Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The art of practising the presence of God

Norma touched on something this Sunday in such a practical way that We need to come back to it and make it our own on an ongoing basis.

The Old Testament reading (Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28) was the story of Joseph which formed the backdrop to Norma's message. It presented a familiar situation of the old father, Jacob who send his favourite son to go and check on the rest of his sons, where family politics created an almost unimaginable cruel scenario of brothers plotting to kill the favourite brother, Joseph, by throwing him in a well. One brother, Reuben, tried to safe his him by convincing the others to rather sell Joseph as a slave to merchants, who then resold him in Egypt.

What a harsh situation. If we imagine for a moment what crossed Joseph's mind...
  • Where was God at this moment?
  • Does God really care?
  • How can He allow this to happen?
This brings us to the the art of practising the presence of God :
  • irrespective of circumstances
  • irrespective of one's health
  • irrespective of one's situation
An example to draw from is the life of Brother Laurence, a 17th  century monk (1614- 1691),  a Godly man, born in the eastern part of France. Due to extreme poverty of his times, he joined the army and fought in the Thirty year War. He lost his right arm, returned home and decided to join the Carmelite order of monks. He had no education and was allocated to the kitchen, where he repaired sandals for the rest of his life. Despite his lowly position in life, many people were drawn to him. What was his secret? He lived the art of practicing the presence of God.

James Goll  wrote a book called "The lost art of the practice of the presence of God" in which he states that if you hunger for more of GOD and less of yourself, these principles are for you.

New testament reading: Romans 10: 5-15 v 8 “ the Word is near you, ...in your mouth and in your heart”

We need to take an inward journey,  proceeding into His presence.
  • Mary at the feet of Jesus, hair loose ( showing her vulnerability), opening herself up, to express her utmost love & respect for her Master.
  • Moses at the burning bush....shoes off ( vulnerable), in awe, waiting, the expectation
  • The Last Supper: that intimate meal with Jesus' closest friends....discussion time, clarifying "how would we know".....and then just listening....no talking.
In Brother Lawrence's own words: “this is not an easy task. But the benefit is great:
  • draws down God's grace abundantly,
  • leads one's soul the ever-present vision of God's love for us, as He often calls us " my beloved " through out the Bible
This is the road to intimacy ....daily, making time to interact with Jesus, whether you're getting up and looking at the sunrise, seeing God the creator displaying His artwork, or walking in your garden, hearing God speaking thru' His beauty. Maybe stopping with whatever you're doing, bowing in a moment of reverence and awe....respect for who God is.

Quietness of the soul -we need to wait on Him

If we yearn to be intimate with Christ, we must learn to be still. We can learn from the story of  John Ortberg consultation with his mentor, Dr Dallas Willard. John complained about the little change that he saw in his church. He asked how he could achieve a deeper level of spirituality in the church. He wanted to know what he should do, to excite and enthuse the people.

Dr Willard's answer was: “ You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God”

John was disappointed and pointed out that he was not asking about myself! He wanted to know what to do about the congregation. Dr Dallas stressed that the main thing you will give your congregation, just like the main thing you will give God, is the person you will become. If your soul is unhealthy, rushing around in “doing” lots of things, trying to achieve huge numbers......your soul will be unhealthy. So you rather should spend time with God....sit and listen to Him, without interrupting Him, or telling Him what He should do. Just being with God is enough.

The practice of the presence of God

  • Meditating on Scripture......that is a tool of quieting oneself . Here we are not talking of New Age meditation or Far East methods of being still, Concentrate rather on maybe on ONE verse, one word that speaks to you.....and let the Holy Spirit speak to you through that portion.When we let our minds dwell on Scripture, the Holy Spirit, who inspired all Scripture, interprets it in our hearts, and brings our spirit into harmony with God.
  • Be ready to deal with distractions....your mind begins to wander …..outside interruptions. What should we do? Madame Guyon suggested to focus on Jesus. Imagine you are sitting there with Him, looking into His eyes, waiting for Him to do the talking. 
Initially you may think this discipline of solitude, is a waste of time. However, the discipline of solitude is one of the most powerful disciplines in developing your prayer life. The more we practice this, the more we hear God's voice and the more we will be able to practice His presence!!