One of the greatest things in all the world is entering into the presence of God. Nothing compares with God’s presence, whether it is in a church service or in your bed room, or on the way to work or school. There’s nothing like it. Is it possible to create an atmosphere that is more inviting, more welcoming for God to come and meet with you? Is there a way that prepares the environment for God to come and meet with His people?
Of course there is. Churches do this all the time. They create an atmosphere that invites the presence of God to come in and a place for the Holy Spirit to move. But how do we do it? And are we doing some things wrong? Well, the question above all else – the question every time – what does the Bible say?
John 4:20-24 tells of the time when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well in the city of Sychar:
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
What our Lord tells us here gives us key truths to creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to God’s presence. We come into God’s presence, or welcome Him into where we are through worship. That’s clear and we all could agree on that. In this conversation, the woman at the well was stating her case that the Samaritans believed that they must worship at a certain location. Remember that this all took place under the Old Covenant. The Gospels are basically the transition books between the Old Covenant and the New. So she’s talking Old Covenant and what it meant to the Samaritans.
Jesus tells her that there is a time coming (which is now), that people will worship not only in Jerusalem or the mountain, but everywhere. He wasn’t saying people wouldn’t worship in those two places, but that worship would go beyond those two places. Then Jesus tells her this: the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
So apparently there are those who will/are worshipping God who are not true worshipper. They are worshipping God falsely. How can we tell they are false worshipper? Those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. Does this mean that these people are evil, demonic, and going to Hell? I don’t think so. There’s nothing in scripture (that I have found), that points to that. It just means you are not pleasing to God, and not enjoying the full benefits of worshipping God, which would include the fullness of His presence.
Jesus was talking to this Samaritan woman, but He was also talking to us. To this woman it meant one thing. To us, it means that and more. She was a Samaritan. Samaritans only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament. They missed out and limited God by what they believed. They were actually believing in an incomplete God. They didn’t know what was said of Him, what had been written, what He had done or commanded. They disregarded and didn’t believe anything is Psalms or Proverbs. Many also believe that Samaritans simply added Jehovah to their list of gods that they worshipped as to not leave anyone out. They wanted to make sure they ‘covered all their bases’ when it came to the higher powers.
What does this mean to us though? Like the Samaritans, are we limiting God? Are we disregarding any part of His Word that would hinder our relationship, His will, or our ability to worship Him. Sadly, for many, the answer is yes. There are entire denominations that disregard the working of the Holy Spirit in these last days. They say that speaking in tongues has passed away, is of the devil, isn’t for today, or some other reasoning as why they don’t have Him operating in their life in a supernatural manner. Thus, how can they have a moving of the Spirit, when they have already told God they don’t believe in Him? They can’t.
Are we worshipping God in truth or partial truth? Are we worshipping God in spirit or in the natural? This makes all the difference when creating an atmosphere for God’s presence. God will bless us and meet us as much as He can, but He is limited (yes, God is limited) by us. He is limited by our faith. He is limited by what we do or don’t do.
Did you know that you can limit God? If you didn’t know, or didn’t believe it, it’s time to change your thinking and believing to agree with the Word of God. Psalm 78:41 says, “Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel.” You can limit God.
In Psalm 100:1-2, we’re told “Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.” We’re actually told specifically, “come before His presence with singing.” So one way to create an atmosphere that welcomes God’s presence is to start singing. Does that mean singing the Top 40 chart, anything and everything on the radio? Does that mean just sing whatever you want so God can hear your voice? No. Not at all.
Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” We sing praises to God. We worship Him with songs of thanks and praise. That’s what will create an atmosphere that welcomes Him. It’s not just singing, but songs of thanksgiving and praise.
“But now bring me a musician.” Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.” – 2 Kings 3:15
The prophet Elisha called for a musician to play, and when he did, the Spirit of the Lord moved. It was the musician (praise and worship) that prepared the way for the Spirit to move. Notice that there wasn’t anything else mention, just a musician playing.
What else is there? What else creates that atmosphere? Let’s look in the New Testament at an event that many know.
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” – Matthew 17:1-5
Jesus, Peter, James, and John entered into the presence of God in such a manner that even Moses and Elijah showed up. But how did this happen? If we look at this account from the book of Luke, we can see why they went up to the mountain. Luke 9:28, “Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.” The reason that they went up was to pray. They went to get in the spirit. That’s what prayer does when you enter into it, when it’s more than just a five or ten minute ritual. When prayer becomes a time that you press in, press the world and surroundings out, and stay for extended times, things happen. You can’t have a spiritual experience without being about spiritual things. You don’t have spiritual experiences and get in the presence of God by talking about the latest TV shows, movies, or other natural things.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body.”
The apostle John tells us in Revelation 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet…” John goes on to give us the revelation that he received from our Lord about the last days and the second coming of Christ. But why did he receive it? How did he position himself to receive it? It says that he was in the spirit. What does that mean?
It means he was praying, in tongues and in his known language, to such a degree that he had an experience that few do. And the result was that he got into the presence of God. He was about spiritual things – namely prayer.
