Category Archives: The Gift Of God's Presence

The Glory Realm In 2012?

I got a newsletter by email today and want to share it because it’s timely.  But it’s also eternal, touching as it does on a too-often overlooked aspect of the simple gospel.

Jesus went to the cross and rose from the dead not just to get us into heaven after we die, but also to get heaven into us while we live in this world.  And one aspect of heaven is God’s glory.

I was in a prophetic worship conference a few years ago.  Lamar  Boschman, a spiritual pioneer who had long called the church to arise in prophetic worship, was the featured speaker.  I had been asked to play and sing as he closed his message.

Suddenly a prophetic song began to flow, and the words shook me so terribly that I was crying my eyes out as I sang.  Here is the essence of the word that challenged me.

About two thousand years ago, God had opened the heavens..  in Revelation 4, John heard the call to come up, and he saw an open door.

The door has been open for two thousand years, and God was disappointed that so few had noticed or even shown any interest in the open door.

Did anybody care?

Many of us felt too unspiritual to go anywhere near the door.  Others thought it was impractical, and we would be better advised to spend our energies elsewhere.

As for me, I began to sense that God was holding me responsible to go to the door whenever I worship.  Enter in, or if nothing else, at the very least, peek inside and look around.

I always reach into the heavens when we worship.  Sometimes I connect and sometimes I don’t, but I dare not insult the God of glory by failing to reach for Him.

As I have reached towards God, the God of grace has reached for me.  I have had many encounters with Him, and often I have been amazed that God would allow someone as brutish as I am to experience Him so richly.

I can’t escape the conviction that these things are happening to me not because I am unusually spiritual – I’m not.  Instead, I am simply a sample of what the glorified Christ can do with an ordinary man.

 

More than once, I’ve stood by Jacob’s ladder and felt a breeze come down from heaven and change the anointing level in a meeting.  I’ve climbed the spiral staircase several times, walking through the layer of mist, even though I couldn’t see the stairs and there was no handrail to hang onto.  It was scary at first as I felt my way with my feet, step by step.  But then I learned that if I worship as I go, the way gets easier.

Who am I to experience such things?  Just an ordinary believer, who died when Christ died and rose from dfeath with Him when He arose.  Why else was I baptized in water, but to bury the dead man and to let the new man come up in resurrection life.

If Christ lives in us, how can we live an earthbound existence and not experience glorious things?

This is why I’m sharing the link to the Gills’ Newsletter.  Papa Gill and Mom Joyce have been dear friends to JoAnn and me for years and we have experienced the glory of God with them at many of their Mountaintop encounters over the years.

Something in a man dies when he sees the glory of God.  But something else comes alive in the glory.  We need this.  The church needs men and women who will let things die that need to die, and let things come alive that need to come alive.  These processes happen only when we encounter His glory.

 

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

 

 

AtTheNextGathering,SunNov20

As I was soaking this morning, I sensed that God wants us to do an assignment when we meet again.  I expect heaven’s activity to go home with us when the meeting ends.  More about that at The Gathering, so I won’t write a lot about it here.  If it were about information, I’d write about it.  But it’s about activation, so we need to do it.  Then when the action starts, I’ll share the testimonies.

 

Lately, God has been giving me nudges I wasn’t sure what to do with.  I couldn’t see how to act on them.  If this is happening to me, probably it’s also happening to you.

It’s been words of knowledge.  Some relate to healing, and I’d call them out if I were in a healing meeting.  But as I live a normal daily life, how do they connect?  Should I save them up for the next Gathering and release them only when we have meetings?

Maybe.  That’s the way we’ve seen things done in church.  But Jesus found ways to release them outside the meeting.  He’ll show us how if we let Him apprentice us.

So the assignment is simple.  It’s found on day 5 of the 31-day devotional, “Learn To Hear From God”, at  http://www.squidoo.com/learn-to-hear-from-god-day-5.    Make a list of words or convictions you’ve received from God, words you haven’t acted on yet.  And at the next Gathering, I believe God will set us up to start acting on these words.

