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Thursday, February 05, 2009
What is the Presence of God?

I hear this a lot. Someone will be telling me about a recent worship experience. "Man, the Presence of God was so thick in that room last night." Or they may say, "The Presence of God really came down," or "fell." Another said, "We really experienced the manifest Presence of God in that worship time." 

I'm not questioning these assertions.  I'm only asking you to offer your reflection on what you think they are trying to say. 

What is the Presence of God? And how do we know when we are in it? 


posted by John David Walt | at 2/05/2009 03:01:00 AM



Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD -

That is an interesting question. I destinctly remember experiencing something the time I came into the room you had just lead a session in at Thisrty the very 1st time they had it. I walked in the room an the air was tinged with a weightiness it was thick like someone was very present in the room. Like worries woere going away. Felt Loved and very Peaceful. I can't say it was heat or the warmth of many bodies, but I can say I felt very compelled to stick around and talk to you as well as just be in the room. The only other time I felt same sense was at Oneday 2000. The moment you stepped on the field the air was thick especially after the wonderous cross when they brought the cross down to the front of the field the air stayed thick like that for the rest of the day and night. You could barely breathe at some points. I felt so full of love and peace that I would explode if anyone even thought about giving me a hug at anypoitn that day. Not sure I answered the question or muddled it. I do remember experiencing it.

1:10 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realized i forgot to sign the comment.

Kathryn Dudley

1:12 PM EST  
Blogger John David Walt said...

i remember both of these times Kathryn-- I agree with you on both counts. thanks for recalling them as tangible examples.

10:41 PM EST  
Blogger Kathryn said...

Thought I would try a crack at the question how do we know we are in His presense? That one is a little harder but then maybe not...it does say when two or more are gathered in His name He is in the midst. Well at both of those gatherings we were there in His name. Of course He would be there...sometimes it is more apparent then others for whatever reason...because the rub to that is if God is with us and within us why wouldn't we recognize His presense always. Maybe not that intensely but then maybe so...anyway, just another thought. Gives me something to think about on a sleepless night perhaps all the caffine from going to an open mic night or the poetry that left pictures and images in my minds eye to think about. Glad to hear you remembered those moments they still stick out to me.

12:54 AM EST  
Blogger sandra r. said...

I was at OneDay 2000 as well, and yes, that was an amazing time of experiencing His Presence...

I'm one of the people who will say something about "the Presence of God"(I did in a few posts back - the one about CT in the NY Times...), so I'm glad you're not trying to pick on my comment. ;-)

I think "the Presence of God" is in the encounters we have in this present life when His Glory is revealed to us through the Light of His Word...

The WORD = Christ (John 1:1)
Christ = Light (John 1:9)
The Light of His WORD (Psalm 119:105)

I was just thinking that every experience that I've ever encountered "the Presence of God" has been the result of experiencing a truth (light) from His Word in some form or another. It has even been a Bible verse/passage that I have known for a long time and then seeing it in a completely different, revealed way. And it's not just the music portion either - it has also been in a time of prayer or a time of teaching...

The picture of the replica of the ark of God reminds me of a few things:
-- The ark of God was the symbol of God's presence to His people.
-- The ark of God was used to carry the Ten Commandments - God's spoken WORD to Moses (and the Israelites).
-- When the ark was finally brought to the temple, it was quite apparent "the Presence of God" was there. The ark carrying His WORD had arrived.
-- One of my most favorite passages ever:
2 Chronicles 5:13-14, "The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:
"He is good;
his love endures forever."
Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God."
-- Did you catch the latter half of that passage?! WOW!!

This is all a really hard thing to summarize!

Question though: is "the Presence of God" only found in corporate gatherings or can it be made manifest in an individual's quiet time?

Oh, and does anyone else get really frustrated at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark when they file the ark away in that big warehouse?? Just wondering (and apparently my mind is now wandering)

2:44 AM EST  
Blogger John David Walt said...

I like these observations about the presence of God being where 2 or 3 gather in his name.

I also like this Word of God observation. what I like about both of these responses is that you are thinking theologically and not just experientially. Experiential is good-- but limited as a mediator of revelation. God's Word and Spirit and Sacrament (i.e. visible sign of an invisible reality) are the primary ways his presence is mediated, known and experienced.

