Sunday, July 11, 2010

Some Thoughts on the Manifested Presence of God

John 15: 19. “A little longer, and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me...”
Rev. 1: 10-17. “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice as of a trumpet…And I turned to see the voice that spoke to me…and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength…”
1 Cor. 15: 3-8. “…He rose again on the third day…and was seen…by Cephas…by the twelve…by over five hundred brethren at once…and after that He was seen by me also….”

To see or not to see?
The natural man comprehends God in the same way as a blind and deaf man would view a brilliant sunrise or listen to beautiful music. He would be oblivious to the wonders around him no matter how brilliant the sight or how loud the sound. The revelation of God works on the same principle. The person who has a heart after God will see or hear Him in the smallest sign, while the one who has rejected God in his heart will see nothing or explain it away, no matter how powerful the Presence or how obvious the miracle. Jesus said that no sign would be given to an evil and adulterous generation. He hides Himself from the proud but reveals Himself to the humble and to those who seek.

It is amazing how those who reject God can close their eyes to His manifested presence.
The Pharisees knew first-hand that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. They witnessed with their own eyes the awesome effects of this miracle on the people around Bethany and Jerusalem. They responded by plotting to kill Lazarus (again) and silence his testimony.
The people of Israel trembled before the presence of God on Mt Sinai, and yet at the foot of this very mountain they made a golden calf and fell into idolatry.
Jesus rebuked certain cities where most of His mighty works had been done because they had refused to repent even in the face of such powerful evidence.
Jesus told of the man in hell who begged “Father Abraham” to send someone back from paradise to warn his brothers not to come to “this place of torment.” His argument was, “If one goes to them from the dead they will repent.” The Divine response was, “If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets (their Bible) neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”
The lesson is clear. The heart of man determines how he responds to God’s presence and initiatives. If he is inclined toward God, he will see the evidence and embrace the Lord. Otherwise, he will remain blind.

God’s Presence Has Implications for us.
People often resist the presence of God because of the significance of its implications to them personally. The presence of God automatically shines a spotlight on our own nature. The more clearly we see God the more clearly we know ourselves. This is one reason for our tendency to keep God at a safe distance away. When He shows up we are forced to face certain realities in our lives. The manifested presence of God automatically creates a consciousness of our responsibility to respond to Him. If He shows Himself and we see Him, then we have lost our excuse for not seeking, serving, and obeying. The more silent and distant God is, the more we feel we can in good conscience ignore Him. But when He shows up we are forced by His very presence to say “yes” or “no” to Him. Nominal Christians and people who are spiritually unresponsive are threatened by the manifested presence of God because it disturbs their complacency. And complacency is another form of saying “no” to God. To know Him greatly means to follow Him deeply. If He “stays away” then I can be lukewarm and live my life without being bothered. But if He shows up, I am then forced to deal with where I am in my relationship with Him.

Stephen was stoned because God showed up. The power of God was on Stephen so strongly that his words could not be resisted by the council before whom he stood. When stubborn and rebellious hearts encounter the irresistible words of God at this level they cannot remain neutral, and they cannot hide underneath a cloak of pretend and complacency. Unable to resist Stephen’s words, they had to either receive his words or kill him. They chose the latter. They actually stopped their ears, and shouted loudly as they ran at him and stoned him to death. On a side note, we should take note of the fact that the ones who resist God the loudest may be the very ones whose hearts are being pierced by the word God is speaking.

What is the attitude of churches toward the presence of God?
In many cases the attitude of churches can be described as follows. They want the Lord to be present; but they want Him to behave. They want Him close enough to keep watch, but not close enough to be seen. They want God to be generally and mystically around but not specifically and pointedly obvious. They want Him to move in a general sense quietly and unnoticed over an audience of passive spectators waiting to receive a warm feeling as they focus on what is happening up front on the platform.
Pastors want God to be present in the church, but are often afraid of the risk involved in letting God show up in His people. They want God to work, but they don’t want Him to use people. They are afraid of what might happen if the Holy Spirit is free to work through people in a supernatural way. Therefore, the agenda and programs tend to quench the working of the Holy Spirit. It is "safer" to prohibit than to learn from experience and actually lead.

We stand and pray for God to move among us and we appeal to people to take initiative and be spiritually aggressive, while at the same time we create an atmosphere that prevents both. We quench the Spirit, and we do not allow people to really express themselves. We want God to act, but within our pre-set parameters. We want people to act, but only in our pre-cast organizational slots that exist to serve the institution. In other words, we ask God to show up and people to function, but in reality are afraid of both.

We should hunger for His presence.
Since I was a teenager I have never been able to understand why people who know and love God would not be passionately hungry and desirous to see Him and His works. Why would we be afraid of the miraculous visitations of His presence in our gatherings or out in the streets as we tell people about Jesus Christ who was crucified for our sins and who is now alive and working among us by the power of the Holy Spirit? Why would we not be willing to take the risks involved in learning to be vessels to whom He can reveal Himself, and through whom He can reveal Himself to a world that so desperately needs Him.

