Have you ever experienced times in your life when God seemed especially close? I grew up in south-eastern Washington and attended a camp that met in a beautiful valley along the Tucannon River. Nearly every morning I would wake up early, go down to the banks of the river, and meet with God. I would read His word, pray, and dream about what life would be like walking closely with Him. God met with me in those moments. He came near.
When I attended Bible college I would watch the sunset as I sat in the field on campus. I was learning more about Him in those years than at any other time in my life…and I was finding myself loving Him more as grew in my knowledge of Him. Sitting there, watching the golden orange clouds melt into purples and dark blues, God met with me. He drew near.
As a pastor, I have felt those sweet, close times even as I preached His word. One year during the passion week, I preached on the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a very emotional week as I studied what is probably the darkest hours in the life of our Lord. As I unburdened my heart from the pulpit, reflecting on the prayer of Jesus and how that impacts our lives, I felt a special nearness to God.
There have actually been many moments like this in my life….even this past week! And there have also been times when I felt distant from God. Perhaps it was due to a sin struggle, or a time of trial but for whatever reason, I felt far from God. Those dark times make the times of closeness especially sweet!
Wait a second? Isn’t an omnipresent God ALWAYS near? Of course…He is EVERYWHERE. But is He NEAR to you? Are you CLOSE to Him? My wife and I can be in the same room with one another, but still not be near one another. The Bible challenges us to “draw near to God” (James 4:8). and when God draws near to us…when we experience Him at work in a spectacular, special way, He is manifesting His presence. He is making KNOWN to us that He is near.
It’s that nearness that we all long for…that “transcendence” (Vertical Church, Chapter 1). And it’s the manifest presence that we want people to experience each and every Sunday as they attend Harvest Fort Wayne. When God is near, lives are changed, chains are broken, and wounds are healed. When God shows up, He blows our minds with His love and power…and people are never the same.
It’s not just what we would like to see that…we are DESPERATE for God’s manifest presence. As Pastor James put it…
God’s manifest presence should be the consuming passion of every weekly service planning session and His absence the dread of every weekly service
MacDonald, James (2012-08-01). Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be. (Kindle Locations 1068-1069). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.
This is what is meant by “God’s glory come down.” God’s glory is His weight…it’s the awesomeness of Who He is. And He reveals just a portion of that whenever He shows up and does something only He can do. When He draws near and works mightily, we feel the magnificence of Him. And that’s why we must desperately seek His presence…His power at work in our lives…each and every week.
It’s important to understand that “Vertical Church” is not a recipe for how to manufacture the glory of God. It’s not “just add water and get glory” approach to church. It’s not “just do these 4 easy steps and you’ll get God’s manifest presence.” NO ONE at Harvest believes that. What “Vertical Church” does is call the church back to the things that pave the way for His manifest presence. It’s a cry to stop focusing on man and to refocus back on God. It’s a passionate plea to change the heart of the church…to repent of the fact that we’ve made MAN the main thing and not GOD. It’s a timely reminder of the things that God uses to display His glory…the preaching of His Word, the worship of His Son, the passionate prayers of His people, and bold proclamation of His GOSPEL. These are not “steps to get God’s manifest presence” but these are channels God uses to make Himself known. Without these, there is no manifest presence. And the church has drifted from them.
WE cannot MAKE God come down. We cannot create His glory or manipulate Him into doing anything. But make no mistake…God WANTS to display His glory. And He WILL display it in a church who is PASSIONATELY CONSUMED with His glory!
God is already doing this at Harvest Fort Wayne. He’s already showing up and changing lives in amazing ways (check out Ben and Megan’s story…more stories are coming soon). We want to continue to seek His nearness as our most fervent passion. We will preach, worship, pray, and proclaim…and God will do amazing things…and HE WILL BE GLORIFIED!
Dont’ forget to check out Jill’s post on her blog.