Presence?

A number of years ago, I heard Bill Johnson talk about hosting the presence of Holy Spirit. When we repent / turn from going our own wilful way and turn to become a Jesus follower, Holy Spirit comes into our spirit to make us alive unto God. In addition to having Holy Spirit dwelling within us (for our benefit / relationship), he may also rest upon us (so He may bless others through us), and the object lesson example Bill used was like having a dove sitting upon our shoulder. The Bible mentions the dove and this often refers to Holy Spirit. e.g. when the dove came and rested upon Jesus at His baptism. As I'm sure you are aware, a dove is a timid bird, easily frightened. Thus, to keep the dove with us, we move gently, talk quietly, aware of and sensitive to the guest riding upon our shoulder.

I like this picture as I think it conveys some valid concepts that hold true for our growth in walking in the spirit.

Have you ever felt someone enter a room, maybe even if your back is turned, you were aware something changed? You felt the atmosphere alter.

Most of us are aware of and sensitive to how people are feeling; angry, depressed, joyful, stressed, chilled or at peace. There are so many emotions we can be feeling and carrying around with(in) us. Others around us, are aware of, and impacted by these emotions.

This may be positive for us, or negative, and may cause reactions within us. This awareness of others is not the presence we are trying to understand here - this is merely the human soul making its presence felt or known. We are made for connection. Attachment to others is necessary for our health and well-being. If we are starved of this affirmation and connection from our family, we will find ways (often unhealthy ways) of getting what we have been deprived of.

First some basic understandings so we can meaningfully explore this concept of presence. This is a many faceted topic and will not be covered in depth here.

Humans are spirit beings, designed by, and made in the image of Creator God and it is this human spirit where we relate to Him or put another way, may become God-conscious. We possess a soul (our mind, will and emotions) and this is where we experience self-consciousnesses. Your spirit and soul lives eternally, and temporarily inhabits a body (where the five senses are resident: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing) where you experience world-consciousness.

See here for further information about the human spirit and the human soul. For those that really want to grapple further with this topic see The functions of the spirit, the soul and the body.

Before we go any further, it may be useful to point out some things that presence is not.

It is not about the "power of positive thinking", useful and necessary as that may be. That is a soul based power.

It is not about mind over matter or even mindfulness. We will discuss this a little more, just to ensure completeness. This too is sourced from our soul - our mind, will and emotions. All of which need to be in health - 3 John 1:2

Presence is, I believe, only available to those that have chosen to be Christ followers i.e. becoming Christian, are practising Disciples and living out the Gospel.

There are so many in our world that struggle with their thoughts, Apparently at the mercy of emotions and feelings that they experience, with little or no control over what causes them to occur. Fortunately science over the last decade or two, has shed light on brain development and the significant impact and damage caused by abuse, trauma and neglect. Once again a huge topic and no intention to delve further into it here, other than to observe that there is hope, and helpful ways to re-program our brains. One such example is the work done by Dr Dave Ziegler at Jasper Mountain OR.

In no way do I want to negate or belittle the power of our thinking - it has a huge impact on our own lives and on those around us. More on this later.

However, the presence of Holy Spirit both within and upon us operates and functions at a spiritual dimension that is not of this world, it belongs to another Kingdom. This provides us with access to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

Mindfulness (is not presence)

Modern psychology has developed and taught this technique of helping gain control of apparently run-away thoughts. There is a plethora of material and myriad training programs available. For a brief and useful definition and guide you may like "How to practice mindfulness".

While there are benefits to living in the moment, becoming mindful, these practises primarily impact the individual utilising them.

Another thing to be aware of, is that just like the muscles in our physical bodies need constant use to avoid atrophy, so too the thinking patterns in our brain. The thoughts we feed and dwell upon, become stronger and more easily accessed. Those thought patterns we recognise as unwanted and take steps to avoid feeding by our exercising of counter thoughts, will enable the negative / damaging to become weaker and more easily overcome.

So what about the ability or benefit of impacting the world I live and interact with?

So what is presence?

As already mentioned, we become alive to, and God conscious when our spirit is empowered by the indwelling of Holy Spirit. This has impact upon me, an individual. This will also cause me, if I activate my will in obedience, to develop characteristics and behaviours that Jesus modelled and practised while living on earth. We discuss a little more about the consequences of our thoughts here.

As one reads the Bible, there are many occurrences and descriptions of the presence and power of God interacting with men and women.

