In AWE of God’s Tangible Presence

AWE: An overwhelming feeling of reverential respect or admiration mixed with fear or wonder.

Apologetics: a defense of our true faith; our giving answers for why we have true hope in Jesus Christ.

Exodus 33:14-16 NIV - The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 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?”

2 Chronicles 5:13-14 NLT - The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words: “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 14 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.

In October of 1990, an incident occurred which completely changed my life’s direction and eternal destiny. Out of curiosity more than anything, I accepted an invitation to what would become my home church. I had no intention of becoming a churchgoer as I felt no real need for it. Though I had wondered about God’s existence, for the most part I considered myself a believer in “God” but not a “born-again” Christian (whom I held in contempt). Though I surprisingly enjoyed the lively service more than I expected (even though it was long and rowdy), it was what occurred afterward that changed everything. A minister on staff asked if I had questions about God. Of course I did. So he simply asked if I would kneel down and ask God to help me on my search. Reluctantly, I agreed. As I prayed silently in a side room with two other men (neither of whom touched me or prayed loudly), something profound happened. I had an encounter unlike anything I had ever experienced. Something…Someone, was touching me - it was a tangible Presence. Nobody warned me or primed me to expect this since I was attending church completely “cold turkey”. In my stunned awe as the Presence of God started to gently overwhelm me, I asked in my head (not aloud), “Is this You God?” The Presence of God proceeded to touch me more warmly and strongly. I remember thinking, “I’m not supposed to FEEL something? I didn’t think I could feel God till after death!” As enjoyable as the music ministry was, and as engaging as the preaching was, and as nice as the building was, it was my encountering the tangible Presence of God that drove me to want to know God more. This encounter with the tangible Presence of God (my “burning bush experience) was so awe-inducing, I found it difficult to talk with people afterward. When I walked into my apartment, a friend waiting there immediately asked what happened to me. It took an hour to regain my composure after this experience. I told him I had to find out more. I’ve never regretted that decision.

Feelings are not sufficient to base one’s belief upon - God provided Scripture to inform true doctrine, yet the reason why there are counterfeit spiritual experiences is because there is a genuine and tangible Presence of God to encounter as well. We have to be cautious - since God’s Presence is so aweinspiring, we may try to create “a move of God” ourselves rather than respect we can’t manipulate God. Nor is His tangible Presence a “high” for us to seek as though it replaces some drug euphoria. God’s tangible Presence is a gift intended for us as a sanctuary, a refuge, a refreshing, a place of true contentment and joy - communing with Him. Typically the Presence of God is encountered most commonly in a place of humble and prevailing prayer. When you give God your time, He will often allow you to encounter His tangible Presence for as long as you will remain with Him in prayer. Like Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, there may be a real desire to never leave God’s Presence when you are basking in the awe of it. But most of life and ministry is done in the valley after such mountain top experiences. Thankfully, we can always head back up the mountain. Can you recall the first time you encountered God’s tangible Presence? If you haven’t experienced God in this manner, would you “kneel down and ask Him to help you on your search" for Him? Will you strive to practice the presence of God privately and not just in church gatherings? Will you ask God to show the best time and way for devoting yourself to seeking to be in His Presence without distractions?

Acts 3:18-20a ESV - But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…

Psalm 16:11 NET - You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in Your presence; You always give me sheer delight.