SEASON OF NEW BEGINNINGS
What we need is to experience His presence, to know that He has come close. The manifest presence of God is when we are aware of His presence in time and space. In those moments we know we have had an encounter with the living God.
We need to get hold of the truth that Jesus is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. He has no favourites, He wants to come close to me, therefore I need to stay expectant, alert, & exercise faith. And I also need to respond to His overtures.
The stories of the appearances of Jesus after His resurrection are interesting because it seems that at times He was recognisable as the Lord with whom the disciples had lived for three years, and ‘solid’ enough to take food & drink in their presence, but at other times they weren’t quite sure. Recognising the manifest presence of the resurrected Jesus was a new experience for the first disciples, as it is to many of us; however, their learning curve does provide us with some signposts.
SEVEN THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR, SO WE DON’T MISS THE LORD WHEN HE COMES CLOSE:
1. The significant word: One word, ‘Mary’, was all it took to convince Mary Magdalene of Jesus’ presence in the garden [John 20:16]. Sometimes the Lord attracts our attention with a simple word or phrase. It may be an audible voice, but more often it’s the still small voice that Elijah heard [1 Kings 19:12]. We need a listening attitude.
2. Physical sensations: On the road to Emmaus the two disciples experienced ‘burning hearts’ as Jesus began to talk to them [Luke 24:22]. I wonder how many encounters with Jesus have been missed because we have ignored physical sensations? For some it may be a rush of unexpected tears; for others, tingling fingers, an experience of heat or shaking limbs. We are all wired differently, and it is important to note that no one sensation is more ‘spiritual’ than another.
3. Revelation: most of us have had experiences when a passage of Scripture suddenly ‘speaks’ to us, or when we suddenly ‘see’ a truth [Luke 24:27]. Revelation should always lead us to encounter, so it’s important to push past the insight to a meeting with the author!
4. His fingerprints: Sometimes we can become aware that we have suddenly stepped on to holy ground. We become conscious that a person, conversation or situation has the Lord's fingerprints all over it, just like when Jesus was recognised by the disciples at Emmaus, because of the way He broke bread [Luke 24:30,31].
5. A shift in the atmosphere: Jesus had taught His disciples to expect a change to take place when they extended the common Hebrew greeting: ‘Peace be with you’ [Matthew 10:12,13]. It’s inconceivable that He would have extended the same greeting, without expecting it to have an effect [John 20:19]. Therefore His arrival would have brought a sense of peace descending.
The Hebrew word for ‘glory’ comes from a root word meaning ‘weight’. Sometimes during worship or in the midst of beautiful scenery, people feel a sense of weight in the atmosphere - there is a change which announces the manifest presence. And some people even register God’s presence with their noses, a room becomes filled with a sweet fragrance.
6. A miracle: God doesn’t send ‘relief parcels’ in answer to prayer, He comes Himself. A miracle of healing, deliverance or provision, or anything else announces His presence. And while miracles are a great blessing in themselves, they are also supposed to be great ‘signs’ which point us to the greater reality of our heavenly Father. The disciples were blessed with another miraculous catch of fish, which carried the promise of continued provision; but breakfast on the beach with Jesus probably was the highlight of that day [John 21] .
7. Meeting the conditions: Lastly, when we meet the biblical requirements for His presence being realised, God shows up. For example, the two disciples at Emmaus met the conditions for two or three gathering in His name, & there as promised, was Jesus [Matthew 18:20]; during praise & worship, God comes close and actually takes a seat on our praises [Psalm 22:3]; when we make disciples, He promises to be with us [Matthew 28:19,20], and when we break bread He comes present in the bread & wine [ 1 Corinthians 10:16].
In each of the above ways, the Lord announces He is present & waiting for us to respond. The question is, then what?
The most important thing is to turn aside, like Moses did when he spotted the burning bush
[Exodus 3]. We need to stop & refocus. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, these sign posts don’t always come at convenient moments, many times it takes real discipline to put down what we’re doing & pay attention to the Lord.
Then we need to turn our hearts of affection towards Him & welcome Him, waiting and listening with expectant faith. The rewards are worth it….
If we co-operate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face. [AW Tozer ,‘The Divine Encounter’]
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