I love God's Presence
As a follower of Jesus, Pastor, and worship leader I’ve noticed myself talking, preaching, and singing a lot about loving God’s presence and being in God’s presence. I think the intention and heart is awesome but the implications and thinking can be dangerous, causing me to miss out on what God has for me.
In short what I mean is that God may not be as interested in us getting into His presence as much as He is interested in getting His presence into us. It’s a theme throughout the whole of Scripture. There is this forward progression throughout Bible of God doing everything He can to get closer and closer. It started with walking with God in a garden, then moved to traveling with God in a tent, then to meeting with God in a temple, then to God meeting with us in flesh in Jesus. But even when we thought it could not get better and that God could not get closer, Jesus said that it was better that His followers didn’t have His physical body meeting them but rather has His indwelling presence: His Spirit in them and with them (Jn 16).
A woman once talked to Jesus about meeting with God in special, physical places. They talked about where the best place was to get in God’s presence. Jesus responded to her saying that the time has come when worshiping at this or that place won’t be the priority but worshiping in spirit will be (Jn 4). This conversation seems pretty similar to the way we talk about loving being in God’s presence.
Typically when i hear talk about loving God’s presence, people are alluding to worship songs and services. I say things like “Don’t you just love God’s presence? Don’t you want God’s presence? You can sense God’s presence here.” We get it a lot from the Psalms where David cries out for, pants for, longs for, and loves God’s presence (i.e. Ps. 42, 73, 84). But David, and the other writers of the Old Testament, in all of the intimacy that they had with God still longed for what God has given to His people now (Joel 2, Isa 44, Ez 37). God has given something so much better than needing to get into His presence.
My love for being in God’s presence can and has created a need to “get into God’s presence” in physical spaces and moments (which can be good). But the distortion of that love for God’s presence is that I completely miss the fact that God has done everything to get His presence into me already. I say “I love being in God’s presence” yet neglect His presence in me for most hours of the day. Doesn’t that seem like a contradiction? Even worse than a contradiction it’s a bad trade. Why live needing to go somewhere to get something you has already been given? I’ve watched it time and time again where I and people I care about feel a need to go to a place, or a song, or a moment and forget that I already have a Person who has come into me.
Please know me well enough to understand my heart. I love singing worship songs and participating in Church gatherings. There is a unique sense of God’s presence that happens only when His people gather together. My life has been changed because of it. I’m all for that. I’m all about that. I won’t stop being a part of that and helping others do the same. My point here is that I have seen in my own life a subtle, dangerous belief that causes me to miss out on what God has for me. The Bible tells a story of God getting closer and His presence getting nearer. How much more could we want?
What hasn’t God done to get His presence into us? What hasn’t He given? How else could He say lI love you and want to be close to you and want to never leave you”?What if we took seriously the fact that God is closer than a building, better than a song, and more special than a service? What if we really believed that right now we have His attention and He is closer than we can imagine? God is interested in us getting into His presence, but what if God is even more interested in getting His presence into us?
I love being in God’s presence, but I love God’s presence being in me even more.
-Christian Dawson, Campus Pastor
I had an extraordinary thing happen to me this week. I don’t usually dream, or at least I don’t usually remember them, but this week, not only did I dream, but I imagined a portion of Scripture. The dream came out of Luke 13:7-11. I pictured Jesus invited to dinner with a prominent leader. Others were at the dinner as well, but they wanted to be noticed by the leader, so they strategically positioned themselves at the table. Then I heard Jesus say, “Don’t position yourself in such a way to be noticed, because you might be embarrassed if you are sitting in someone else’s seat. It is far better to be invited to a place of honor rather than position yourself and end up humiliated”. I woke up the next morning with a surreal feeling. What came next was what made it so amazing!! Without realizing what passage my devotional would lead me to read, I spent the next several minutes in prayer and reading. The verses that I had just dreamt about was the same passage I ended up reading the very next morning. Basically, I dreamt the scripture that God was going to lead me to read. Let me just say, God got my attention!
It is likely the Holy Spirit did not speak this to me so that it would become a devotional thought for others. Rather, he did this because he is working in me and I need to listen. At the same time, I feel that it might be agood thought for our community as well. This passage in Luke becomes even more impactful in the Message version: “If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself”.
For me, God has challenged me in a couple of ways. First, I need to make sure I stay in my lane. In other words, I want to do what God has called me to do, no more and no less. Second, I want to be the best me I can be. With God’s Spirit working in us, our lives can make a difference as we walk in humility before him.
