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The Felt Presence of God

Relationship. The way we connect and behave with someone.

Our lives hinge on it. Relationship with others. Relationship with ourselves. Relationship with God.

Relationships can make our lives beautiful or cause our lives to be chaotic, catastrophic or dysfunctional.

The need for relationship is something God’s hard wired into our souls. He made us to have relationship. With us, for us, with each other, for each other. The closest of relationships are with those we seek to spend time with and are aligned with in thought, knowledge, and heart.

What kind of relationship does God bring into our lives?

Leviticus 26:12 (Amp, classic) And I will walk in and with and among you and will be your God, and you shall be My people.

Genesis 2:18 (Amp, classic) Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.

These scriptures demonstrate the amazing fact that God shows a desire and a commitment to have a relationship with us. They also show that He has expectations in our relationship. He understands our need for close and intimate relationships because He’s put that in us – we’re made to be like Him.

Why, then, do we pull away from pursuing the most intimate relationship with Him that we can?

A relationship that can be felt and experienced in the reality of our lives with the One who created us, knows us, and loves us better than any human being, is written about in the beautiful passage of Psalm 139:1-18. Please take a minute to read that now.

In Hebrew thought, "to know" indicates intimate, personal relationship. So there's a real need for us to have that knowledge and that faith and to recognise the intimacy in that.

I’ve heard sermons warning against the need to feel the nearness of God but to be content with knowing it when we go through dry seasons…. Dry seasons. Hmmm. Let’s talk about that for a minute.

The warning comes because so many people look to their feelings to understand the love of God.

How can we truly understand God’s love through our own feelings when they are rarely whole, unbroken and uncomplicated? Our feelings are so up and down. Some days we feel God’s close and other days we feel He’s not. Where is He? How can we be stable in our relationship with Him?

These sermons have concluded that, instead of feeling, you have to focus on knowing He’s close. They say you have to believe in the word by faith and know He’s with you because He says He’ll never leave you or forsake you. Don’t focus on your feelings.

While the bible does say those things, and that line of thinking has an element of realism, it also suggests it’s natural to not always feel God’s nearness. But my question is, is it possible? Why shouldn't we always feel God's nearness? That reasoning does not put enough emphasis on our necessary pursuit of God in all things so that we can always feel His nearness. When I read that passage in Psalm 139, I can feel the nearness of God, His knowing and His desire of me; the origin is a deep connectedness – a deeply felt knowing and nearness.

Felt Presence stems from Him, rather than me. He produces it; I draw from it.

Let’s talk about this more deeply. Come on, we’ve got to grasp this.

Dry seasons demonstrate there’s not enough rain. Dryness means there’s not enough moisture nourishing the soil to retain hydration in things that are needing to grow. Where’s the problem?

If I drink too much coffee in the morning and no water, even though I’m drinking liquid I still end up feeling thirsty because caffeine dehydrates. It’s only water that truly hydrates, so it’s water I need to make sure I have enough of so that I don’t get dry and dehydrated.

Drinking enough water is essential. In the heat, when our bodies perspire, we need more water than in cooler weather.

Should we not expect to go to our source of living water to drink more regularly and more often to combat any potential heat and dry seasons? These are not just words. The bible sites Jesus going specifically to the Samaritan woman at the well to speak about this in the book of John chapter 4 – during the hottest, driest part of the day. Was that a coincidence, do you think?

They drew water from a well that had to go deep in order for the water to be found. And everybody had to go to the well and draw from the well in order to gain what they needed.

If we’re in relationship with people and we spend time with them, we feel their presence. We enjoy their presence. We nurture their presence and take away that enjoyment when we leave their presence. Even if we’re apart from them for a little while we still know they’re in our lives and we find pleasure and comfort in that. We cherish that relationship and look forward to spending time with them again. We plan for it. We go back and continue feeding into that relationship.

The more time we spend with God in His Presence the more we will experience His felt Presence.