So as we soak, we’ll take time to make a list.  Then we’ll see what God will do.

Incidentally, I’ve needed to make a list like this often.  It’s a way of making sure I don’t let God’s words and nudges slip through the cracks of a busy life and get lost in the shuffle.  But Jesus said:

He that has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father , and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him.”  [John 14:21-If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”  [John 14:21-23]

 

So at the next Gathering, we’ll gather up leftover words from Jesus, like the baskets of crumbs after Jesus fed the 5000 – any words we neglected because we didn’t know what to do with them.  It’s an act of love, an act of worship, and an investment in His manifest presence.  At the very least, it’ll be our way of telling the Father and he Son, please come, and make Yourself at home in me.  Come, relax, and know that You are always welcome here.”

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

Vision In A Coffee Shop

Over the years, I have had many visions.  For many good reasons, some are more intense than others.  Most touch me as lightly as a memory or an imagination.  A few reach into my vitals and mess with me, even causing unexplainable tears or groanings.  This vision is still messing with me, and I’m finding it all over the Bible.  I posted what I saw and how it happened at http://propheticsong.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/prophetic-song-in-the-coffee-shop/.  But understanding came with the vision, and I’ll write a brief version here.

I saw the battle between light and darkness.  The darkness rolled in as great clouds of deception.  The deception looked impenetrable, made as it was of interlocking lies.  The culture wars that predominate in much church thinking today are a response to these clouds.  The deception is a worldview foisted upon us by the world of media and its corporate sponsors, who offer us freedom while keeping us in slavery.  Such is their stranglehold on the public imagination that anyone who thinks differently than they do begins to look dangerous and perverted.  This is the deception, and it is so pervasive that it seems unstoppable.

But into this darkness came wisps of uncreated light.  It was like glowing mists, not large, but moving slowly through the darkness.  This mist was the glory of God Himself, and it was absurd to think there was any contest between light and darkness.  The darkness could not put out the light, but the light was amused that it would even try.  The interlocking lies were as flimsy as a house of cards.

I’ll keep this short, but here’s what I came to understand about the glowing mist that made the kingdom of darkness’s house of cards start falling down.  It was believers, starting to arise and shine as our light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon us.

These believers will refuse to couch their testimony in the language of the culture wars that have raged for the past few decades.  With lies, manipulations, and accusations, the darkness has bullied and deceived the whole earth – but God is laughing from heaven at their conspiracies.  (See Psalm 2.)  We can laugh too.

There are lessons for us in the call of Ezekiel.  He saw the glory of God, and then was led into radical obedience.  There would be times when God would not allow him to speak, and other times when God would not allow him to forebear.  See Ezekiel 3:22-27.

As this vision messes with me, I could write pages about these few verses in Ezekiel.  But for now, I’ll summarize.  Some of us find God putting bands on our mouths, and we can no longer address the world around us in terms of the culture wars. Never again will the deception set our agenda.  Our only agenda is the message birthed in God’s glory and revealed at the cross when the Father glorified the Son.  And this message cannot be just sound doctrine, as though our minds could contain it.  It must be glory-soaked, words of spirit and life, words that make people’s hearts burn within them.

Don’t let your heart be troubled, even when you consider things that are coming on the earth in the last days.  Keep beholding Jesus in His glory.  Let His presence saturate you.  You’ll be able to share God’s love with people all around you, and the tangible presence of God’s love will render all political-correctness issues null and void.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

God’s Healing Presence — Part Two

I wrote about God’s healing presence a few weeks ago, and in the past ten weeks have needed to walk in what I wrote.

Diagnosed with a brain tumor, I went in for emergency surgery.  They knew I couldn’t live without it but didn’t know if I would live through it, or would wake up afterwards only a semi-invalid.

When I woke up, I knew my best refuge was God’s healing presence.  For days He poured out His Spirit upon me, with waves of liquid love sweeping over me.

