Present in His Presence

This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Horacio Herrera (from Cuba. Senor Herrera writes using a pseudonym because of his leading role in the Cuban church), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:

You will fill me with joy in your presence. (Psalm 16:11)

 

Thirty years of labor for God in an atheistic country have taught me a secret. For that bad hour, that dark night, that gloomy day, that time of temptation, that moment of trial and those years of persecution...just one moment in His presence will compensate for all.

 

The presence of God makes us conscious that everything worldly is trivial, and temporary.

 

After 'Marah' (place of bitter water) there will always come an 'Elim' (an oasis) where the bitterness of hardship will be changed in the sweetness of His presence. After the desert of terrible trials will come the Canaan--a land flowing with milk and honey.

 

It reminds me of a song we often sang in our church. It has been present in my soul for all these years and I hope to live it till the end of my days.

 

'We will be faithful to the one that bought us with His blood.

We will follow Christ, even if a thousand voices all around us call.

If the road is full of thorns and the cross is heavy,

A moment in His presence will compensate for all.'

 

A moment of introspection:  "Oh, what I wouldn't give--to be in God's presence!"  What glory that would be, what bliss, what peace!  "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!  When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory!" (chorus to a gospel song by Eliza E. Hewitt [1898], entitled "When We All Get to Heaven").  Indeed, we shall have that incomparable privilege soon and very soon. But Senor Herrera culls from God's Holy Word, a passage in which the psalmist says "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalms 16:11 ESV)  In God's Presence there is complete joy. Is it really possible to live in God’s Presence now?  Horacio, a tireless worker for God in Cuba, found it possible and perfectly compensating for the trials and tribulations--the persecution that Christ said we will have in this world (John 16:33; 15:20).  What does Horacio mean, "in His presence"?  Perhaps he means a life spent in service to, and communication with, our Maker--as Brother Lawrence learned and described in his book, The Practice of the Presence of God. In a brief introduction to Brother Lawrence, the editor said, "The conversation and letters of this humble but exalted lay brother have been compiled to show all of us how, at any moment and in any circumstance, the soul that seeks the companionship of God may find Him."  According to the same book, Brother Lawrence held, “That we ought to give ourselves up to God, with regard both to things temporal and spiritual, and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will, whether He lead us by suffering or by consolation, for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned.” (from “The First Conversation”)  Andrew Murray would concur, as to “a soul truly resigned”, in his book Absolute Surrender.  Yet we see another significance in “in His Presence”, based on Exodus 3:14-15.  We should do all, in the Name of God, “I AM”—His Presence. We should do all in the Presence of God, the I AM of God. (Acts 17:27-28)  For in Immanuel (Matthew 1:23), we live and move and have our being.  Horacio would have agreed that practicing living in the divine Presence is possible and attainable.

A moment in the Presence of God focuses our attention away from the world of triviality and temporal distractions.  In a previous devotional, I have referenced a gospel song, called "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus", in which the songwriter describes the outcome of such attention and devotion as such: "...and the things of earth will seem strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." Senor Herrera phrased this, "The presence of God makes us conscious that everything worldly is trivial, and temporary."  Being in God's Presence frees us from distractions of the moment. Andrae Crouch wrote a song in 1997, entitled "Distraction" ("Pray" album).  In the following lyrics, Andrae describes the worldly attack on those of us within the divine Presence:

I met a man the other day

On the road of good intentions.

He said he'd show me a better way

To reach my destination.

 

With a skip in his step

And a sparkle in his eye,

He beckoned me to follow

And when I asked him

"What's your name"?

He said, "Distraction"

 

Distraction

Diamonds twinkling on each hand

Distraction

He's a slick talkin' man

Distraction

He wants to use you like his tool.

Don't you listen.

Don't be fooled.

Look out for Distraction.

 

There's a man who's out there waiting

On the highway to heaven

He looks like an angel of light, all fun and games.

Such a deadly combination.

Put the pedal to the metal

Oh no, don't slow down

Don't yield to his temptation

Don't lose your way because of Distraction.

 

Distraction

All that glitters is not gold.

Distraction

He's trying to steal your very soul.

Distraction

You know he's really not your friend.

You'll be sorry

If you hang with him.

Distraction

Trying to get you to turn your back

Distraction

Don't you listen, don't be fooled.

Don't you do it.

Don't you do it.

 

Time is precious, more precious than gold.

Spend it wisely, don't be fooled or you can lose your soul.

 

Stop! Don't you walk that way.

Don't you take that road,

Don't even look that way,

Don't you do it.

Don't you do it.

Stop!

