The Presence of God and the Thin Places

“The presence of God is the central fact of Christianity.  At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His presence. That type of Christianity, which happens now to be the vogue, knows this Presence only in theory. It fails to stress the Christian's privilege of present realization. According to its teachings, we are in the presence of God positionally, and nothing is said about the need to experience that Presence actually. We are satisfied to rest in our judicial possessions and, for the most part, we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience.”

        A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), The Pursuit of God [1948]

 

Gabriel Music Inc. was birthed out of an overflow of unexpected seasons of personal renewal.  I didn’t look for them, but they found me.  Those who know me well know I’m not one who chases experiences. 

 But as a younger man, my hunger for the Lord did lead me through life-changing movements and moments.  And for me, the best of those transformational seasons were almost always tied to certain songs, musicians, and leaders that, at critical junctures in my life, seemed to carry an attractive sense of what I call “the presence of God.” 

 What I mean is that there was a favor, a momentum to who they were and in what they created.  And when they did what they did, people around them were impacted - not solely by the power of their personality or skill, but by a “presence” most would acknowledge but could not explain or replicate. 

 Some call that special “something” anointing; I’ve come to call it “presence.”

 So, what is the “presence of God”?  God is - theologians tell us - everywhere present at all times.  This I believe. 

 And those of us who love Jesus look forward to enjoying his physical presence at his promised return. That is my hope and the historic longing of the Church.

 But many around the world also report encounters with God’s “manifest presence,” moments when the Lord, by His Spirit – for reasons known only to Him - “breaks into” our ordinary day with an extraordinary display of his power and goodness.  Many of the stories are astounding and awe-inspiring.

 I too have been privileged to witness and experience such “presence” moments – individually, with students in college classrooms, in rehearsals, while teaching in foreign countries, in corporate worship, in songwriting sessions, while journaling, and during personal study.  Every visit was unanticipated.  Every result I witnessed was, for me,  a “surprising work of God.”

 Such times do mark you; such visitations can leave you hungering for more.  Truth is, I never want those special moments to pass; I never want the experience to fade; I want what I feel to last forever.  And such feelings are not wrong; they are natural between those who love one another.  But God is eternal; and we are not yet what we shall be.  So, for now, the Spirit orchestrates such encounters.  And I am glad.

So, what’s the big deal about the presence of God?  His manifest presence is the “life of the future” breaking into our world, reminding us that this world is not all there is, that we are being prepared for another existence in the “forever presence” of God, and that our deepest longings can only be satisfied by His nearness.  Celtic Christians called these the “thin places” on the earth where heaven and earth almost seem to touch.  At such times, the concluding words of Psalm 73 remind me once again that “it is good for me to be near God.” 

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So, I’m wondering:  Have you experienced the “presence of God”?  Are there songs or artists that seem to carry a special sense of God’s favor for you? 

Let us know.  I’d love to read your story.