Spiritual Discipline #8 - Practicing the Presence

Last week, we explored the discipline of silence & solitude, a much needed practice to help us learn to discern God’s voice and presence. Times of silence and solitude, however, need not be the only times we hear God’s voice or dwell in his presence.
 
Solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place. There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times.” – Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline)
 
One of the most celebrated voices on intimacy with Christ, Brother Lawrence, called this solitude of the heart “practicing the presence of God.”
 
Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk from the 17th century, was a lay brother, meaning he was not a priest or a teacher. In fact, his primary duties at the monastery were performed in the kitchen. Yet 500 years later, he is still well known for the intimacy with God he cultivated while cleaning pots and pans.
 
“Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?“ – Brother Lawrence
 
Asked via letter how he went about practicing the presence of God in the mundane tasks of life, Brother Lawrence said, “As often as I could, I placed myself as a worshiper before him, fixing my mind upon his holy presence, recalling it when I found it wandering from him. This proved to be an exercise frequently painful, yet I persisted through all difficulties.”
 
Perhaps you tend to beat yourself up when you try to focus on God but find your mind wandering. Too often in such moments we get discouraged and give up. Yet a common theme in Scripture is of God’s patience. If he could patiently endure hundreds of years of sinful kings and sinful people in Israel, surely he will be patient with you in a moment of wandering thoughts. Let’s follow Brother Lawrence’s example by doing “our common business wholly for the love of him” with our hearts and minds focused on his constant presence. And, when we find our thoughts drifting, simply bring our focus back to God. May you persist in practicing the presence.

Sean's Picks

The Practice of the Presence of God - If Brother Lawrence's humble intimacy with Christ is intriguing to you, I would encourage you to pick up his short book (really a collection of letters) on the subject.

Beholding and Dwelling - The following sermon was delivered at the yearly gathering of Alliance pastors in our district (Metro NY/NJ). Rich Villodas shares a powerful word from Psalm 27 that follows this idea of practicing the presence of God. The message begins at 1:01:00 of the video and ends about 1:51:00

Missions Spotlight:
Russell Abraham (Global Gates)

The wind of Jesus is blowing in the sails of Islam. Many Muslims are being drawn to hear the Gospel.  Jesus told us in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

PRAY FOR the FAMILIES of Over 300 Bangladeshi American died due to Covid-19 pandemic in New York. Over 40 people among them were from my personal contacts.  I was personally able to reach out to 21 families who lost their loved ones, I prayed with these families to help comfort them during these fearful and isolated times. There were a total of 75 families who received aid from us to buy groceries, pay some utility bills, to cover some cost for prescribed medication, and to even pay funeral costs.  

PRAY FOR OUR DAILY ZOOM CALLS.  God led me to stop posting on the Sowing Seeds Group and showed me that He wanted me to focus on a different strategy.  God revealed a plan for me to begin creating a virtual network to gather Bengali Muslim background believers from around the globe. I immediately answered His call.  We began a daily Zoom (video meeting over the internet) devotional meeting from the first day that New York was locked down.  Slowly God connected M background Bengali believers from all over North America, Europe, Asia and Bangladesh. There have been nearly one hundred participants each day. The desire for those to participate in this meeting has been so overwhelming that it exceeded our limit for how many participants we can have in a call. New believers are also being connected through International practitioners among Bengali diaspora. Assigned experienced believers to disciple new believers. There have been 21 baptisms (20 in Bangladesh and 1 in New York).  Now there are nine new believers who made a decision to follow Christ and are on a waiting list to be baptized. Three are in New York and six are in Bangladesh.

Now we have two separate groups who have been created from this virtual network; One for women and one for youth. We have trained over 60 Bengali Christians in North America on “How to reach Muslims for Christ”.  We had a follow-up meeting with those who have been trained.  Within group discussions we simulated real conversations by role-playing a Gospel presentation.  They were also able to ask several of us who have shared the Gospel many times questions they have.
   
PRAY FOR MUSLIMS that they would find JESUS as they SEEK ALLAH.  The following encounter represents the majority of the Islamic world-view or perspective concerning the current events. Recently I spoke with Amzad, a Muslim store owner on Hillside Avenue. We began our conversation about the current pandemic and chaos. At first, we were on the same page, but he soon discovered that our perspectives were a little different.   He said that the Corona Virus is Allah's soldiers sent down to the earth as a curse especially to Central Asia.  He even believes that Allah is sending them towards the West because people are rejecting Allah and his messenger.  He said Allah is taking revenge. I explained to him that I think God allows these events to correct us.  I said that the signs that we are currently seeing have been written about in the Injil (NT) and the OT.  Then he looked at me said, I tought you are a Muslim.  I then told him that I am a follower of ISA (Jesus) the Messiah.  He immediately asked me to become a Muslim!  I said, “That's a good point, brother tell me why should I become a Muslim? Do you have any good news for me?”  He said, “the Quran is a good news.”  Wow!  I thought Quran means "Read", but Injil (NT) means “Good News”.  He said it was, but after Muhammed it was no longer good news.  I said, “Really, how do you know that?”  He added Christian and Jewish changed all Scriptures and only the Quran never changed. Hmm, can you tell me who wrote the Quran? He said, Allah! Really? Allah has written this Quran by his own hands? He said, “No!” Is it possible that he appointed any angels to write it down? He said a message came to Muhammed by the Angel Gabriel and Muhammed's disciples wrote them down. Hmm, interesting. He said that I (Russell) follow Paul's Bible. I said, “listen brother, disciples of Muhammed before following him, who were they? They were all pagan and they wrote the book.  Muhammed never saw this book, neither did he approve of what is written in this book. So how do you know that this book is the original words, born of God?  Messiah ISA (Jesus), He brought us the good news from heaven. He came down from heaven and He now has returned to heaven.  He is also coming again! He said yes, he is coming again as a follower of Muhammed.  I said, “Wow! Can you give me the references about what you have just stated? He said, “it is in the Quran.”  I told him, “Brother, I have read the Quran page after page and I have not found anything like that.  I am sorry to say that you have never read the Quran. The Quran even confirms that the Bible is true (Surah 3:3-5; Surah 5:44,46,68) but you said the Bible is corrupted.  I have found another reference in Hadith (book about Muhammed) concerning the second coming of Jesus. (from very authentic Islamic sources the Bukhari Hadith 3448)  There Allah's Messenger said, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, surely (Jesus,) the son of Mary will soon descend amongst you and will judge mankind justly (as a Just Ruler).” I then asked the man, “Now tell me who is the right Judge?” He said, “Allah!”
Right now, will you please take a moment to pray for Muslims that they would seek Allah and find Jesus?

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