The surgeon told JoAnn that the tumor had been on the part of the brain that makes music.  “If your husband was a musician, he may never play another note…”  It could have gone either way.

But the gifts and callings of God are without repentance.  See it for yourself on this video –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NO7eoobE9c

Note the horseshoe-shaped scar above my right ear – and listen for the peace of God as I played spontaneously on two keyboards – the upper was a string sound, and the lower was a piano of sorts.  Never underestimate the healing power of God’s presence…

Stan Smith  ::  © 2010, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

God’s Healing Presence

A few years ago, JoAnn and I got involved with the Healing Rooms in Santa Maria, CA.  Our friends, Rick and Lori Taylor, head up the ministry there.

I already had a testimony of healings that had happened by faith over the last few years, but God had given them a different strategy.  “Faith is all about us,” Rick would say:  “my anointing, my faith level.  That’s a good strategy, but God has led us to focus on divine healing.  The focus is on His grace, His love, His power.  It’s not about us; it’s all about Him.”

There JoAnn experienced her first miracle.  A woman had had eighteen surgeries on he back in eight years and still was in constant pain.  When JoAnn was asked to check if the woman’s legs were the same length, the woman winced and JoAnn apologized because she thought she was hurting her.  “It’s okay,” the woman said.  “Everything has hurt for years.”  So JoAnn tried again, and this time the woman jumped up out of her chair.

It startled JoAnn, and she apologized again.  “You don’t understand,” the woman exclaimed.  “I’m healed!  I have no pain at all.”  She danced all around the room, praising God loudly; then she went out to the office to report what God had done for her.

I could give more testimonies of healings we have seen in God’s manifest presence.  But I don’t mean to talk about us; I want to tell about Him.

Two weeks ago I was taken to the emergency room for an MRI and a CAT scan, and ended up having a large brain tumor removed.  I was in intensive care for days and then had to stay in the hospital for a few more.  My next step is three months of radiation and chemo; though the surgeon said he got all the cancer he could see, the further treatment is necessary in case microscopic cancer cells are still in my brain.

I’m grateful for the dedication and the care I’ve received from medical professionals.  But I am making it top priority to get into God’s presence as much as I can.  His healing presence will acomplish in me things that medical science can’t do.

So far, I’ve tasted a small token.  As I lay on my bed, I focused my heart on Jesus.  His presence was so rich and profound that I felt undone as waves of liquid love washed over me.  Then the therapists came in to see if I could still walk, to see if I could still speak, to see if I could still see.  After three days of checkups, they reported that on a scale of one to ten, my recovery so far was a ten-plus.

The presence of God was so sweet that one of the nurses said I was walking in peace they all could feel.

It was humbling to realize how little I could take for granted after the surgery I went through, yet the presence of God caused me to bounce back beyond medical expectations.

Psalm 91 tells what happens to those who learn to live in the secret place of the Most High.  A thousand fall on one side and ten thousand on the other, but the person in the secret place manages to defy the odds and get through.  I’m finding more and more scriptures that echo this thought.

How do we get into the secret place?  With an attitude like David’s, who wanted one thing only:  to dwell in the house of the Lord and to behold His beauty.  Or by responding to Jesus, who once tried to gather Jerusalem under His wing, and now He reaches out to draw us closer.   They didn’t respond, but you and I can.

Healing is only one of the benefits of being in God’s presence.  Psalm 16 says there is fullness of joy in His presence, and while I was in a personal crisis in the hospital, His presence turned it into one of the most wonderful times of my life.  I kept joking and laughing, because God’s presence was so wonderful.

Sometimes healing happens instantly, and sometimes by process.  Either way, one way to receive healing is to get into His manifest presence.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2010, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

God’s Presence Will Teach Us

For the last couple of years, I’ve been posting articles for an online school of the Spirit in three areas:  the Miracle Lifestyle (using the gifts of the Spirit outside the church), Prophetic Song, and Culture Shapers (prophetic inspiration in the arts).

