The Presence of God

EXODUS 33:15

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”

If there’s a verse that aptly depicts my life (or that I’d like to depict my life) right now, it’s the one listed above.  I meditated on this passage back when I first came to Asia in May, and time and again we’ve come back to this verse as we ponder our future together.  Tina and I have abdicated whatever sense of control we thought we had to say, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”

Tina could also confirm that I’ve made spreadsheets charting our course over the next 3-5 years, complete with budgets, kids, church plans, and predictions on whether or not the NBA and NFL seasons will be canceled.

While such rigorous planning might be commended by some, it must be somewhat laughable to God, sitting on the throne, holding the entire universe together by his fingertips.

One of the great gifts of being in Seoul has been reconnecting with different people, and one such person whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting with is Andre Ashby, an old friend and mentor who has spent some time in South Korea ministering in different congregations by singing, preaching, and prophetic ministry.

Andre was the first to reintroduce me to the power of the Spirit when I first moved to NYC in 2001, and I remember we’d have long, late night talks about the ways God moves with his Manifest Presence.

As a wide-eyed (this is a euphemism, as you might already know when you’ve seen pictures of my eyes) 21 year-old, I soaked in every conversation, especially as that year proved to be one of the most life-transforming times of my life (I was also introduced to EHS that year).

Being with Andre in Seoul reminded me of the same earnestness and zeal I had back then, a keen hunger for wherever there were signs of life, or in biblical terms, the moving of the Spirit.

Last night Tina and I went to Young Dong First Church of Seoul where Andre was ministering, and the experience was so reminiscent of so many times that God has “showed up” in my life.

Now, this is not to discount the omnipresent attribute of God – this is simply to talk about when the Manifest Presence of God comes in tangible, dynamic ways on special occasions (for all the Non-Christians reading this, I’m simply referring to when some crazy supernatural things happen – if you don’t believe me, I’d love for you to come and see for yourself sometime!).

Truth be told, Tina and I showed up for the meeting rather late.  We initially arrived early but we were both famished and needed to eat before the session.  So we wandered off into the neighborhood and found a delicious “bossam” restaurant.  We ended up walking through the doors of the main hall around 8:45 (the meeting started at 7 pm), right as Andre called up a couple of people to give them prophetic words.

I thought the meeting was going to be comprised of more singing and prophetic words thereafter, but Andre went straight into preacher mode.

He spoke of the life-changing power of God, and how the world is hungry for something more real and revolutionary than sitting and standing in a building, singing some songs, and hearing some inspirational words.

He proceeded to go through passage after passage about how God’s presence always brings about a significant work – time and time again when the Spirit moves, mountains turn, skies are opened, and dry bones live.

And which passage did Andre end with?

Exodus 33.

Moses, the humblest man on the earth who experienced God’s power and presence in the most unique of ways, says (to paraphrase) “I want more of your presence, not less!  Without your presence, I am nothing”!  Or better yet, we are nothing.

“When was the last time you had the same earnest hunger for God’s presence?” Andre asked.

“We are to be people who want God’s presence more than anything else.  We are to be people who need God’s presence more than anything else.”

Andre began to sing.  The people began to arise.  Hands were lifted and the room began to stir.

Meanwhile, I sat down, buried my face in my hands, repented for I’m not sure what, and cried out to God.

What if we all lived with this verse at the forefront of our lives?

“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”

What if our relationships were led by this statement?

Our Churches?

Our Families?

Our Personal Choices?

How would our lives – and our world – look different?

I realize there have been several things I’ve had to die to so that I can essentially say, “God your will, and not mine.  I only want to go where you are leading.”

– I’ve had to die to my want for comfort.

– I’ve had to die to my want for prestige.

– I’ve had to die to my want for control and predictability.

– I’ve had to die to my attachments in NYC.

And underneath the dying is the earnest hunger to be wherever God wants us to be.

And the most challenging of all has not been dying to the “bad” things, I’ve noticed, it’s actually the “good” things.  My hopes for security for my family, my wishes to do extraordinary things with my life… it’s these “good” things that God is purging out of me at the moment.

