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Returning to the Father’s Presence. Sunday 15th January. We return to our series on Father, Son and Spirit. And so today we’re looking again at God the Father. Take us back to the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father, who art in heaven Hallowed be your name. YOUR KINGDOM COME YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

I am indebted to a friend. - this summer. Presence Provision Protection. [next week provision & protection] Presence. [Personal passion - book of the month - Grace Outpouring]

What do I mean by this? ! We’re called by Jesus, to pray that heaven would invade earth. That what happens in heaven, would be repeated here on earth. And if we look back in the same prayer. - Our Father, who is in heaven. The definitive truth about heaven - is that its where the Father lives. That is the most significant truth about heaven. ! Its where God lives. - Its centred on his throne. When we pray for Heaven to be repeated on earth. We’re praying to the Father. We want your Presence here We want to know you We want to be with you.

This is what we’re praying. - Because prayer isn’t a superstitious exercise trying to get good results for what we want. Its a relational encounter with a loving God.

What am I talking about when I talk about Presence? Let’s have a brief history of how the Bible describes God’s Presence. Garden - Having created earth. - Formless and desolate. God plants a garden on earth. - with the intention that Adam & Eve will cultivate it, expand it and it will fill the earth & overcome the formless chaos around it. It wasn’t a walled garden with limits. ! The intention was that the garden would grow & expand. What made the garden different from the rest of the world, was the tree of Life & God’s Presence. He came to walk with Adam and Eve within the garden. He came to be with them. & the result of their rebellion - Was removal from His Presence. Then through the next phase of the story, we have occasional visits from God, but mostly he communicates through his voice, he speaks & he sends messengers. But there’s no physical encounter with His Presence.

Until the Exodus and God leads his people out from Egypt & appears with them in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. ! A tangible, reality of God with them. Its part of God redefining that they are His people. The cloud accompanies them. ! & God then comes into the tent of meeting. - His Presence permanently in one place with them. This tent of meeting was hugely significant. It wasn’t just a little prayer tent on the edge of the camp. It was the place where God physically manifest Himself, where he dwelt with them. It became the tabernacle and then the temple.

More than a physical place. - The marker was that God’s cloud, his shekinah glory existed there permanently, until the exile and Ezekiel reports that he sees it leave the temple. But Moses has the opportunity to talk with God face to face. He meets with him on the mountaintop & he talks with him face to face. This is a deeper, more relational encounter with God. Following the exile - the identity of God’s people is broken up. And the next major point in God’s Presence on earth. - Is when He comes here physically, as a man. As Jesus. God comes to earth. - his Presence walks on the soil of this planet for 33 years. Many people meet him face to face. The separation is dealt with when Jesus dies on the Cross. & now we can all speak to him face to face. ! Then Jesus ascends to heaven. ! & God sends his presence in a new way. - By his Holy Spirit. Who comes to live within us, to fill us. - To enable us to be filled with His presence. [More of that in a couple of weeks time!!] So through this history of God’s Presence - We see that there are different levels. Different types of Presence. This is essential to understand, if we are to encounter God to greater depth & hunger for more encounters with Him. When I speak of God’s Presence - many people think of it simplistically. - Isn’t God everywhere, what do you mean by His Presence. The Bible was written and recorded by people, who didn’t always think in the rational, Western way that we do. There are degrees of God’s Presence expressed through it.

OmniPresence - Its true that God is everywhere. Psalm 139 - where can I go? - where can I run and hide from you? - I can’t.

God is the creator, He’s bigger than all the physical universe and he has access to it all. - He’s in all places at once, there’s no where we can go, where we can’t speak to him, relate to him. No where that we can’t pray. but the Bible describes more intense, focussed experiences of His Presence. The next degree is His accompaning Presence. This is knowing that God is with us. Knowing He’s there. In our History of God’s Presence - Its expressed through the pillar of cloud and fire. God is there, - we just know he’s there. Often those who are bereaved, find it hard to encounter God directly and clearly. - I know I did when my Dad died, all I could read or pray was one particular Psalm, which for more than a month was all that I could turn to. I couldn’t engage with anything else.

This is his accompanying Presence - We’re aware of Him, He’s there. He comforts, he guides. The next level - is his tabernacle. This is a more intense, more tangible experience of His presence. The moment when a room, or a meeting - is just different. He’s here!

In the tent of meeting, Moses and Joshua and the Priests would meet with God. Its a place of perspective. A place separate from normality. Its a place we most usually access through extended times of worship or prayer.

I’ve been in church services - when suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck have bristled. - He’s here. A bit like the children in Narnia when they realise Aslan has arrived. [Passage from Grace Outpouring]

One day we will meet Him face to face. We will know Him fully & be fully known.