Acts 4:31 tells us that the disciples were praying and after they prayed, the Holy Spirit fell and re-filled them with the Holy Spirit. That is a type of the presence of God. This is what the Bible is filled with – people creating an atmosphere where the presence of God is welcomed, through prayer, worship, the Word, obedience, and faith. That’s it. You have people getting their hearts right, praying, and seeking God – in faith, worshipping Him, and God showing up. God shows up because of obedience and faith.
James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” As we draw near to God, he will draw near to us. But notice that second part. James is writing to believers, not unbelievers. He tells them to cleanse their hands, purify their hearts and not to be double-minded. To draw near to God, you have to do your part to cleanse yourself. Yes, Jesus is the one that cleanses us, but we have to submit to it. We have to consecrate and dedicate ourselves. There is a part we have to play. We can’t be double-minded. We can’t be thinking one thing for a moment and then the next, thinking something completely different. In short, we need to get in faith and stay in faith that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.
What about the modern ways of worship? Do we create an atmosphere for God to move with lights, lasers, smoke, and graphics? Jesus said that true worshippers would worship in Spirit and in truth. The individual is made up of three parts, as we’ve seen – spirit, soul, and body. True worshippers worship God in spirit, not through the soul, or body. That’s what Jesus said. Many today are worshipping in soul and body, putting a focus on things that speak to and relate to the soul and the body.
What does that mean? Instead of focusing, putting an emphasis on things of the spirit, we focus on the natural, the soul – our mind, will, and emotions. We should be focusing on the spiritual aspect of things. We shouldn’t focus on graphics, or lights, or smoke. Instead we should be focused on the truth. Things such as graphics, and lights have no benefit whatsoever for worship, or bringing in the presence of God.
The only effect that they have is turning God away! If they were to increase God‘s desire to show up, our ability to make Him feel more welcome, and for the Holy Spirit to move – then He would be a respecter of persons and would be unjust. I would have more ability to get into the presence of God than the people in Africa or on the streets who do not have the money and resources to get such things.
“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” – Acts 10:34
The things that people in North America, Africa, Asia, on the streets and in the buildings, big churches and small churches have in common and put them on equal ground are the ones that create and atmosphere for God to move – the Word, worship, prayer, faith, and obedience. If you’re wondering how to “compete” with the big churches down the street. Here’s the key – stop! There should be no competition first off. Just focus on these things. Focus on the presence of God, because honestly, many churches are focused on everything else but these things.
Many in the church however, think that these light shows, lowering the lights, putting up graphics creates an atmosphere for God to move, but it doesn’t. It only has a negative effect on His presence, and on us. These things distract us from focusing on God. We look at these things, put emphasis on these things, pour money and resources into them, and think that they have any good impact on us fellowshipping with God. There’s only one outcome – they either have no effect or a bad effect on us, and it’s usually bad. There’s no way that they can have a positive, Biblical, effect on us or create an atmosphere where God can move. These things may have their place, but it’s not in a true worship service. I’ve heard one person say that they have to have moving graphics behind the words of a song because if not, the people will fall asleep. If you’re falling asleep worshipping God in a church service, and the only difference that affects that is moving graphics, the problem isn’t the church, it’s you. It doesn’t matter how many churches do it – it’s not Bible.
Do we need the lights to be turned down low? Well technically, Jesus said that He was the light of the world. He said that ‘in Him there is no darkness.’ If we are telling the people that they are the light of the world, the church is the light of the world, while we are sitting in darkness, it seems kind of dumb. Aren’t we sending a mixed message if we’re saying Jesus is light and the church is in darkness.
With lights turn down low, you also create an atmosphere for things to be hidden. You create an atmosphere for people to bring things, do things, that should not be. I sat in a youth group where the lights were so low that kids were bringing drugs in and felt comfortable enough to get them out and pass them around. I’ve heard stories from another minister where they ministered in places where the lights were so low that teenage guys and girls were doing things together they shouldn’t be doing – in church of all places. In the main service. The light exposes all of these things. The strobing lights created no atmosphere for God to move. It just created an atmosphere to appeal to to people’s emotions and their soul.
The age of technology has pushed us to accept these things in the church. Things seem easier, more people can do things that we believe will have an impact on God showing up. But it doesn’t. I sat in a service once and heard the pastor tell about the moment he decided to move the church from the lighted building to the dark rooms we’ve become so familiar with in churches today. As he sat with another minister and questioned this move to darkness, he asked, “but how will I be able to read my Bible?” This other minister, filled with the wisdom of man (not of God) chimed in, “that’s why you need an iPad.”
Our mindset has been to embrace technology, even when we shouldn’t. We have moved to embrace the technology of the world for stage shows and called it worship. But the majority of what you see in the modern church worship service has nothing to do with true worship.
So that’s what we do and ave done to create an atmosphere for God to move. What about our part of yielding to that presence? I talked with one young person and they said that they like to have the lights down low because they could focus on God more when it’s darker. So the thought would come, if we don’t turn the lights down for God, should we turn them down for the people?
