Christianity 201

September 1, 2020

Keeping a Sense of God’s Holy Presence

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Far too often true, humble worship is lost in the shadow of giftedness.

With so much clamor and movement it is hard to sense the otherness and grandeur, the holiness and authority, of God, His voice and His Spirit – the Divine Presence

 ~ Arnold Reimer


Today we return to the writing of Arnold Reimer, for many years the pastor of Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto, and his blog titled Finishing Well.

The Divine Presence

One of the most amazing promises of God to His people is: “Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” To His threatened prophet, Isaiah, God declared: “You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

In spite of His people’s oft waywardness, God led them through forty years of wilderness, with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, assurances of His presence with them, His protection of them, and His purpose for them.

When Jesus told His frightened disciples He was going to leave them, He also assured them, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me and I in you.

What could be more awesome and reassuring than to know the Creator of the universe, God Almighty, Sovereign over all, is with us, even in us? That is the reality for all who believe in, and receive, the saving work of Jesus Christ. What security and boldness that gives to our going out and coming in! What comfort in the face of trial and hardship! What meaning that brings to each new day! The eternal, all-wise God is with us. His Spirit indwells us, teaches us, leads us, enables us, provides for us, protects us. It is as He promised, “Lo, I am with you always.”

I cannot think of many things more important than this truth. It is vital to our physical, mental and spiritual well-being that we do not forget or belittle this reality. Our need and sense of the Divine Presence puts purpose and urgency into our daily reading of the Bible. It motivates and focuses prayer. It emboldens godly living and witness. It encourages fellowship with the saints. It directs worship and stimulates desire to serve God and others.

Few things are more important to the gathering of the saints than the preparation for, the hope and sense of, the presence of the Lord. Jesus declared, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” Knowing human nature, its tendency to neglect, and its prone-ness to fear, God gave to Israel clear signs of His presence: the cloud, the fire, the tabernacle/temple, the ark, the altar, the bread and wine, the priesthood, the prophets, the apostles, elders, and His Word full of promises. All of it speaks of Him and His holy presence.

It is a sad loss to the church today that for the most part we have put aside the few visuals that once served to remind us of the Divine Presence – the familiarity, instruction and beauty of hymns, the reading of Scripture, the communion table, the pulpit, and the stark simplicity of a wooden cross. Of course, God is bigger than all of that, but each of those symbols spoke volumes to gathered saints. Their absence tends to exaggerate/glorify the role of persons and gifts rather than the Spirit and truth. Sadly, we rarely sense or experience the awe-inspiring Divine Presence. Far too often true, humble worship is lost in the shadow of giftedness.

The emotion and movement of creativity, commonality, noise, immodesty, darkness and technology have replaced the support of melody, harmony, humility, light, familiarity and quietness. With so much clamor and movement it is hard to sense the otherness and grandeur, the holiness and authority, of God, His voice and His Spirit – the Divine Presence. Perhaps, during this time of upheaval, we need to re-think many things.

Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever. . . . Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.

 

May 29, 2011

Church: On the Other Hand…

Sometimes when we’re reading Christian blogs, we try to read between the lines to figure out where the writer stands on various issues.  If you read this blog and its companion, Thinking out Loud, over the past few weeks, there have been a couple of references to the house church or organic church or simple church movement, as well as an article about how we can get so addicted to all things church that we can miss Jesus; so it would be easy to assume that I’m a bit soft on the whole brick and mortar church thing.

But that would be a mistake.  This week I attended two different morning services and later today I’ll watch two different online church services which are rebroadcasts of brick and mortar church gatherings.  I’m the biggest cheerleader I know of in my local area for what local churches are doing. 

This morning I was reminded of this verse in John 2, which falls at the end of the passage where Jesus clears the temple (the first time) and possible where we get the expression, “Now the tables are turned.”

NIV John2:17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The NLT has it as “passion” while the New Century Version uses “strong love.”  The quote is from Psalm 69:9 —

NIV Ps.69:9 for zeal for your house consumes me,
   and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

— which is interesting because it equates zeal for God’s “house” with the seriousness of those who insult God Himself.

Living in Canada, which is nearly 50% nominally Roman Catholic, we’re familiar with the French language which uses “tabernacle” as a swear word.  It’s a rather grievous term, as is any unnecessary mention of God (the French say Mon Dieu) or Jesus, but it betrays its origins in a great respect for the building in which worship is conducted.

Today, many of our church buildings are multi-purpose structures used for a variety of weekly events; having community-friendly or seeker-friendly auditoriums — the word ‘sanctuary’ is no longer in vogue — which are free of crosses or other religious icons or symbols.  People show up in jeans or shorts and t-shirts and are often seen drinking coffee during the songs and sermon, while the kids go running wild before and after the service starts.  It’s hard to imagine that being seen as worthy of generating a swear word!

Maybe those things are externals, and are less important now than they were a couple of generations back because we see those things as superficial when it comes to defining deep faith.  I’m not sure.  But I do think we need to rediscover the Psalm 69/John 2 verse, which the NASB takes a step further, quoting the Psalms passage in John in capital letters:

17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.”

~Paul Wilkinson