Articles

God: Present or Absent? by Rhonda Hughey, January 22, 2011
 

 *God: Present Or Absent ?*
*By Rhonda Hughey*
**
The following article is an excerpt from the book *"Desperate for His
Presence"* by Rhonda Hughey, Chapter 5

Summary of article content:

1. The concept of the Manifest Presence of God
2. Understanding our condition
3. Causes for barrenness
4. Cultivating His Presence by unity, prayer, worship, humility
5. Hindrances for God's Presence: idolatry, immorality, ambition and
independence, the spirit of unbelief, harlotry,
self-righteousness, religious Spirit

**
**
*"No longer will they call You deserted, or name your land desolate" Isaiah
62:4*
**
**
If God's (Manifest) Presence is required for transformation (of our
communities),then we must ask the question, "Is God's (Manifest) Presence
among us?" We face a sobering fact :Although many communities in the world
are undergoing spiritual transformation, none of them is located in the
Western world. I don't know about you, but I want to know why. Why isn't the
Lord coming to inhabit our cities? Where is Jesus?

Whenever you suggest the need for God's Presence, interesting conversations
result. That topic raises implications some people don't like. I have had
people demand to know if I were suggesting Jesus *isn't *present in His
church in the city, and whether I understood that the church *is *the temple
of God. The implication is that if there is a church in the city, obviously
God is dwelling in it! In other words, if we built it, He will come. But is
that true?

I have pondered these objections deeply. While I do agree that God intends
that the church be the temple of His Presence in a city, it is a
*present *reality?
To what kind of church is the Lord making His promises? The Bible teaches
that the *Manifest Presence* of the Lord is *directly *linked to
righteousness and holiness (Revelation 3:14-22)
and that the church's *authority* and effectiveness is *directly related to
their unity*
(John 17). When the corporate church in a city is fragmented, full of sin,
confused, and compromising with the spirit of this world, how much
demonstration of the Holy Spirit's Presence are we biblically justified to
expect? How much impact on our cities and communities may be reasonably
expected in our present state?

There cannot be restoration without "Presence" or redemption without an
intimate encounter with God. Without the Presence of Jesus dwelling in the
land, we have no hope. While there are countless opinions regarding the
challenges before the church and just as many suggestions about how to
remedy our situation, very few of those discussions indicate concern about
the lack of the manifest presence of the Lord in His temple.

UNDERSTANDING OUR CONDITION

We cannot change something until we understand its true condition, and we
cannot change something we don't love and are not willing to sacrifice for.

A good example of this in the Scripture is the report that Nehemiah received
of the devastated condition of the city of Jerusalem. When Nehemiah heard of
the troubling report: *"The survivors who are left from the captivity in the
province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is
also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire"*
(Neh. 1:4). But Nehemiah didn't only pray, he became the answer to his own
prayers for restoration. He returned to Jerusalem to lead the transformation
effort in the city. Similarly, there isn't an alien army that's going to
come down from another planet and change our communities! God wants to bring
restoration through His body, the Church.
If our communities are going to be transformed, it will be as a result of
our prayers and our labor with God to bring it to pass. This isn't merely a
nice spiritual sentiment; it will require sacrifice, time, resources,
commitment, and responsibility.

When the believers in Jesus Christ are living in a city that has been
devastated and ruined-morally, spiritually, economically, and socially-we
are perceived by the world as anything but victorious. Instead, we
Christians are often
pitied and viewed as irrelevant to the culture around us. When the Church
looks like a "hostage" in the midst of destruction and darkness around us,
how is that glorifying to the Lord?
Jesus is coming back for a victorious church! He isn't coming back to a
broken, defeated, irrelevant one. What kind of a bride would that make for
God's perfect Son?

When we see the ruined condition of our cities and communities, it should
break our hearts and stir us to prayer. We have under-estimated the pain in
God's heart over the devastation and brokenness of people who live in
darkness. Isaiah 9:2 declares what the result would be when Jesus presence
came to earth" *"The people walking in darkness have seen a great
light".*God fully intends to continue to bring hope and restoration to
forsaken,
desolate communities, and He is looking for those who will partner with Him.

What is the report of *your *city? How many lost people live in it? And the
Church: are there divisions, self-promotion, or scandals? It's *not *Okay
that our cities are being handed over to the enemy without contest by the
body of Christ. There isn't anything in the Bible that says the people of
God are supposed to live in a defensive posture in the midst of wickedness!
Quite the contrary; we aren't we called to be "overcomers"? (See 1 John
2:13; Rev 12:11).
We haven't yet realized the consequences of our lack of unity and refusal to
contend for God's presence. I want to encourage you to consider the
condition of your city: Watch the news, read the newspaper, listen to
conversations, and look at the people around you. Let the condition of your
city break your heart and draw you into intercession for a breakthrough of
God's Presence.

CAUSES FOR BARRENNESS

The church in the Western world is not barren because of a lack of
activities. Ministries are abounding and flourishing. Never in history have
we had so many creative expressions of the church reaching out to people in
their communities.
At the same time we find ourselves struggling to be a relevant influence on
our culture. Society may appreciate our help at times, but it doesn't want
our counsel. And despite more effort than ever to appear relevant, never has
the church been more irrelevant to the world around us. The church is viewed
as simply another option, part of the spiritual smorgasbord on the religious
table. While many people find *comfort within *the church, they aren't
looking for *direction *from the church.

