Periodically the Lord stretches my thinking. An idea will grab me, until I find it consumes my prayer, my study, my spare-time thinking.
Now is such a time.
The ideas began around some discussions about Ffald-y-Brenin, a retreat center in Wales where not-yet-believers often encounter God just by walking onto the land. Could we know the presence of God in such a way in our home, in our gatherings, at work, that not-yet-believers would experience Christ just by being with us?
Each believer has the Lord dwelling within them by his Holy Spirit, but there is a difference when we come together. Then we have the Lord among us. Perhaps that is what characterizes church more than anything else–God among his people.
“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” (Matthew 20:18)
Throughout the Scriptures, we see God’s desire is to dwell with his people.
From Genesis 3 we see that God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden. Other passages from the Old Testament make this equally clear. For example:
Exodus 29: 45-46: Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.
Leviticus 26:12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
In Ezekiel 37:27, the promise comes again: I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
We now live in the fulfillment of that promise. Even the very name, Emmanuel, means God with us (Matt 1:23). Here are some other Scriptures from the New Testament:
For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
We know the theory: when we are together, God is with us. How can we live it out on a daily basis?
Are any of you thinking about this topic too? I’d love to hear some of your ideas.
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13 replies on “My thinking has stretch-marks!”
Hi Felicity, I mentioned a few posts ago about hearing the phrase
” tangible territories” during a time of listening, it has stuck with me
and I’m wondering what a tangible territory might look like.
The retreat centre in Wales sounds like one.
Tomorrow I’ll be at the organic markets where I have a stall, I have
Prayer walked and prayed for people of peace and had some great
God conversations and even got to pray with people a few times, recently
A group of christians arrived and set up their tent offering dream interpretation
and prayer right opposite the tarot card reader. I’m praying for a tangible territory
Of Gods Kingdom in the middle of the “new age” territory.
I opened and read your blog post and then read the following by Austin Sparks. I’m thinking it could help bring perspective.
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know Me and understand that I am the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23,24 NLT)
Why does not the Lord do this and that, which we think He ought to do? It is simply this soul-craving to have proof and demonstration; and this is why, if there is anything built up in Christian work which is obvious, big, impressive, where there is a great thing being organized and a great movement on foot and all is in the realm of something that can be seen, crowds of Christians flock after it; or if there are manifestations, things that seem to be clear proofs, the crowds will be found there. The enemy can carry away multitudes by imitation works of the Holy Ghost in the realm of demonstrations and proofs. We are so impressionable, we must possess; and that is exactly the same principle as that which governed the rulers. They were not prepared for the principle of the Cross to be applied in this way – an utter self-emptying, being brought to an end of everything but the Lord Himself….
What was the one thing the prophets were always talking about? It was about knowing the Lord. The thing that was lacking amongst the Lord’s people in the days of the prophets was the knowledge of the Lord. There were plenty of people who were prepared to have the Lord for what He could do for them, but as for the Lord Himself… ah, that was another matter. What is the Lord after with you and with me? Is He first of all wanting us to do things? The idea of what is of God today is chiefly associated with the things which are being done for Him, the work we are engaged in, and so on – that is, with what is objective and outward. But the Lord is not first of all concerned about how much we do. He is far more concerned that, whether we do little or much, every bit of it should come out of a knowledge of Himself. Any amount can be done for the Lord in Christian work and activities, just as you do other work, but it may not proceed from your own deep knowledge of God. The Lord is concerned above all else that we should know Him.”
By T. Austin-Sparks from: Prophetic Ministry – Chapter 5
Maree, I love the idea of tangible territories. Sounds exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. Places/groups of people where not-yet-believers encounter God for themselves.
John, thanks for the quote from Austin-Sparks. He is such a deep thinker. I think the perspective this adds is the importance of knowing Him–Jesus being the center of everything. Much of what goes on in some Christian circles is mere glamour and glitz that pleases the crowds–gives them Christian goose-bumps but does little to change lives. I suspect if we make Jesus the focus, the rest will follow.
Having said that, I also think that if we truly seek Jesus, he will cause our focus to turn outwards. I may write a blog post on an experience the church in our home has had recently that illustrates this.
Agree completely. Having read your post and then the material ofnAustin’s, just thought it sort of fit in. Anxious to read your upcoming post:-)
This is exciting stuff, Felicity. Both your post and the replies you’re getting.
Having life in the body means we need to be breathing – no breathing no life, but also no life no breathing. However life *causes* breathing, but breathing can never cause life. That’s why we must focus on Jesus and then he will make things happen as he chooses.
It’s no coincidence that breath and spirit are the same word, both in Hebrew (ruach) and in Greek (pneuma). If we (the church) are communally alive with the Spirit of Christ we will think Christ’s thoughts, live Christ’s life, and affect the world as he does too. His light and living water will flow out not *from* us but gloriously through us.