In Psalm 84 - The writer celebrates the beauty of God’s Presence. Its a Psalm based at the temple, in the time when God’s Presence filled it.

& It expresses the true longing we have for God’s Presence. How lovely is your dwelling place. my soul faint, even longs for the courts of God. When we’ve been born again, we have within us a longing for God’s Presence. And a recognition that its in God’s Presence that we are restored. Valley of Baca. Those who find their strength in God. - Through time spent in His Presence. Find that life comes from Him. This is one of the simplest truths of the Christian faith. So significant. & yet something in us forgets it! busy start to term. Lots of fresh things to start, things to set up. Very full diary. - Come back after Christmas into the New Year - with lots I want to do. ‘Turbo drive’ Last Friday. - stopped, drained, red ‘empty’ light beginning to flash. - sat in my study and began to pray, began to bring it all to God, talking it all through with Him. - 2.5hrs went by, prayed and processed. Everything changed. - Perspective back. Joy back, priorities in place, focus and purpose. I knew I was walking forwards - with God, not alone. Message of Psalm 84 - is that we are more alive, when we’ve been with our Father. JEsus did the same, - he retreated to solitary places to be with His Father. Logical, - if He is the source of life. - then meeting with him, we become more alive.

The other thing we see from Psalm 84 - is that encountering the Father’s Presence - Gives us a longing for more. Its a glorious spiral - when we’ve tasted and seen that He is good. We develop a desire for his Presence. So how do we encounter more of God’s Presence?

It starts with discipline. - It starts with Choice of the Will. Your kingdom come - YOUR WILL BE DONE. the kingdom = God’s rule. - submission to Him as Lord. to see that extended, - it begins with us choosing his will in our lives. Choosing to make Him Lord. There’s a link here. See it again, when Jesus talks about abiding in him in John 15. The amazing passage - Vine & Branches. Us relating to Him. Just as Jesus relates to the Father. & the key themes which comes through about that relationship, are LOVE and OBEDIENCE.

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:10 ESV)

There is a link between Abiding and Obeying. It begins with choice. - Do I choose to spend time with Him? To pursue God’s Presence. to choose to spend time with Him. - That is obedience. Because what he most wants is time with His children. What he commands us to do - is to approach him, to come to him. We can make that choice, even when we are spiritually dry, even when its just not happening. Even when it feels like when we call heaven - all we get is voicemail. LEAVE a Message, God will get back to you. Psalm 84.5 - in whose heart are the highways to Zion. I love this image of a road in our hearts to God’s Presence. - A well trodden path, that we build and develop. As that road grows and develops - it gets faster to travel on it. But we still need to make the choice. Last week Joe spoke about New Year. About New year’s resolutions & choices.

And the reality that the best made plans of change, are often hard to sustain. To explain this, we need to understand discipline. Discipline creates greatness, it trains and equips us to excel. The same is true for prayer. The greatest preparation for a fruitful life - Is time in God’s Presence. But lets look at greatness. David Beckham & Johnny Wilkinson - are two of the greatest kickers of balls in recent history. - Both are exceptional. They both talk of the hours and hours and hours of dedicated practice they spent in all weathers - Kicking balls. Don Bradman - was the greatest batsman of all time. - He spent hours and hours in childhood throwing a golf ball at a wall and trying to hit it with a cricket stump. - He developped his skills, through repetition and practice. All great musicians, all great pianists - spend hours and hours playing scales, training their fingers to move and be at home on the keyboard. But notice one thing about all of these. David Beckham, Johnny Wilkinson, Don Bradman - loved kicking or hitting balls. A great pianist - actually loves playing the piano. They have an instinctive love for the activity. & do the basics - even when they don’t feel like it. Discipline is not doing the things we hate, just because they’re good for us. Its doing the things we know will bring life - even when we don’t feel like it. & that means saying NO to the easy thing - in order to give ourselves to doing what will bring life. We don’t always feel like pursuing God’s presence. We don’t always feel like choosing to turn down the highway to Zion in our hearts. But when we recall the longing that we have for Him. - When we remember how wonderful His Presence is. Then that gets us started to walk down that Highway again. Do we long to spend time with our Father? Does our soul long, thirst, faint - for the courts of the Lord? Because what we will find - as we turn to Him, as we choose to pursue Him. Is that he waits for us with open arms I want to finish by thinking of the welcome the Prodigal Son had when He returned to His Father.

Despite his sense of shame and failure, despite all he’d done to reject his father and all the time they’d spend apart. This is what he found.

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 ESV)

The Father - waits for us. He longs for us - He looks out for us and calls to us. and when turn to him, when choose to leave the easy, entertaining distractions which like to saturate our lives. We discover the restoring, transforming experience of Being welcomed and loved. Pray.