Practicing the Presence

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Practice makes perfect. Doctors aren’t perfect, so that must be why they practice; neither are pastors. We all practice in order to become better at something. What about practicing the presence of Jesus?

Here’s a little background on the idea of presence. In Genesis 3:8, Adam and Eve heard the footsteps of God walking in the garden. Knowing they had sinned, the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. The Hebrew word for presence is “face,” and it connotes a personal relationship. Samuel also encountered the presence of God (1 Samuel 1:22). His mother’s intention was that he would appear in the presence of God—think face-to-face—for his entire life.  Of interest to me is that the presence of God is not confined to a “religious” building, a temple, or a room. God’s presence just happens to be wherever God is. That’s everywhere, all day, every day, right? I think this is a key point.

And then there is the showbread, or the bread of the presence—or even better, the bread of the face (of God). These twelve loaves of bread (full of gluten, but yeast-free) were replaced every Sabbath. They were a physical reminder that the Creator of the universe is the sustainer of human existence, as well as a reminder that God’s presence—his face—is as common as bread. So God’s presence is both special and ordinary. To me this is another key to understanding what it means to practice the presence of Jesus: Remember the idea of special and ordinary.

The presence of Jesus is especially present when the church gathers for worship. No, I’m not going to misquote Matthew 18:20 (“where two or three are gathered”)! Both Old and New Testaments speak to the reality of God’s presence among his people when they are gathered (Exodus 29:42 and John 14:23). As the tabernacle was a place for God to meet his people, so Jesus, the Word of God tabernacled in the flesh, is the place in which we meet God face to face (John 1:18). The writer of Hebrews warns us not to stop meeting together as some have (10:25), so there must be a good reason for it. And that reason is to meet with Jesus as the assembled people of God in order to adore him, be awed by him, and celebrate him. This is special for all believers.

But the presence of Jesus is not just special; it’s also ordinary. Lest we think the only time Jesus is present is in our sanctuaries, consider this. When I plug in my earphones and listen to (among others) the Moody Blues—okay, there, I’ve dated myself—I am brought close to God. I know they are not a worship team. Golly, they’re not even Americans, but when I listen to the music it draws me into a time of refreshing worship and an experience with the presence of God. Weird, huh? This won’t work for everyone. But maybe you experience or are aware of God when you are in the garden turning the soil. Or when you finally get that old lawnmower running after busting your knuckles for an hour. Or when you taste homemade bread right out of the oven.

So here’s the point: practicing the presence of Jesus is special and mundane. We do it in church—we all know that. But we also practice his presence every single day of our lives, or at least we ought to.

 

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About Author

Jeff Morton / Bunyan Towery (M.Div. and D.Miss., Biola) is pastor of discipleship, Hillside Baptist Church, Dickinson, ND. He is author of " Two Messiahs," "Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant?" and co-editor of "Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel."

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