And in the end, it’s one of the most painful, yet liberating prayers to say to God, “I will die to everything to follow you, because quite simply, I only want to be where you are.”

PROVERBS 16:9

9 In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the LORD establishes their steps.

INTERVIEWER: Bono, where do you attend church?

BONO: I go wherever there’s life…

From an Interview at the Global Leadership Summit 2009

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6 responses to “The Presence of God

  1. Thank you for sharing a part of your journey with us, Drew. It sure sounds like you are experiencing God’s presence in new ways. Praying for and missing you guys!

  2. Alan Butterworth

    Drew,

    We talked briefly at the Leadership Conference in March. I am a friend of your friend Larry in Florida. I confess I barely know you and I am just beginning to know myself (yuck!).

    Your blogs touch me. To the extent I understand your struggle, I share it. My struggle begins, “am I called to ‘full time’ ministry?” I am in a full time ministry, so I ask the LORD, “is this where you want me to be?”

    Paul talks about tentmakers who may boast that they do not seek support for sharing the Gospel. I add that to my prayer: “LORD, would you prefer that I serve you by being a tentmaker?” What is so special about ‘full time’ ministry? Do I believe God will love me more, or bless the work more, if I am serving ‘full time’?

    I did part time ministry for a time. I had a hard time dividing my time. Was my life too compartmentalized then? What is God’s will now?

    What is ministry? Is there any believer who is not in ‘full time’ ministry? There is nothing wrong with seeking support for ‘full time’ ministry. Many are grateful for the opportunity to partner with someone financially or in prayer to do things they are currently unable to do. But I believe God wants me to continue to ask in every area of my life, “what is His will?”

    So far, I have not discerned a clear answer that I should head into tentmaking. But how do I discern God’s will for what I am doing?

    I think of a recent message by Pete about margins in our life. We need time and space for God to speak to us and to respond. As believers, I don’t believe God’s Presence leaves us. We push Him away at times, and ignore Him. But I cling to the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. The Great Commission promises that He is with us always.

    To me, the issue is expectations. If God is silent, does it mean he is not there? Am I making too much noise to hear Him? Does God want me to act based on His silence, based on what I know? Will we have clear guidance from the LORD for everything we do? I don’t believe so. I believe one reason is failure, and how we react to failure, is part of his plan. Failure is a critical part of all education.

    What makes me different is not that I am perfect, or perfectly following His will. Isn’t what makes me different really the opposite? That I know I am imperfect?

    When I seek to do His will, and do something that is not perfect, for heaven’s sake, I can (by God’s Grace) acknowledge I am but a jar of clay, and allow Him to shine through the cracked shards.

    Ha! That is so easy to say. I confess I have a lot of perfectionism. I hate the idea that I am to be vulnerable, broken, poor, needy, and for me the hardest is… in touch with my emotions… grieving, meek, merciful (are you kidding?), loving enemies, a peace maker. Being numb is so much easier.

    His will is for us to love Him and love others. That begins with receiving His love and opening my eyes to the opportunities all around me.

    So where do I begin? Is there a better place than in prayer?

    I believe God want me to continue to ask what is His will for me… and continue to answer. I answer by what I do. That is scary. In my experience, God speaks to me most clearly after I have done something…. or not done something.

    Can I do too much? Can I think too much? Can I turn the LORD’s prayer into an excuse for ignoring my neighbor? How can God love someone like me?

    As I wrestle with God, as I meditate on His Word and in prayer, paying attention to His Presence, I must confess my unworthiness, seek His forgiveness and pray that like Jacob, I seek His blessing before I let go.

  3. Drew, my love to you and to Christina. Thank you for this and for all your sharings. Know that the Lord uses them in my life.

    Baayork

  4. @cate – yes we are! missing you all, too.
    @baayork – thanks for the well wishes. we love you too!
    @alan – thanks for sharing such honest reflections. your questions certainly resonate with me, too. glad we’re on this journey together.

  5. Pingback: New Beginnings. | while waiting

  6. P. Drew,

    Word.

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