I’m coming back again and again to Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones. First they are reconstructed, then the breath (the Spirit) enters them and they live and stand up – a mighty army. And his picture of the river is related to this as well, I think.
Note to self – must blog on this tomorrow! Meanwhile you’ll have to make do with this from 2009 http://jesus.scilla.org.uk/2009/04/little-paxton-eating-scroll.html
How can we live this out daily?
I suppose one way would be to treat everyone if they were Jesus in disguise.
I meet lots of strangers everyday. New people I have never met before, and most likely wont ever see again.
I wonder if one them could be Jesus in disguise. I met a lovely Samoan man today, perhaps he was Jesus.
I also met a 11 year old Maori boy and his mother. Perhaps they could have been Jesus, they were surely made in his image.
A stranger gave me a glass of ice cold water. I’m sure it was Jesus.
I wonder if the stranger I meet tomorrow will wash my feet?
It might just be Jesus.
I’ve made a start on Ezekiel…
Chris, your first post on the Ezekiel passage was thought-provoking. Definitely worth a read.
Barry, wow! If we took your suggestion seriously, we’d look at everyone differently. Great thoughts.
My husband and I are about halfway through the story of Fflad-y-Brenin (maybe it was at your recommendation? I don’t recall 😉 and the message we’re getting is to spend quiet time reading and listening to His word, setting aside our own (no matter how noble) agenda for our lives. Saying Samuel’s words, “Here I am, Lord” really helps me settle into such a listening mode. The corollary message is to step out of Jesus’ way, as Roy would quietly leave the chapel after ushering people in, and just let the Lord go to work. Because if there’s any single point to the book, it’s that – for whatever reason – God chose that spot to let His Spirit fall, and surely Roy & Daphne are willing vessels, but there are willing vessels in other places where the Spirit doesn’t seem to act in this way, and where God’s people just keep faithfully working at loving, serving and sowing hope – without apparent harvest.
But yes, thank you for passing along the story of Ffald-y-Brenin! The paradigm of praying blessings on people and places is changing us and we’ll see what comes of it…
Janet, I agree with you that there are faithful people in many places and that you cannot manufacture God’s presence. The story, plus what Tony and I have been learning through Haggai’s “I am with you, says the Lord” prophecy, are giving us more faith to believe that God wants to demonstrate his presence in far greater ways.
I’ve talked with a couple of people who have been to Ffald-y-Brenin and mostly they “feel” nothing when they are there–which I’m sure is true too for Roy and Daphne. So it’s not about some kind of spiritual goose-bumps experience. Like you, I love the fact that Roy and Daphne step out of the way and let Jesus do his work.
Hi Felicity: I just read your post of 11/11/11 today. I was suprised by your topic of God’s presence, and your question wondering if any of us were thinking about this too. I usually summarize everything that happens in our gathering in the following week’s bulletin. Here’s my summary of the message I gave on Nov.13 and sent around in our e-bulletin for this Sunday: “MESSAGE: God’s Presence. Ps. 63:1-5 “O God…earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you…I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory”. We don’t gather on Sundays just to hear a sermon, or to sing worship songs together, to paint, or to fellowship together—we gather to meet with God in his presence. Scripture speaks of his presence in three different ways: His Omni-presence (Isa 6:3; Ps. 139:7); His Indwelling presence, both individual and corporate (Jn. 15:4-5, Jn 14:23-24, 1 Cor.3;16, Matt.18:20, 1Cor.6:19-20); and his Manifest presence—Ex. 13:21-22, 2 Chron. 5:13-14, Lk.5:17, Acts 2:1, 4:3, 8:14-17, 9:3, 10:44-46, 16:23-26 etc). Both Moses and David told God that his presence was their priority. If we live, worship, pray and gather with a priority of meeting with him personally and seeking his presence, it can make a huge difference in both our sense of connection with God, and our own obedience in life. Although following biblical principles is a good thing, principles are impersonal. It’s the Person behind the principles we really seek and respond to. We don’t pursue his presence for “thrills and chills” but because we hunger and thirst for him, and nothing else can satisfy. We are more motivated to both listen to and faithfully follow Christ if we consciously consider his actual presence around, within and among us. One writer speaks of radical transformation of marriages and relationships by encouraging people to pursue God’s real presence, listen to him personally, and to respond to his living word through scriptures like: “love one another deeply from the heart”, & “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, & slow to become angry”. Pursue God’s presence & live in direct response to him.”
Lynn, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I’m fascinated by your analysis of the different ways that the Scriptures speak of God’s presence. I’ll definitely have to investigate those further. And I totally agree with you that it’s the Person behind the Scriptural principles that we seek. In our group we have found it makes a big difference when we seek to hear God–ie to pursue his presence and to anticipate that he is interested to communicate with us.