Again, what does the Bible say? None of what is going on in the world, including the church, takes God by surprise. He wasn’t sitting up there oblivious to all of these things and then one day woke up and saw that people were focusing on him better in the 2000’s with lights down low. That’s because they aren’t.
They’re not focusing on God better with lights down low. They have however trained themselves, created a habit, of focusing on God with lights down low and when the lights are back up at normal, it’s seems weird to them. Try walking out into the sunlight after being in the dark awhile. It takes time for your eyes to adjust, to focus. That’s why pirates had eyepatches you know.
Besides, are we catering to man or to God?
God knew what was the best way for people to focus on Him before Jesus came, when Jesu walked on the Earth, and after He died and rose again. He knew what was the best way a thousand years ago, a hundred years ago, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It’s all found in the Bible. When we conform ourselves to the Word (Romans 12:2) and get rid of these ideas that go against the Word (2 Cor. 10:5), we’re going to do a whole lot better. The same things that create an atmosphere for God to move are the same things that are going to help us focus on God.
God will bless us as far as He can. That’s why we still see the Holy Spirit move in rock concert worship services, where the atmosphere has been created by natural means, not spiritual ones. But the reason there is not the move of God and the depth of the flow of the Spirit, and the fullness of the manifestation of the Holy Ghost today is because people do not take time to hear from God. And we do not take time to follow His plan set forth in the scriptures. Instead, we choose our own plans or our own way of doing things – natural ways to create an atmosphere, instead of scriptural ways to do so. God cannot fully bless us and meet with us the way He wants because if He did, He would be putting His stamp of approval on our plans, and saying that they are His plans, which they’re not. The more closely we follow God’s plan, the more His power will be in demonstration and in manifestation.
Have you ever thought about the conditions needed to grow mold? It grows best in warm, damp, and humid conditions. If you wanted to grow mold (for some reason), you wouldn’t put a bunch of crayons in a room, thinking it would help it to grow. You’d go to a scientist, a sourcebook, to see how it grows. But by chance, if you’re in a warm, damp, humid room that has crayons and you start to see mold, you might think that its the crayons. After all, mold likes colorful crayons, doesn’t it? But in reality, it’s growing because of the small things you’re unaware of. You throw more crayons in there thinking it’s going to help. You’re placing emphasis on the wrong things, but still getting results. If you would place all the emphasis on the things that’s important, you would see tremendous growth. But you think, are the crayons really hurting anything? The crayons aren’t. But when we do things contrary to God’s Word, His Spirit, and His will, it does hurt things. It turns God off, it turns our hearts off, and we only get a portion of what God wants us to have.
I spoke to a fellow youth minister a while back about a youth event they had and the times of worship that were outstanding. The Holy Spirit moved, several kids came forward who were dealing in things like oppression and suicide. Lives were changed. And every light in the house was on. There was no smoke. But the whole service was bathed in prayers before hand. They created and atmosphere as the Bible tells us to and God showed up.
A while back we did the same thing. We taught on the holy Spirit. We had one of the ingredients for God to move – the Word. Then we took time for God to move. He halted what we were doing and worshipped God. With the lights all the way up, no twirly flashing laser lights going, we worshipped God. And then the Holy Spirit moved and the kids were blessed.
I understand that people, especially younger people, like these thing and it may draw people, but the power of God will draw more people with lasting results. Are we focused on the natural or the spiritual to draw people and change their life. There are some things that we can bring in and use in church, but this is not one of them according to the Word of God.
It’s kind of odd how we have multi-million dollar stage and light shows in churches across the nation and yet the move of God in these churches is so fickle that people will forget about it in a day or so. Yet, year ago, there were no light shows. There were lights besides the ones like in every building. There were no stage shows. Ministers couldn’t rely on these things to draw people to church. But they had their prayers. They had the Word. They had their faith and their obedience. And they had worship. And they focused n those things. And the move of God, the presence of God was so strong that people routinely were healed of deathbed sicknesses. People routinely has biblical, spiritual experiences. It was a common thing for the presence of God to show up and be manifested as a glory cloud people could see. The presence of God manifested in such a way that fire departments were called because people said the church was literally on fire. There was a greater move of God because the people were consecrated to God greater than today. And that consecration meant that they stayed with what the Word of God said, and didn’t try to add anything to it.
We create an atmosphere that is welcoming to the presence of God – according to the Bible. So, why have all these churches thrown all this other stuff in services to create such an atmosphere? Why have churches decided that to create an atmosphere for God to move, they have to have an expensive light show and flashy graphics? Why is it that nearly every large church has focused on their light show, their sound board, their smoke machine, their graphic presentation – and minored on prayer and the things that really mattered?
It’s simple. The enemy has deceived us.
If you look at how much time, every, and money has been put into these stage and light shows – it’s kind of embarrassing. Billions of dollars have been wasted. There’s a better way to reach people, to reach God, and all it costs is your dedication and consecration to the Word of God.
Stay with the Word and the Spirit.
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