A Reflection on Sunday – Pursuing the Presence of God

Hi everyone! On Sunday, Joshua continued our Vision Series by speaking about being a people who are “Pursuing the Presence of God”. Being a ‘people of the presence’ is an essential part of the DNA of the kind of disciples we strive to be and to make here in the Desert Vineyard and Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard community. Joshua pointed us toward Moses’ conversation with God in Exodus 33 where we find Moses saying, “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Ex. 33:15-16) What exactly is going here and why is it so important?

Let me ask you a question: what role does your Christian faith play in your day to day life? Not when you’re at church with a bunch of other Christians, but when you’re in the middle of your Tuesday. What practical effect does it have on you and the others around you? Does something about you stand out as different because of your faith? Is there a distinguishing factor about you? Is there supposed to be? Moses seems to think the answer to this is a resounding “yes”! He is saying, in effect, I don’t even want to step out today Lord if it’s not clear that you are with me. He isn’t interested in confining God to his own personal belief system. He isn’t focused on simply having clear marching orders from the Lord and faithfully going about those. He certainly doesn’t seem to care about keeping himself away from the world around him and protecting the fragility of his own personal belief. Rather, he seems completely focused on the idea that as he goes, he wants it to be clear to everyone that God is with him. It’s an imperative for Moses that his life is an open evidence to the fact that God communes with him and is present to him in the normalcy of his daily life…AND, that God delights to be with him!

Why is this point so important? Because, at the very center of the gospel we find God’s deep affection and joy not just over us as his people, but over ALL people. God is not angry, God is not looking to punish, God is not disappointed in people. God is passionate about bringing people close because he is desperately in love with them and desires nothing more than to bring them into the experience of that love and affection. What better way to be exposed to the love of God than to see it at work in the life of another person who regularly experiences it themselves? Moses says clearly “How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and your people if you do not go with us?” If we were to take this question and flip it into a mission statement, it would sound something like this:

“I will show people how close you are to them by showing them just how close you are to me.”

Moses’ goal isn’t to preach to others, it isn’t to secure their eternal salvation, it isn’t to keep himself segregated from the dangers of the world around him. Rather, his goal is to be with God amongst people and, in doing so, to show them what God is really like. One of the biggest issues the world around us faces is that they have a MISPERCEPTION about what God is like. They see God as angry, or unaware, or so far up in the heavenlies that he isn’t concerned with the normalcy of their daily lives. When we walk amongst our circle of influence as a living canvas of personal experience with a loving God, this will radically effect the world around us. If we evidence that God is accessible to others by showing them that he is with someone as normal and imperfect as ourselves, we will have done much to show them (not just tell them!) the gospel.

Not long ago, my neighbor stopped by the house to borrow a tool. I was in the backyard mowing the lawn, and we stopped to chat for a few minutes. It became obvious as we chatted that there was something heavy on his heart. He just didn’t seem himself. I asked him what seemed to be weighing him down. He divulged that he was feeling really down about his marriage and how it seemed likely to be moving toward a break up. In that moment I didn’t get a clear Word from God, nor was I suddenly struck with divine insight on how he could immediately remedy the marital issues which had developed in his life over years. Rather, I simply offered what I had in the moment (Acts 3:6). I said, “I think you know that I love Jesus. As a result of that love, I make it a normal habit to sit and spend time with him…to talk with him about my life and the life of those I love. I want you to know, sometimes when I sit and spend time with him I talk with him about you. I am confident he sees your life intimately and loves you immensely. As I sit with him this week, I’ll specifically hold your marriage before him as a point of conversation. I invite you to do the same.” I had no sooner finished saying these words when he burst into sobs. I had said nothing to him that would change the immediacy of his problem. I had only offered him what I had: the presence of a God who cared and loved him. In that moment I was a tangible experience of the closeness and affection of Jesus.

This awareness and reality is what Joshua and Moses are pointing us toward. Are we focused on being a ‘people of the presence’? Are we focused on being with God, and then simply taking that experience into our journey? Are we aware of the joy God has over us, and then living that transparently within the normalcy of our day and our relationships? As we practice being a ‘people of the presence’ and then openly live that out loud in our day to day lives, we will radically effect the environment in which we find ourselves. The invitation of Moses today is not to confine the presence of God to our gathered meetings or our private devotion, but to transparently take what we experience of God into our normal routines, conversations and encounters. In normalizing a loving and present God, we make the person of Jesus accessible to people who might never come near our church gatherings. Being a ‘people of the presence’ means experiencing and transparently giving away the love, and joy and nearness of our gracious and kind Jesus.

Have a great week everyone.

Mike Safford
Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard Pastor