Jesus, I pray that you will help us to walk humbly before you today. I pray that your spirit will continue to work in us individually and throughout our community. Help us prefer one another and show deference as we continue to build a life-giving community at Northwest University. In Jesus name, Amen.
-Phil Rasmussen, VP for Church Relations and Campus Ministries
Press in to Prayer
Recently, while reading my Bible, I spent a few minutes in a familiar passage from Luke 1:5-25. If you haven’t recently read it, I encourage you to spend a moment to be reminded of the birth of John the Baptist. Zachariah was John’s father and his mother was Elizabeth, who was also the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Both Zachariah and Elizabeth were beyond the age of child bearing, so the birth of John was a miracle to begin with. God had a plan for them that went beyond what they could see at the present moment. Zachariah spent extended time in prayer in the temple, seeking a word from the Lord. Through that experience, God provided what seemed to be the impossible. Beyond the miracle, God used Zachariah and Elizabeth to fulfill his purpose of preparing the way for Jesus.
In a recent conversation with a pastor friend, he told me a story of his son who recently graduated from college. He had a job opportunity ready for him, but it was not the perfect situation. In conversation with his dad, he asked his son if he had prayed about the job before taking it. The son decided to take a week and focus his prayer on this job opportunity. After the week was over, he felt the job was not right and declined taking the job. One week later, another job opportunity came up. This job had better pay, a better working environment, and it utilized the exact degree skills he had acquired in college.
What is your impossible situation? Maybe God is waiting for you to press in a little more in prayer. Perhaps God’s plan is to prepare you for something you could not imagine.
Jesus, help us to seek you first in all things and fully trust you for the outcome. Lord, you have a purpose and a plan for each one of us that is often bigger than we can see right now in our present situation. Help us believe for great things into our future. In Jesus name, Amen.
-Phil Rasmussen, VP for Church Relations and Campus Ministries
Letter Since Las Vegas
In light of the shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, I wrote and read a letter to our community at Northwest about how I believe Followers of Jesus should handle tragedy…
Weeks like this are hard for us. They are hard because we care. We care deeply for the needs and hurts of the world. We hurt with those who hurt. We weep with those who weep. I wish I had a comfortable answer with why God allows tragedies like this to happen. I have come to see that God does allow things to happen that He does not enjoy. When I think about evil things that happen in the world, I get frustrated and wonder what God will do about it. But then I am reminded of what He has already done.
God, in Jesus, did not merely dislike or disapprove of violence, murder, and evil, God took it on Himself. Jesus subjected Himself to violence and pain and suffering and evil. He took it head on. He knows what it’s like. What seemed to be a tragedy and foolishness to the world actually became a great victory. That is our hope. Now, I am not asking us to smile and be happy while this madness is going on in the world. I am calling us to weep with those who weep. But weep well.
Weep knowing that there actually is hope. A hope that says Jesus the Christ has taken on evil and a hope that says one day He will completely rid the world of evil. Weep with the Apostle Paul’s words ringing in your hearts, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” Weep knowing that these things are not good but weep knowing that God can use anything for His good.
I have been asking what type of community we will be. Will be a community who is known by our love for our brother, neighbor, and enemy? Will be a community who weeps with those who weep? Will we be a community who prays better than we post? Let us be a community who follows Jesus well. We have been. We can be. And we must be. So how can we start? Or better said, how do we continue?
There are at least three things that we can do. First off, let’s weep well. Let’s weep with those who weep. Weeping well may mean sending resources and money to those in need.
Second, we study well. We are here at northwest not for ourselves and not for now but for the world and for the future. We are here for more than a degree. We are here for more than a future pay check. So we study. We are here not to acquire things but to become the right sort of people. Let us become great followers of jesus who bring the kingdom of god as psychologists and counselors. Let us become great followers of jesus who bring the kingdom of god to businesses and the work force. Let us become great followers of jesus who bring the kingdom of god to government and policy making. Let us become great followers of jesus who bring the kingdom of god into the classroom, and into the music studio, and on the fields and courts, and in the pulpits, and on the stages, and in the streets, and in our homes. Let us do well here and bring God’s kingdom everywhere we go so that these tragedies happen less and less.
Last and really first, We pray.
Every Monday night from 7:15-8:15 our community meets under the chapel in Amundsen 24 to pray, and we will continue to dedicate that time to pray for the issues going on in our community, our country, and our world. Whenever there is any tragedy going on in the world we will pray on Monday nights.
So right here and right now, let’s pray.
-Christian Dawson, Campus Pastor