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PRACTICING GOD’S PRESENCE

PRACTICING GOD’S PRESENCE

God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Romans 5:5b

I have a thought experiment for you.

Imagine an infinite Being boundless in love, goodness, beauty, wisdom, power and justice. Now imagine that Being coming into you and pouring love into you. Stay with that imagining for a few moments…

Now let’s end the thought experiment here: because what you have been thinking is not just your imagination, but reality! Jesus did promise that He and the Father would come and live within us and pour into us their love (John 14:20, 23). What we mortals struggle to even imagine is the Gospel truth! We live in God and God lives in us, pouring His love into us.

Why then do we not experience more often the presence of an infinitely loving God within us? We would know if someone moved into our homes and lived with us, so why is it that the God whom heaven and earth cannot contain (1 Kings 8:28) often lives within us unnoticed?

After all, Scripture does say the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16). And God’s Spirit is working away in us day by day renewing us on the inside (2 Corinthians 4:16). The Spirit is getting rid of the old stuff, bringing in the new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10). The Spirit is birthing in us His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and more (Galatians 2:22).

Why, then, are we not experiencing the reality of today’s Scripture: God pours love into our hearts, the very center of our being. Don’t Bible expositors often say that in the Bible “to know” God means far more than head-knowledge? “To know” means an experiential heart-knowledge.

Throughout the Bible and throughout the life of the church, people tell of God as intimate to them. They actually do experience God in their lives. God is far more than a logical deduction from a text, but a God flooding their hearts with His love. Saint Augustine told how God is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves (Confessions III, 6, 11) We can sing of God: “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!”

I have long to grow in this kind of intimate relationship with God. I want the kind of relationship that makes me sing: “He walks with me and he talks with me, and He tells me I am His own!”

The Holy Spirit and Scripture lead me to believe this kind of intimate relationship can be experienced in what Brother Lawrence called, “Practicing the Presence of God”. Brother Lawrence knew the secret that, while God is always lovingly present to us, we are not always present to Him. We are distracted; like Martha we are caught up with many things (Luke 10:40-41). It takes practice to be intimately present to God. Just as people often lack body awareness of what is going on inside them, so we can lack God awareness, not really knowing God alive within us.

Here are some Scriptures that help many in their desire to practice the presence of God:

  1. “BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GODI” (Psalm 46:10). Every day I make time to be still in God’s presence. Being still with God helps me to experience Him as God in my life.
  2. “I KEEP THE LORD ALWAYS BEFORE ME” (Psalm 16:8). David said that he made a conscious effort to frequently turn his thoughts to God during the day. I like to do that with a quick prayer, meditating on a Scripture verse, saying “Thank You Lord!”, or thinking on God’s love.
  3. “I BLESS THE LORD WHO GIVES ME COUNSEL; IN THE NIGHT ALSO MY HEART INSTRUCTS ME” (Psalm 16:7). I listen for God’s voice in the night, treasuring the precious hours when I can’t go back to sleep. I sense that it is always God keeping awake wanting to speak to me.
  4. “I AM MY BELOVED’S AND MY BELOVED IS MINE” (Song of Solomon 6:3). Just as I like to frequently tell my wife Rita that I love her, so I like to often talk to God about my love for Him. I also listen for Him speaking His love to me. I delight in the metaphorical love language of the Song of Solomon expressing God’s passionate love for us and our love for Him.
  5. “DO NOT QUENCH THE SPIRIT” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). I try to listen when I sense the Holy Spirit speaking to me, guiding me, convicting me, etc.
  6. “CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART, O GOD” (Psalm 51:10). Because God lives in my heart, and is pouring love into my heart, I want Him to make my heart clean for Him. I can’t cleanse my heart, but God can. This is my repeated plea!

Brother Lawrence was a seventeenth-century lay brother and cook in a Carmelite monastery who testified to the joy of daily practicing God’s loving presence. Like him, I aspire to practice the presence of God:

“Lord of all pots and pans and things, since I’ve no time to be a saint by doing lovely things or watching late with thee, or dreaming in the twilight or storming heaven’s gates, make me a saint by getting meals or washing up the plates. Although I must have Martha’s hands, I have Mary’s mind, and when I black the boots and shoes thy sandals, Lord, I find. I think of how they trod the earth what time I scrub the floor, accept this meditation, Lord, I haven’t time for more. Warm all the kitchen with thy love, and light it with thy peace, forgive me all my worrying and make all grumbling cease. Thou who didst love to give men food in room or by the sea, accept this service that I do, I do it unto thee.” (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God)

Experience God’s love poured into you!

Grace and peace,
Tim

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