Early in December I posted articles about a scavenger hunt in each of these three areas.  First I listed the things I was looking to experience, then I noticed I was treating the list as if they were mere goals I had set.  It became a to-do list.

After a while I realized this was missing the point.  It isn’t about setting goals and trying to make myself do them; if we position ourselves to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us, this means we must make room for His presence to guide us and instruct us.

He isn’t a hard taskmaster; instead, He’s meek and lowly in heart, and He will lead us to find rest for our souls.

I listed more items than I could finish in two months, but God isn’t impatient.  He convicted me to look back over the list and recall the moments when His presence drew near, and how He guided me, strengthened me, or taught me.  Here’s a short list.

Stay filled with the Spirit. I wrote about this a few weeks ago – see Testimony:  Spirit-Filled Living – and tasted a lifestyle in which the Holy Spirit was poised in my life, waiting for an opportunity to overflow with blessing.

Sometimes I let myself get too busy and started running in my own strength.  I learned it isn’t worth it.  It was amazing how little effort it took to get back into a place of overflow.  God is eager to make His presence felt in our lives.

Culture Shapers. Get my marketing together. This is the kind of work I hate:  learning to use new software programs, writing a bio, keeping up with paperwork.  But I love to write, to create new graphics, and to get new sounds out of my keyboard.  If I really want to get my art to the people God means for it to touch, I have to do the stuff on my desk.

I was complaining about the backlog on my desk and God challenged me with the words of Psalm 40:8 — “I delight to do Your will.”  This isn’t a verse I can fulfill in my own strength, but Christ in me can do it.  It’s making a huge difference.

Prophetic Song.  Get into the flow at home. Lately, I’ve felt very dry musically.  But because I’ve been seeking to stay so filled with the Spirit that I’m continually speaking to myself in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, prophetic song has come alive again in my personal devotions.

Miracle Lifestyle.  Get a word to myself every week, then act on it. As I soak, I quiet my heart, focus on Jesus, and look for the spontaneous flow of words.  In prayer times I speak the spontaneous flow as my prayer to the Father; in worship, I sing the spontaneous flow to God, and in ministry times I speak the spontaneous flow over people as a prophecy or as a prayer.  But in my private devotions I’ve been writing down the spontaneous flow – and then I try to follow through in the next few days with appropriate action.

I haven’t managed to do all of this every week, but I have received two life-changing revelations from God about (1) the fear of God and (2) a restful way to pray the prayer of faith.

Has the scavenger hunt been worthwhile? Yes. I have reached out to God for several new things in Him, and He has been faithful to touch me with His presence and to teach me to move in Him.  It isn’t because I’m great in any way; I’m not.  But He is, and He is faithful to fulfill His promises to us. Seek the manifest presence of God, and let God Himself teach you.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2010, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

Outside The Church

Can we take the manifest presence of God outside the church?

Many of us have gotten the idea that the church can’t access God’s manifest presence without praise and worship.  After all, Psalm 22:22 says God inhabits the praises of His people.  So how can we expect the manifest presence of God to go with us outside the church if we don’t take a worship team with us?

But Jesus didn’t take a team of musicians with Him wherever He went. He could access God’s manifest presence in homes, on the streets, or in the synagogue.

We sometimes overlook the very simplest of Christian doctrines:  “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Christ doesn’t just inhabit our worship services; He inhabits you.  And His indwelling presence is your hope of experiences in the glory of God.  His life in you can overflow and make the presence of God known and felt to the people around you.

I tasted this one day when I was a teenager, a senior in high school.  I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit that summer, and suddenly in the classroom (I was taking a test) I felt waves of the Holy Spirit sweeping over me.  Tears poured down my face and my whole body began to tingle.

I knew this visitation of the Holy Spirit was a gift of grace.  I hadn’t prayed for it, and wasn’t spiritual enough to believe this kind of thing could happen in my life.  But it was happening, and for the rest of the day I greeted my friends in the halls between classes, put one finger on their foreheads, and asked, “What do you feel?”