6:13 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathryn again...at the Thirsty event. I have to let you know that while the breakout session was happening not everyone was able to get in on what was happening in the room. I was a volunteer for that so missed out on being lead to a place per say where emotionally you felt God just had to have showed up, because I was lead there in some kind of way. Actually I was out in the hallway talking to other volunteers. An individuals who had been sitting out in the hallways about life and how they made it to the conference and what were they doing for lunch and where the best places were around to eat so I was directly being influnced by anyone at the moment. So to walk in a room after a session had happened and be seized by the truth honest feeling of God's presence in the room was needless to say pretty awesome, but one could also say well the whole conference was centered around a big gathering and the expectancy was there...Could very well be true I don't know for sure, all I know I truthfully I walked in on a God moment that i wasn't all to quickly ready to leave and took me three back and forth trips to say I am gonna stay, because I really feel I need to. All that to say I don't think I was a gathering in which I was lead to an emotion or feeling just because I sat down and listened to a message. Although I could go on to tell you the number of times I have listened to a message...later heard a song...then spoken to a random person...turned on the tv...read the bible...pickup a book to read and heard the same message from all places. Yes that is God speaking through all those avenues to get a message across.

9:53 AM EST  
Blogger John D. Palmer said...

Been working on our Sound System lately. As we have tested the main speakers and tuned our ears to what we were hearing. We encountered some difficulty. At first listen, everything seemed right on, but as we kept listening something seemed a little off. So we started doing different things to figure out what was happening, this undescribable lack of something. As we went through our checks we finally ended up using the pan dial to direct the sound from one side of the main speakers to the other side. We discovered our undescribable lack. It was subtle and most people probably wouldn't notice it, but what was happening is a slight difference in the level of sound that was being put out from one speaker over the other. It wasn't so much the over all sound level, because both speakers you could hear, the way we described it was that there was more sound "present" in one speaker over the other. Presence. . .this idea that there was a fuller, clearer, more pleasant appealing feed of sound through our system into one speaker over against the other.

The Presence of God is like this I believe. It is a full, clear, appealing, more than experience. A perspective that is arrived at, or noticed out of an intentional pursuit. A tuning in. A direct result of noticing subtle differences.

There are other occassions that help in this discernment like stand hunting. We wake early go to our preselected spot in the woods and wait, all the time quietly listening for sounds that are different in the rustling of the woods. Waiting for our quarry to arrive, and intently watching the movement and listening to the changes in sounds so that we might detect the "presence" of our hunted.

First I believe God is perpetually and always fully present in our lives. That is the promise of scripture, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."Matthew 28:20

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

So for me the presence of God is a perpetual reality of my living that I have to focus on to realize.

I know I am in the "presence of God" because I seek to be in the presence of God.

11:14 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totllay feel that description John Palmer. So very cool.


1:14 PM EST  
Blogger John David Walt said...

jd palmer-- like these analogies-- esp the deer hunting one. i like the way you frame deeper presence as a function of deeper attention.

11:26 AM EST  
Anonymous John said...

Perhaps it is when we realize there's Someone besides ourselves and in that realization, our physical bodies actually manifest things that help/make us understand that God is present (ie, goosebumps, hair on the back of neck, warmth inside, etc.).

9:23 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have (sadly) found that "presence" at these events often is really a "pep-rally" and "drug of choice." Often after the event is done, and the "high" wears off, one is left with a major downer, believing that they have failed as Christians or "missed" the Holy Spirit.

Lived that way for years and got burned out.

And I have been at some of these Passion events and have been turned off by how the "worship" of our Great God was (not so) subtly infused with politics (case in point: Beth Moore at One Day '03).

11:50 PM EST  
Blogger Joel said...

I really like what JD Palmer is saying...Like "practicing the Presence of God"...when we tune ourselves into Him...by practicing in our conscience that He is there always...something takes over in our unconscience and we move deeper into his presence. it really is the constant awareness that God is moving. When we are feeling that thickness or weightiness like when we're at those concerts or conferences or Christian Woodstocks it may be because in those moments we had such a focus on what God was doing that we were keenly aware of His presence...

My question is...Is He not omnipresent? Isn't the lack of feeling his presence because we don't tune ourselves to him?

1:41 AM EST  

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