Sometimes, in spite of themselves, the power of God's presence was so strong that men began prophesying (declare or foretell by divine inspiration), despite the job they were charged with performing. See 1 Samuel 10: 9~13 and 1 Samuel 19:18~23.

There are many verses that talk about presence and about the power of the Spirit of the Lord coming upon His anointed (e.g. David in 1 Sam 16:13).

David carried presence as evidenced by the impact he had upon King Saul, Also the entire Israelite army must have sensed something amazing, after all, who lets a teenage boy go out to fight an enemy that has been terrorising them for weeks. Not one of the regular army personnel was willing to step out and deal with Goliath and yet they let David face him.

This presence is powerful!

The power of our mind

Interested in peace? Nearly every contestant in the Miss Universe competition suggests world peace is something they think would be good for our planet.

World peace can only come if each individual is at peace.

If our minds are "stayed" or "focused" i.e. steadfast in pursuit of God this becomes possible.

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3 NKJV

Thus the discipline of our minds has significant benefit.

The presence we are exploring here is much more than the rewards of our natural or hard won mental health, lets look a little further.

We also learn that where the Spirit of the Lord is (i.e. His presence) we have both joy (1 Thes 1:6 and Lk 10:21) and freedom / liberty (2 Cor 3:17).

It is in His presence that we have fullness of joy and pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11 This presence impacts not only our spirit, but also of necessity impacts our soul.

Let me suggest that being "in" something is quite different than having something in you. So being in His presence is quite different and distinct from having Him inside of you.

When we are immersed in something, it can have significantly more influence upon us than having some of it inside of us. Inside of us has limited or finite capacity, and our expression of what is inside, is constrained by this capacity, and the inherent limitations of a physical body.

A little like the river flowing from Ezekiel's temple in Ez 47:3~6, we need rivers to swim in. In the river we get carried along with the current and volume of the flow.

In the presence of God everything that does not align with Him, with His design and purposes, comes under pressure or influence to change. When He is present, wrong things, sickness, any thoughts that do not concur with Him (He is and defines truth) are drawn into agreement with Him. As sickness of any kind does not come from Him, when He arrives, the opportunity comes for everything to change.

I want to suggest to you, that it is only our wilful choice to believe a lie that may prevent us from moving into alignment with His Kingdom purposes. In the Bible this is referred to as unbelief. The power of unbelief is strong and caused many (millions!) to miss out on what God wanted and had planned for them.

As you read through the New Testament, particularly the accounts of Jesus life while on earth, you find the word "All" used repeatedly. Specifically, everyone that came to Jesus for healing - was healed. He then commanded us to do likewise. He healed all of them - i.e. not just their physical bodies, but also their souls and spirit.

May I suggest that if Jesus told us to do something, not only is it possible, it is also a mandatory component of being his disciple - i.e. it should be a part of our ordinary everyday life. How many people are walking around healed, or raised from the dead as a result of my interaction with them over the last week? Is my presence impacting their body and soul as well as their spirit?

This confronts me each day. I know what His will is for me, and a visible part of that should be signs and wonders happening around me. Not yet a common outcome I see or experience. So how do I need to change, so that it does become a daily part of my life experience? I know He is willing and able, thus it can only be me that prevents this from happening.

"... the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind."

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

So what about prayer?

"I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I am helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time - waking and sleeping. It does not change God - it changes me"

C. S. Lewis

How now?

We have now discussed a little about His presence and the potential of what this reality portends.

While researching material to help gain understanding about presence, I came across some letters written by a French Monk called Brother Lawrence - (b. 1614 - d. 1691). These letters were compiled into a booklet called "The Practice of the Presence of God" (click the link for a pdf eBook copy). He strongly encourages us to be constantly, day in, day out, throughout the day, moment by moment, in dialog through prayer with our Heavenly Father.

In my journey I have become more and more aware of the fact that mankind erroneously believes that we have the ability to decide what is good or bad for us, and presumptuously even think we can do so for others.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We were created to function out of a living and interactive relationship with our maker. It is the establishment, growth and development of this relationship that must become the pursuit of our lives if we are to have any hope of becoming what we are designed and created to be.

Like any relationship, communication is mandatory and vital for any meaningful connection. We call this communication: prayer. However, it is important to not make this into something complex or formal. It is merely our talking and listening to God, something we can all do. Little children are so natural about their talking and listening. The more like a little child we are about our communication with Him, the more likely we are to continue doing so.