Repeatedly I watched their eyes grow large with wonder.  “What is that?” they would ask, and I would reply, “It’s the Holy Spirit – I’ll tell you more after class.”

So when the last bell rang I met my friends under the tree – that was our hangout in the schoolyard where we would wait for our rides home after school – and I began to tell them about Jesus.

Nobody was easy to convince, but everybody was interested.  This was something more than just a preacher telling them what they were doing wrong; they had encountered a God they could not explain.  Within a few weeks some were saved; others said they just couldn’t believe the gospel.  “Suit yourself,” I would answer, “but what did you feel when I touched you?  Explain that.”

They had no explanation.  I didn’t argue with them.  Somehow, several of them came to Christ in the next couple of years.  God didn’t use me in every step of their coming to Him, but I’m sure He used me that one day to let them know there is more to Him than the religious ideas and philosophies of man.

In the past few years, I’ve been seeing more and more of God’s presence touching people outside the church.  Sometimes it’s the gifts of the Spirit touching the unsaved. Sometimes it’s a dream or a vision.  Sometimes it’s simply by feeling His presence, which often manifests as a deep sense of unexplainable peace.

Something like this happened with Cornelius’s household.  First an angel visited Cornelius to arrange a divine appointment with Peter.  Then Peter tried to preach, but before he could have a proper altar call, the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who listened to his preaching.

We will see more and more of this kind of thing in coming years.  In a generation flooded with information, only the presence of God can cut through the flood of words and info as deep calls unto deep.  God wants to touch the deepest parts of this generation, and birth a new generation in His presence.

It starts with you.  Become someone who lives in the manifest presence of God.  He wants to use you as a spout where His glory can come out and touch people around you.  Christ in you is the key.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2010, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

Promised: God’s Manifest Presence

Don’t believe for dry times.  Believe for the manifest presence of God

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus taught the twelve to expect to live in God’s manifest presence.

I look back over forty years of Christian living and realize how much teaching I’ve heard that tells us how to live the Christian life even when we don’t sense God’s presence.  These are great lessons, lessons we all need at one time or another.

But as we’ve taught the church to be faithful and consistent in our dry times, we’ve overlooked something:  Jesus’ insistence that we can expect God’s manifest presence.  While trying to learn to be faithful in dry times, some of us have decided we’re best off not to sense God’s presence at all.  That’s unfortunate.  Here is what Jesus said:

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”  (John 14:21-23)

Notice that Jesus calls us to show our love for God by keeping His commandments.  If we love Him, we act on His words; and as the Father sees those acts of love, He responds with love and Jesus promises to manifest Himself to us.

Judas didn’t understand.  “Why would You manifest Yourself to us, and not to the whole world?  Wouldn’t it make more sense if You showed Yourself to everybody, so they all would believe?”  It’s a question many of us have asked, but Jesus understood how God’s manifest presence works.  He reiterated the promise: God would like to manifest His presence to everybody, but He can do so only with those who love Him enough to act on what He tells them.

You and I can love Him enough that He will manifest His presence to us, and we can position ourselves where His manifest presence can spill over and touch others.  People have done this at various times in church history; we usually call it a revival or an outpouring.

Our obedience is not legalism; it is our loving response to the words of God’s grace.

Why is obedience so important?  When I first came to Christ, I thought it was a matter of being so righteous that God would decide to reward me with His presence.  But Romans and Galatians make it clear that we gain real righteousness by faith, not by works.  So I had to adapt myself to the idea that the obedience Jesus calls for is not the obedience of the law.  We don’t earn His presence.  He gives it by grace.

As I’ve wrestled with the promise of God’s manifest presence, I’ve learned that God graciously tells us how to encounter Him.  We love Him by keeping His word.  Sometimes we keep His word by receiving it and pondering it.  Sometimes His word calls us to repent of the way we’ve done things before.  Sometimes His word calls us to act.

But repentance and acts of faith aren’t the works of the law, by which we try to earn the blessing of His presence.  Instead, His words to us are words of grace, telling us where our divine appointments will be.  He tells us to repent so we can clear the air of the dust and smoke that prevent our seeing him.  He commands us to do something, and when we obey it positions us to meet Him.

