate it and neither can we.
Challenge: Neither money nor promises will invite the presence of God into your life. Humility, repentance, and surrender do.
Prayer: Lord, have I been guilty of Simon’s attitude? I’m attracted to excitement and assume it’s of you if it says it is. Help me be discerning and seek your presence for itself, not what it might do for my ego. May I be worthy of it. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— The LORD looks down from heaven… to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Psalm 14:2
“I’m seeking God for this…I’m seeking God about that…I’m believing for this…God’s gonna give me that…” We think nothing about comments like those, but have you ever wondered what God thinks about them? The uber-rich and ultra-famous confess that they don’t know who their real friends are because everyone wants something. They sometimes wish they had nothing to offer so they could find out who truly loves them. What if God feels the same way? Why wouldn’t He? When we talk about seeking God’s presence, sometimes what we mean is that we’re seeking His presents.
While scripture tells us to ask God for what we need, we’re also told to seek His face simply because we love looking at it. If all children ever did was ask for money and permission, a parent’s heart would ache. That’s not love. In relationship, we want to be sought for ourselves, not what we can do for someone else. It’s the same spiritually. If our only connection with God is a list of complaints and requests, that’s not a healthy relationship. In Psalm 27:8, David writes to God: “You have said, ‘Seek my face.” Your face, LORD, do I seek.” God told David to seek Him for Himself. When he did, he experienced God’s presence.
Challenge: Do you mostly seek God’s presence or His presents?
Prayer: Lord, I’m convicted by this. Most of my prayer time is seeking what you can do for me instead of simply basking in your presence. Please forgive me. Teach me how to seek your face simply because I love you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. John 3:34
“We don’t use the Bible in our services because God is still speaking and giving new revelation,” said Pastor Bjorn. Jill frowned. “How do you know those revelations you’re speaking are from God?” she asked. “Some of them sound pretty shaky. And didn’t you prophecy that Trump would be reelected in 2020?” Pastor Bjorn yanked her to the side. “You’re not to challenge the Lord’s anointed,” he scolded. Jill flipped open her Bible. “But it says right here that—” An usher escorted her out the door.
One danger we run into when we talk about seeking God’s presence is an infatuation with “new revelation” and “prophecies” that may or may not be from God. We know someone speaks for God when they are expounding on His written word. Everything else is subject to careful scrutiny (1 John 4:1). If it doesn’t line up exactly with what God has already given, it should be treated with no more reverence than a fortune cookie. In fact, God told Israel that any so-called prophet claiming to speak for Him, but He did not send them, that one was to be executed (Deut. 18:20)! Pursuing the presence of God doesn’t mean we’re seeking “new revelation.” It means we dive deeper into His word to find His heart. Then we meditate on how we can apply it to our lives. Any outside prophecies or revelations must line up with that. Since the word of God is living and active, God uses it to speak to us in new ways. He personalizes His words and illuminates our minds to understand truths that pertain to our situations. His presence settles our minds and quiets our souls as His word becomes part of us. We then share it with others.
Challenge: Being in the presence of God results in a new ability to speak the words of God with greater clarity and boldness.
Prayer: Lord, I’m realizing I need to cultivate time in your presence if I’m to speak your truths boldly and accurately. I don’t need “new revelations” that aren’t in your word. I need fresh revelation that comes from your word. In Jesus’ name, amen.