If we really believe that we need His input and guidance in all areas of our lives, then we also need to talk with Him about all these areas. Rather than going about things on our own, what would happen if we made a practice of continually conversing with God. As mentioned, we have Holy Spirit within us and He is already aware of everything we are facing. What if we suspended our own efforts of analysing and dealing with whatever we're facing. Rather, taking a few seconds to take our thoughts captive, and invite Him to show us His perspective, and solution. Also, I believe no area is too small to bring His presence and perspective to bear.

I would like to look at some of the things we allow into our thoughts, and ways of doing life, that work at odds with His presence.

While it is necessary to talk to our Father, it is also necessary to listen. My own experience has shown that it is needful to start with talking to Him. This helps us focus and become aware of Him, and introducing His awareness of, and presence within our situation, into our conscious thoughts. However it is also too easy to just talk and not to listen.

Just as in our human relationships we often fall into the habit of just talking, and while pretending to listen, we are really planning our next speech!

As observed by others, we have two ears and one mouth, and the suggestion is that for most of us, we need to learn to listen, twice as much as we talk.

One needs to take note of the number of times Jesus says "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Seems that we are inclined, maybe even default, to not actually hearing what is being said.

Then of course the next question is: do we have a heart inclination and response of saying "Yes Lord"? and then, most critically, actually being and doing what is required?

So how do I get to welcome, have and keep the dove of Holy Spirit upon me?

Seeing the real issue behind our mess . . .

Some thoughts from Danny Silk

"... Our behaviour is ultimately a reflection of the state of our connection with the Father. When we are walking closely with Him, receiving His affection and discipline, letting our hearts learn to beat with His heart, then our behaviour is full of Holy Spirit fruit. If our behaviour is sinful, selfish, dysfunctional, self-protective, and unkind--or even "good" but with bad motives--the true root of that is disconnection with the Father. Only reconciliation and re connection will change our behaviour.

Here's one of the greatest litmus tests to see if we recognise this truth. How do we interpret and respond to other people's bad behaviour? Do we judge, criticise, or condemn them? Or do we see that what these mess-makers need more than anything is to return to the Father's arms?

However we see other people's behaviour is a reflection of how we see our own. This week I encourage you to ponder this truth: Every issue in your life and in the lives of those around you was designed to be solved through a connection with the Father. Stop trying to fix things or run from things on your own and lean into that connection. Let Him love you, lead you, and transform you. Then you'll be able to see the issues of people around you as they truly are, and love them with compassion an no judgement. Holy Spirit may even let you offer them the real solution their heart is seeking.

Living with this perceptive enables us to fulfil our call to the ministry of reconciliation Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5. ..."

See lovingonpurpose.com for more from Danny Silk and team.

So: I have included the above from Danny's blog, because it shows how critical it is that we be in; nurture; and develop; our relationship with Father. Things can only go well, with us and those we interact with, to the measure we are connecting with, and being led by, Him.

As we continue to practice bringing Him into each situation, as we practice hearing and gaining His perspective about each situation / conversation, and then with Holy Spirit guidance develop ideas of how to deal with whatever we are faced with, we will truly be able to be His hands and feet in the world we live in.

From this constant awareness and active walking in the spirit, we can become a place where we are carriers of His presence and bring the Kingdom of Heaven within reach of those around us.

A little more about our souls

Recent research about our brain shows that our thoughts have substance. They actually occupy space in our brains. These thoughts also have the capacity to impact our entire bodies. The Bible has a lot to say about our mind and thoughts, it is time we take note and begin to practice what it teaches us. Our mental health depends upon it.

Some research also shows that our thoughts may actually have the ability to impact our DNA (apparently 1~5% of our DNA can be influenced / changed). Thus this is another way in which, how we think, will also impact our children! Maybe a further crossover of the nature versus nurture argument.

For more information about this we recommend this short lecture series from Dr. Caroline Leaf. Well worth the investment of 2.5 hours - it may help you change your life.

Detox Your Mind - Part 1. 31 minutes

Detox Your Mind - Part 2. 38 minutes

Detox Your Mind - Part 3. 31 minutes

Detox Your Mind - Part 4. 64 minutes

Why do I put these in this topic about presence?

In this lecture series Dr. Caroline Leaf says we should be praying and talking to our Father constantly - it is what our brains were designed for!

Science is once again confirming the word of God.

Finally, let me suggest what we were designed and created to be:

Spirit beings, with our minds in alignment and agreement, making the choice to submit, moment by moment, to the leading and guidance of Holy Spirit. Thus our thoughts becoming what He has planned and purposed, and thus the very desires of our hearts becomes reality. John 15:7 & 16:13-15

What would the world around us look like if we each determined and practised the presence of Christ?