 

In God's Word, we are instructed to keep our eyes on the finish line (1 Corinthians 9:24-27); we are to avoid distraction by the world, and to secure our focus on the end goal, on the One in Whom that goal rests.  We are to look to Jesus (the author and finisher of our faith; Hebrews 12:1-2).  We are encouraged to focus--to not let ourselves become weary and discouraged or disheartened.  We are not to allow ourselves to be distracted by the world that is passing away.  Horacio had incorporated into his life, a song he remembered and had helped him keep focused, and remain in the Presence of God:

'We will be faithful to the one that bought us with His blood.

We will follow Christ, even if a thousand voices all around us call.

If the road is full of thorns and the cross is heavy,

A moment in His presence will compensate for all.'

 

For many persecuted Christians in our world, this song might well be their heart's confidence (if they knew the words and tune).  The world allures; the world seeks to counterfeit, to corrupt and "catch" us, to get us to turn our back on our only hope--our divine Hope. (Romans 5:1-5)  For instance, 1 Timothy 6:6-10 describes those who, distracted by the allure of worldly wealth, strayed from faith, (from the Presence of God) and pierced themselves with many griefs.  They have fallen among thorns, carrying a heavy burden.  Matthew 8:21-22 likewise exemplifies one for whom worldly cares "catch" believers from the Presence of God.  Entertainment distracts.  Joshua (Joshua 24:15) gave his people a choice to serve God or...  Today, we have a choice of serving God or serving ourselves or the other idols of our attention. Anxieties distract. (Philippians 4:6-7)  Brother Lawrence found that, considering our human frailties and proclivities, it takes practice and effort of focus to remain in the Presence of God; but, he showed that it is possible to do so.  Indeed, as believers look forward to being present in God’s Presence throughout eternity; it behooves us to practice and thereby learn to live each day, present in the Presence of God in this life, as preparation for the next.  2 Corinthians 13:5-10 asks each of us to daily take stock of our walk of faith, our focus--to see if we remain in the Presence of God and Jesus Christ remains in us.  That's a legitimate test.  Pastor Richard Wurmbrand (founder of Voice Of The Martyrs) was once quoted as saying that it makes little difference, during torture, to recite the 23rd Psalm--if one hasn't walked with the Good Shepherd through the rest of one's life--practicing the Presence of God.  Senor Herrera described these things as "The presence of God makes us conscious that everything worldly is trivial, and temporary."  He would concur that this is a worthy practice.

Horacio states that "the bitterness of hardship will be changed in the sweetness of His presence.  After the desert of terrible trials will come the Canaan--a land flowing with milk and honey."  Perhaps not right away, but always in God's perfect timing.  Note that it is one's reaction to hardship that is changed in the sweet Presence of God.  God's Word describes weeping in the night--changed to joy in the morning (Psalm 30:5).  James talked about the process of translating suffering into joy (James 1:2-8); James describes how trials create steadfastness both perfect and complete. But this process happens in the Presence of God; outside of such Presence, there is doubt, instability, susceptibility to worldly buffeting and being torn between God and the world.  Jesus said that such double-mindedness is not a component of serving God and remaining in Him (Luke 16:13).  Perhaps the apostle Paul described an attitude toward the world that reflects being in the Presence of God, and the danger of leaving the Presence by responding to the allure of this fallen world. (Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-10)  Even Mark recounts the story of the rich young man who departed from Jesus, disheartened by Jesus having told him to go and sell all that he had--downcast because he had great possessions (Mark 10:22).  Jesus, Mark and Paul used the example of money as how people are "caught" or snagged by the world and removed from the Presence of God.  But there are other types of allure--fame and fortune, sex outside of marriage, alcohol and its deadening properties, drugs and the chemical high they offer, seeking the accolade of the secular world, freedom from opposition from the world, engaging in pornography, sex trafficking, involvement in current slavery trade, getting immersed in the occult--these and more are but a few of the gamut of worldly attractions that create distraction and dissatisfaction from remaining focused and present with God in Christ.

The Psalmist wrote Psalm 84:10--a testimony to the unparalleled joy of being in the Presence of God.  It is better to spend one "day" in God's Presence, than a thousand days outside of God's company.  Let us be faithful to the One Who bought us with His blood.  Let us exert ourselves to practicing the Presence of God--shunning the Vanity Fair described in A Pilgrim’s Progress, avoiding the plight of Hopeless described in its pages, and the various entrapments spoken of--that seek to waylay Christian.  Jesus tells us "I am coming soon.  Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.  The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.  Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' (Revelation 3:11-13)  Let us remain in the Presence of God--pillars in His temple, and never to leave.  "If the road is full of thorns and the cross is heavy, a moment in His presence will compensate for all."  With Horacio, may our "moment" become a lifetime--and then eternity.

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