Meditating on God's word and spending time quietly in His presence is like drinking water – taking time to adore Him and appreciate Him with our words and our hearts, like we do those who we love and cherish on earth. Taking time to learn of Him from His Word, to understand His character and to hear the way He wants to speak to us and lead us and guide us every day in every thing. He is our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:11), Teacher (the gospels), Creator (Genesis 1:1; Romans 9:20), King (Matthew 5:35), Judge (Isaiah 33:22; Revelation 20:11-12), Ruler (Hebrews 4:13), Counselor (Isaiah 9:6), Comforter (Isaiah 66:13; John 16:7), Advocate (1 John 2:1), Lover of our souls (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8).

We can pursue Him in the way we live and interact with others. Colossians 3:23-24 tells us to do everything as unto God because it’s God we’re serving. In honouring others we honour Him. This is an act of worship and invites God’s felt Presence.

Relationship is pivotal to worship.

This means intentionally elevating our thinking, our attitudes, and our conduct, to be pleasing to the Lord.

That means no criticising others or badmouthing (Matthew 18:15), no grumbling or complaining (Philippians 2:14), no gossiping or quarrelling (Proverbs 20:19; Proverbs 26:20), no callous disregarding or cold-shouldering (Ephesians 4:29; Romans 16:17), no vengefulness or taking offense (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 6:14); no hermit dwelling or withdrawing (Acts 3:6; 2 Corinthians 9:8), no self-promoting or selfish ambition (James 3:13-17); no jealousy or competition (Philippians 2:3-4).

These worshipful endeavours foster and release the felt Presence of God in our lives because we’re living with the knowledge that He is an active Presence within us. It comes from being connected to His Spirit, which progresses to our heart attitudes and thinking.

So, let’s ponder that it doesn’t make sense that we would go through dry seasons if we consistently live this way. We focus ourselves on aligning our spirit to His, our mental capacity and emotional state; not focus on our own thoughts and feelings and whatever gratification we might get there – it’s that, that will bring on dryness and turmoil.

On this basis, is it natural for God’s felt Presence to be absent from our lives any more than it is the felt presence of other essential relationships?

I would like to assert if that happens, it’s an outworking of the way we’ve been relating with God. A lack of intentional connection. It’s not simply a matter of telling ourselves that as long as we know He’s there by faith we just need to keep on trucking. God always wants a deep, knowing, enriching relationship with us that we can also feel! We are feeling creatures, taking after our Father God. Is not the difference, from where those feelings stem from?

It’s our lack of pursuit of His righteousness in our lives that dehydrates us. It is not a Godly state of being to be dry and to feel separated from God.

I tend to think we displace God from His throne in our lives far more easily than we recognise. We need to realise how slight a shift it may take from us for Him to step aside. God does not share space. He is jealous and He yearns for the closest connection over anything else.

Isaiah 42:8 (GNT)

I alone am the Lord your God. No other god may share my glory; I will not let idols share my praise.

Exodus 34:14 (KJV)

For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

James 4:5 (ESV)

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us”?

We too easily approach God from a mental or emotional position rather than move into a spiritual position. God is Spirit. We are also spirit, created in His image. We need to become ever more aware of ourselves in this light!

How can we foster our love relationship with Him in order to live in His felt Presence every day? Do we long to sit at His feet or do we prefer other things?

If we want to experience a life with God’s felt Presence, the answer is clear. Keep His top two commandments – to love God and love others as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-40; 2 Thessalonians 1:3).

Keep our attitudes above criticism of others, which brings separation, and help each other.

Make time to meet with Him. Lots of time. Not just for a 'quickie' before we start our day. Not just for a quick bedtime prayer. Jesus spent hours early each morning seeking God’s Presence and asking His direction for the day ahead (Mark 1:35). Then He went about doing good. We need to seek God and practise being attentive to Him throughout the day, just like Jesus did. We will be better grounded and equipped to handle what comes our way, just like Jesus was. We will become more sensitive to His leading, just like Jesus was.

God’s felt Presence is for us every day of our lives. It’s not just having enough faith to know He’s with us when we can’t feel Him, but cultivating a constant, hydrating, felt understanding and dialogue with Him. Carry an understanding that He is part of our every step, our every breath, our every thought, our every decision, our very resource because He is the spring of living water placed within those who believe in Him (John 4).

How can we fail to enjoy God’s felt Presence if we intentionally draw from His spring, nurturing our personal time with Him and pursuing an experience with Him in our daily moments because we want to connect with Him and please Him?

Acts 17:27-28 (NIV)

God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.


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