He isn’t telling us how to earn anything; He’s telling us things that help us discover Him.  It’s as though God Himself has decided to play hide-and-seek with all humanity, but then He speaks to us, giving us clues that help us find Him.  Those of us who love Him enough to listen and to act on what He says will stumble upon His manifest presence.

Jesus gave us these keys so we all can live in His manifest presence.

Perhaps these words look theoretical, but many of us have found that they work in real life.  If we make it a priority to listen to Him, and then if we act on what He says, we encounter His manifest presence and get to see Him do surprising things.  Just as a sample, here are two of my own experiences.

I received a word of knowledge in a workshop, but it didn’t seem to connect right away.  Two  weeks later, it released a flow of the Spirit in a church I was visiting – but not until I risked my reputation and spoke it.  I had to act on the word to meet God’s manifest presence.

One morning I sensed that God wanted me to sing spontaneous worship to Him, using a soaking CD I had recorded as background.  Within half an hour, I was in a rich manifest presence of God.  From there, God gave me a strong prophetic word for my home church, which I was able to give a few days later.  But again, the key was to act on the word God had given me.

I could give many testimonies, but in each case I didn’t earn the blessing of God’s presence – His words simply told me where I would meet Him.  My stories are samples of what every believer can have, but it’s up to each of us to choose to act on what God speaks to us.  Are you hungry and thirsty for God?  He’s hungry and thirsty to manifest His presence in your life.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2010, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

A Higher Water Table

Psalm 1 says that if we meditate on the word of God, our leaf will be green even in time of drought.

I’ve lived long enough to have seen dry times and times when the Spirit of God was being poured out.  Some people are dry during the dry times; they are faithful, dutifully plodding on, but they are dry.  Others manage to find a flow of the Holy Spirit no matter how dry the season is.  What makes the difference?

As I’ve meditated on this psalm, it’s occurred to me that their roots that draw from an underground river.  There may be a drought, but they have found that the river of God is always flowing – sometimes aboveground, and sometimes deep down.  But their access to this underground river depends on their meditating on the word of God.

I decided as a young man that I wanted to draw from this river, not having to depend on the spiritual season the church was in, but accessing an eternal flow of the Holy Spirit.

God has been faithful, but I’ve had to make an effort.  Sometimes I’ve had to stir myself to refocus my attention on the word of God.  And sometimes when I’ve ministered, it’s taken an effort to reach down into the deeps to connect with the river.  But God is faithful; the river is always flowing.

Lately He’s been challenging me to seek Him for a higher water table. Most of us have no reason to think about water tables, but farmers who depend on wells know that in time of drought, the springs dry up and only the deepest wells have water.  But if there have been a few years with more rainfall than average, the water table rises, all the wells are full, and springs pop up everywhere.

God is calling me to develop a devotional life that will raise my water table.  Psalm 1 tells us that by just meditating on the word of God, our roots will go deep and access the river of God even in a dry season.  But can we raise our water table?

I’ve been led to Ephesians 5:18-19, which has redefined my understanding of what it means to be Spirit-filled:

…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord…

My Evangelical friends might be content to say they were filled with the Spirit when they were born again; I can agree with that.  My Charismatic friends might be content to say they were filled with the Spirit the day they first spoke in other tongues; I’ve been content with that for years.

But recently I’ve sensed God’s challenge that I seek such a fresh infilling of the Spirit that I overflow wherever I go, inside or outside the church.  The litmus test is this:  do I catch myself singing and making melody in my heart to the Lord?

I can make myself sing to God whenever I think of it, but making myself do it isn’t the same as having a spring pop up unexpectedly.

I can raise your water table by soaking, and I can raise it by getting into a spontaneous flow in worship.   I may or may not feel God’s manifest presence when I wait on God, but God sees me reaching for Him and He makes His presence felt whenever He chooses, whether in my prayer time or in a store as I talk to a clerk.