“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down…to make Your name known to your adversaries.” Isaiah 64: 1-2.
“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness…and with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was on them all.” Acts 4: 31, 33

Click on the Youtube song below to hear a beautiful worship song about the glory of God's presnece.


Anonymous said...

Love this Billy, couldn't agree more
It was good seeing you and Laurel, it made my week extra fun!!! Thanks so much for that.
much love to you all,

Billy Long said...

[Here is an email from Joe and Sara Call in Raleigh/Durham NC. Check out their website and see what's happening with their ministry there.]

Hi Billy,
Thanks for the email the other day regarding our Facebook on The Worship Center. If you haven't seen the website, it is I love your blog; it is outstanding and the teachings that you give are wonderful.
You and Laurel seem to be doing well and we miss our times together. Perhaps you can plan a trip here soon so we can have some time and you can share at TWC and get a feel for what we have been doing. Look forward to hearing from you.
Love and blessings,
Joe and Sara

Anonymous said...

This was really good. You really know how to cut through the filler and get right to the heart of the matter. Everytime I read one of your blogs, I realize just how much DJ and all of us are missing without your teachings. Are you sure God is not calling you to start a church in Spartanburg or Greenville?
Hope you and Laurel and the family are all doing well.
Love you all,
Tim (Spartanburg/Greenville, SC)

Anonymous said...

Loved it Billy! I am in complete agreement. Reading a book titled, "A Culture of Honor." about how they do "church" in Redding, CA. Only half way through the book, but I think that they are on to something that dove tails well with your comments in your blog! Write on, Brother!
Randy Reinhardt

Anonymous said...

Once driving home early one December evening I happened upon a friend's wife and small children sitting along side a busy highway in their car. I stopped to see if they needed assistance. She said they were out of gas, had no money, and that God said to her help was coming, and I was it. I went, purchased gas, and sent them toward home. Her husband thanked and repaid me the next day.

I never really understood that trust in God sending help until thinking upon this column of yours, Billy.

Again, thanks for this work you do here.

Don Smith Myrtle beach sc

Anonymous said...

A very dear friend sent this to me and I must let you know what a blessing it was for me to read this article. I struggle with trying to lose weight and trust God to get me through cravings and I really related to "God's Presence Has Implications for Us". I've printed out that portion, so I can continue to read it and I've saved the majestic hymn to play over and over. Thank you for your insight to the manifested presence of God in our lives. Please keep me in your prayers for losing weight. God Bless, Jackie

steve H said...

Rich insight, well delivered as usual, Billy. Thanks.

Bobble said...

Great insight, Billy, especially in the section "attitudes of churches (or should that be pastors?) toward the presence of God." We pray for God to reveal Himself but He's got to do so at the proper time and in the proper way so that the service can end when it's suppose to -- or else it really isn't God. I've sent this to my home group since we were taling aobut this very thing last night. Blessings to you and Laurel. Jim Brown, Va.Bch. (remember me?)

Billy Long said...

JIm, thanks so much for your comment. And it really is great to hear from you after so many years. Thanks also for the email giving more details about what is happening with you these days. I am grateful that my article in Doug Dorman's newsletter was instrumental in helping us to get back in contact.
Bless you,

Anonymous said...

I wept as I read your blog on “the presence.” I remember so well the manifestations of His presence corporately and I wonder if this generation has any touch points to Him. I have not found, in ten years out here in Dallas (the buckle of the Bible belt and home to some of America’s fastest growing churches), a place that treasures and experiences the power of His Presence. It sounds like a yearning for “the good old days” but I would drive or walk any distance to experience what we did back in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Concord and Raleigh. I have Him with me always and I do enjoy the basking at times. But, there was something so powerful and precious about the awareness of God’s Presence when amongst others of like faith.
Noel C

Anonymous said...

I agree with all you have said and have seen it to be true my whole church going days. What kind of pratical things can we do as the Body to walk out on the limb and allow God to move during our services?

Billy Long said...

The way I answer would depend on whether I am talking to a pastor/leader or one of the members in the congragation. The practical steps must start with the hunger and desire to see God work. For it to actually happen, the desire has to be in the leaders because they can "stand in the door and not enter, and prevent others from entering." The people will usually follow where the leaders open the door and lead.
Let me think about this, and maybe post some thoughts on it as a main article in this blog.

Anonymous said...

In regards to your August 16, 2010 9:40 PM reply, I would like to hear your take from all three perspectives. I am looking forward to your post on it. Thanks..

Billy Long said...

To my "anomymous" friend above, I do plan to post some follow-up material based on your suggestions and questions. I'll just need a few days to get it done. I have not forgotten about you.