We must be willing to evaluate why we have lost (spiritual) influence in
society. We need to look at ourselves first and ask God to give us insight
about our own condition before we attempt to change our surroundings. The
truth is the world doesn't *want* our religion. It isn't interested in our
church culture or becoming one of our statistics. But many people will
respond to God's love genuinely expressed through His people who carry the
fragrance of Christ.
Our spiritual barrenness won't be resolved with more programs or human
ingenuity. The only solution to barrenness is Presence.

HIS PRESENCE- WITHDRAWING OR RETURNING?

Have you ever wondered if it is possible to get God's attention or attract
His (Manifest) Presence? And if it is possible, then why don't we spend more
time doing those things that welcome His Presence? God's Word establishes
clear principles regarding His Presence. There are things that prepare for
and welcome the Presence of the Lord-things like prayer, unity, worship, and
a broken and contrite spirit. There are also things that cause Him to
withdraw or remain at a distance. God makes it clear in 2 Chronicles 7:14
that it* is *possible to gain His favor and attention: *"If My people, who
are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My Face ,
and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will
forgive their sin and heal their land"*
**
HINDRANCES FOR GOD'S PRESENCE

The Lord's Presence can be drawn and welcomed to a place but it can also be
driven away. What are some of the things that hinder God's presence from
being manifest? While this is by no means a comprehensive list, I want to
highlight the most prevalent issues that can keep the Lord's presence at a
distance.

*Idolatry*
**
Anything that competes for our love of Jesus can become a substitute for our
affections and worship. Psalm 24:3-4 states *"Who may ascend into the hill
of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? he who has clean hands and
a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn
deceitfully" *This can happen on a personal or a corporate level.

*Immorality*
**
The Church in recent years has been riddled with accusations of immorality
among leaders. The Lord is exposing our sin, just as the prophet Hosea
warned: *"I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers" *(Hos.
2:10).
When the Church protests against immorality, and then immorality is found
within her walls, it gives the enemy and the world every opportunity to
accuse us of being hypocrites. When the Church processes sin issues
internally, through desperate prayer, repentance, and turning back to
holiness, the fruit of that prayer is revival.

*Ambition and Independence*
**
God wants to dwell in the midst of His unified Church. The more determined
we are to remain independent, the more excuses we will find not to function
in unity with the rest of the body. Oftentimes these excuses sound
spiritual, and we all use them. Because we aren't hearing God *together *in
prayer, we sense what he is saying individually and then assume that we must
work out the vision *individually. *That is an erroneous conclusion. God
doesn't intend for us to accomplish corporate purposes without corporate
agreement and unity. It requires corporate unity and agreement to accomplish
corporate results. God has ordained a corporate Church in each city! There
is something bigger than our local congregations! We must start with a
common vision and purpose and then build according to God's blueprint, not
our own. We can't start with our own empire and then try to build up to who
God is. He will step down to us in response to our desperate cry. Psalm 133
promises us that when we "dwell together in unity" , the Lord commands His
blessing and Presence.

*The Spirit of Unbelief*

Another challenge we face is "having a form of godliness but denying its
power" (2 Tim 3:5). We are handcuffed to the spirit of unbelief! I'm nit
talking about simply having a lack of faith. A lack of faith sounds like
we're just missing something, but the situation is much more serious that
that! Unbelief is denial of God's nature and His promises. This hardening
of our hearts ultimately causes us to miss God's intended purpose for us.

*Harlotry*
**
The curious thing about the bride of Christ is how prone she is to wander
away from the One to whom she is betrothed!
It's amazing to me how clearly God has expressed His love for us, ultimately
sending His own Son into the world to save and redeem us, and yet we still
wonder away. The Church has lost her fascination with the person of Jesus
Christ and has become fascinated with the things of the world. We can't hope
to see revival or city transformation before the individual hearts of God's
people return to Him.

*Self-Righteousness*
**
Unfortunately, one of our most serious offenses is our self-righteousness
and pride. What is the response of the Church to the condition of the city?
We have either totally ignored the ruined condition of the city or blamed
others for her desolation. Jesus said that we are to be "salt and light" to
the world around us, and we are to be the "fragrance of Christ" among those
who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2 Cor. 2:15)
The Church tends to protest strongly against "really bad" sin like abortion
or homosexuality-sins that are more obvious. the problem is that much of the
sin we protest against in the world is just as prevalent in the Church! Has
our religious zeal blinded us to our own condition so that we point out the
plank in someone else's eye?

*Religious Spirit*
**
The most deadly enemy we face in the Church today is the religious spirit.
The religious spirit is the counterfeit of life and love. It's a "form of
godliness by denies the power" (2 Tim 3:5). It leaves hearts cold and sick
in its wake. It replaces simplicity and power with human wisdom and agendas,
fellowship with Jesus with rituals, and form barriers to souls looking for a
real Savior.
When the Presence of Jesus is not *Manifest *in the Church and we continue
in our programs, we are inviting the religious
spirit to set up her throne in our congregations and ministries. This spirit
is more than happy to become a substitute for Jesus.


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