Psalm 1 says that if we meditate on the word of God we can put down roots that will access the river even in dry times.  Ephesians 5 says we can be so filled with the Spirit that we have a fountain of praise and worship bubbling up in our hearts.  It’s good to reach for His manifest presence in every way we can.

Stan Smith :: © 2009, GospelSmith :: http://www.GospelSmith.com

The Gift Of God’s Presence

It’s Christmastime, and though many of us chafe at the busyness and commercialism of the season, I think we all are glad that our whole society slows down to show honor and appreciation to friends and family for a few weeks.

There are ministry opportunities for those who will make time to seek out the people whose fractured family lives make Christmas a season of depression.  There are evangelistic opportunities, for while our culture is so secularized that many are saying “Happy Holidays” and scowl at those who say “Merry Christmas,” Jesus is on people’s minds and many will be introduced to Him in the next few weeks.

With that in mind, I want to unwrap the gift God gave us when He gave us His Son:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 2:23)

God with us.  One of the best things I’ve seen in the church in the last few years is that many of us are starting to build our lives around the gift of His presence.  And a lot of good things are happening there, but there is a complication:  God does such a good job of making himself look human that it isn’t always clear what’s of God and what’s of man.

God’s presence can look too human.

God is with us; Jesus came so we could live in the presence of God.  Sometimes we take it by faith, not worrying about the fact that we don’t feel His presence.  After all, we have covenant promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us. What more do we need?

Of course there were a few years when the presence of God tabernacled in a single human body.  Those who lived with Jesus saw great things as He forgave sin, set captives free, healed the sick, and did many wonderful works.

We often think they were a special generation, exempt from the laws of faith that we have to live by.  But I’m not sure it was any easier for them than it is for us.  I suspect they too were tempted to wonder if God was really with them because He looked too human.  He got tired and hungry and sat down by a well in Samaria; He fell asleep while they were in the boat battling a storm; it was maddening that it took him four days to respond to the call to minister to Lazarus.  Is this what God looks like?

The people I know who are accessing God’s manifest presence have some of the same questions.  We feel His presence and see God work, but we also have moments when it all looks so human that we wonder if God is really working in our lives at all.  Is it Him, or is it us?

Sometimes I’m asked to pray for someone.  Because I have a prophetic touch, I always like to pray first and then ask what their need is – often God speaks through me and addresses the need before I know what’s going on.  But whenever I minister I do my best to hear from God, I perceive a phrase or see a mental picture, and then have to ask myself, “Is this God, or is it me?”  I have to make a fresh choice every time, deciding to trust that God will honor His promise to feed His people.  His presence looks too human.

I travel and minister and do a lot of equipping, and I find that many people are already hearing from God.  It may be in words and it may be with non-verbals – dreams, visions, simply knowing something, feeling His presence, being moved with compassion – but we all face the same issue:  God’s presence looks too human.  Is it Him, or is it us?

And of course, we’re hungry.  We don’t want it to be just us; we want God to do something transcendent in our lives, something that will open the heavens to us and give us an experience beyond ourselves.  But often He answers our prayer with a gentle nudge that we could easily overlook.  This is God?

Our encounters with God may seem as improbable as it must have seemed for the shepherds to have an angelic visitation instructing them to go to a stable and look for a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Miracles happen in God’s presence.

I tasted this when I first started leading whole worship services with spontaneous prophetic songs.  After thirty or forty minutes of singing the new song, the presence of God was overwhelming.

It’s not that I’m a good worship leader; I’ve led plenty of services that never got off the ground.  But there seems to be a richer sense of God’s manifest presence reserved for those who worship spontaneously.  God inhabits the praises of His people, but the Hebrew word is tehillim, the spontaneous songs that overflow out of us.  I travel in ministry and visit a variety of churches, but I consistently find that the presence of God is the richest in the churches that take time to cultivate prophetic worship.

And things happen.  Often God releases songs of deliverance, and people get set free from depression or unforgiveness or addictions.  Sometimes they need a few minutes of personal ministry as someone speaks words of faith over them, but more is accomplished in a few minutes in God’s manifest presence than we would normally experience in weeks or even months otherwise.

Some of the strongest altar calls at Agape, our home church, happen when we’ve gotten into a flow of the Spirit in spontaneous worship.

We’ve seen it at the Healing Rooms in Santa Maria.  Before the ministry teams lay hands on people, they spend about an hour soaking in God’s presence – being still before God as worship music plays in the background, and being filled with God’s glory and love.  Then in the presence of God, miracles happen easily.  Check out the testimonies they’ve posted.

JoAnn and I are spending the next two months at Dunamis Resources in Las Vegas.  Last Friday night, after about an hour of worship that spent half or more of its time in spontaneous song, Dennis Walker took the microphone, began singing, and soon was calling out words of knowledge for healing.  Within minutes, people were bending and stretching to test themselves to see if they were healed.  Several said their pain had left them instantly.

The problem with ministry in God’s presence is that it’s too easy.  Shouldn’t I try to be the great man of God, laboring in faith and pressing through great spiritual opposition, acting on powerful principles that are too deep for most people to know?  Instead, in God’s presence I forget all about myself, I rest instead of working hard, and I never quite feel that I know what’s going on.

I preached in a church in Peru and then prayed for healing for the whole congregation.  A boy raised his hand and announced, “God put arches in my feet!”  His mother examined his feet and said, “He really does have arches now.  He didn’t have them before.  He’s had to wear special shoes…” They testified again on Sunday; he was still healed.

But I hadn’t done anything special.  It was too easy.  All I did was preach a few simple truths about Jesus and invite the people into God’s presence.  The presence of God did the work.

Accessing God’s presence.

Friday night, Dennis Walker taught that there are three ways to receive healing:  by standing in faith on God’s promises, by hearing an initiative from heaven, or by just getting into God’s presence.

All three of these ways are different aspects of connecting with Immanuel, God With Us.  The boy in Peru had his feet reshaped by getting into the presence of God.  Many of us have heard stories of people who have stood in faith and been healed – maybe it’s happened to you that way.  But after Dennis shared about three ways God heals, a first-time visitor at Dunamis shared his own testimony, and it was an example of healing by what Dennis calls the “initiatives of heaven.”

The man dreamed that his brother had cancer, that he went to pray for him at the hospital, that he got all the unbelievers out of the room, and then as he laid hands on his brother a flash of power shot down through his hands and his brother was healed.

Was God in the dream, or was it just him?  It seemed to be just him; his brother was in perfect health.  But within two weeks, cancer flared up and his brother was in the hospital, and they didn’t give him long to live.

The man went to the hospital and did what he saw in the dream.  His brother was healed instantly; they released him from the hospital, cancer free, five days later.

“That’s an example of the initiatives of heaven,” Dennis said.  “Whatever He says, do it.  You may hear His voice, or it can be any of the five spiritual senses He’s given you – you might see something or even smell something, using the spiritual sense of discernment.  But whatever you sense, act on it…”

Three ways:  standing in faith, responding to God’s initiatives, or simply getting into the manifest presence of God and reaching for miracles and transformation.  Really, they all come back to the same thing:  God is with us.  One way or another, He wants to make His presence tangible in our lives.

The Christmas Gift

So this Christmas, you already have a gift from God, and it doesn’t come with a tag saying “Do not open until Dec 25.”  You have the opportunity to be a doorway for God to pour more of His Son into the world through you.  If Christ lives in you, there’s more to you than eggnog and gift-wrapping.  The greatest gift is the presence of God – it’s His gift to you, and He’s sending you out with it to touch others.

Soon Christmas will be over and we’ll be looking ahead to 2010.  Let me challenge you to make it top priority to make room for more of God’s manifest presence in your life next year.  Don’t live a dry Christianity.  God’s gift to you is Immanuel, God With Us.  He wants His presence to make an impact in your life and in the lives of all you meet.