We are such a long way from where we should be, spiritually speaking:
OK, this passage may not be so much encouraging as it is incredible – and amazing, and perhaps even terrifying. But since I just recently started this new subcategory on ‘Encouraging Bible Passages’ it can probably fit in here without too much difficulty.
The text, which I just read again this morning, says this:
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
As I said in a social media post, this is not quite what we experience in most church services today. However, I went on to say this: “Not that this is necessarily a template for us today, but… One can rightly ask where the presence of God is in most of our churches today. Where is the sense of his total holiness and majesty that drives us to our faces in awe, adoration, repentance – and joy as well?”
While there have been times when I have been at a church or Christian meeting where there was no doubt about the presence of God being there – and everyone knowing it – they have been few and far between. And again, we need not just seek out sensational experiences and the like all the time – God can meet us in the quiet place as well.
So as always the biblical balance is needed. We must avoid seeking non-stop emotional highs, but we must also be unsatisfied with our rather lifeless and Spirit-less services. Certainly the sort of thing we read about here and in other places in Scripture – including the book of Acts – really does seem to contrast with contemporary Christian worship and church experience.
And God’s champions have always longed for this and prodded us along in this direction. One could mention plenty of recent prophetic figures who have encouraged us so much in this regard. One would be A. W. Tozer of course. But I have already done articles quoting him on worship and the presence of God:
But another obvious candidate would be the late great Leonard Ravenhill. So let me finish this piece with some quotes from him.
Ravenhill on worship, the church, and the presence of God
“I’m sick to death of the so-called Christianity of our day. What’s supernatural about it? When do people come out of the sanctuary awed and can’t speak for an hour because God has been in glory there? Dear God, as soon as they get out, they’re talking football, or sports or something, or there’s going to be a big sale downtown somewhere. We are not caught up into eternity!”
“Do you go to church to meet God or to hear a sermon about Him? How many come to church expecting a confrontation with Deity?”
“To me it is a shocking commentary on present Christian feebleness that while, in the first century, 120 men could move from an upper-room closet and shake Jerusalem, nowadays 120 churches claiming a like experience of the Holy Spirit can be in one of our cities and yet that city at large hardly know they are there. In our spiritual warfare the churches must be shooting with dummy bullets. To change the figure, we must spiritually be running with empty freight cars.”
“Prayer is preoccupation with our needs. Praise is preoccupation with our blessings. Worship is preoccupation with God Himself. Praise and worship should precede petition.”
“You can have all of your doctrines right—yet still not have the presence of God.”
“You never have to advertise a fire. Everyone comes running when there’s a fire. Likewise, if your church is on fire, you will not have to advertise it. The community will already know it.”
“A popular evangelist reaches your emotions. A true prophet reaches your conscience.”
“What good does it do to speak in tongues on Sunday if you have been using your tongue during the week to curse and gossip?”
“Can any deny that in the modern church setup the main cause of anxiety is money? Yet that which tries the modern churches the most, troubled the New Testament Church the least. Our accent is on paying; theirs was on praying. When we have paid, the place is taken; when they had prayed, the place was shaken!”
“I tremble at the awesomeness of preaching God’s Word. Sometimes I hear preachers read the Bible as if it were a weather report.”
“Wet-eyed preachers never produce dry sermons.”
“The trouble today is that we have too many dead preachers giving out dead sermons to dead people.”
“What is preaching? (It is) to open the eyes of the blind; to turn them from darkness to light; from the bar of Satan unto God. How many preachers do that?”
“If there’s no brokenness in the pulpit, why should there be any brokenness in the pew?”
“Our churches are more air-conditioned than prayer-conditioned.”
“Some women will spend thirty minutes to an hour preparing for church externally (putting on special clothes and makeup, etc.). What would happen if we all spent the same amount of time preparing internally for church—with prayer and meditation?”
“When you go out of a meeting and say, ‘I didn’t get much out of that meeting tonight,’ that’s not the point! How much did God get out of it? Did He get worshipped? Did He get adoration? Our only business on earth is to glorify God.”
“If we have another Pentecost and it was real, we’d all be in jail within a month. We’re such an accommodating Christianity today. Anyone can live around a Christian. They couldn’t in the day (of Pentecost) when these people were around.”
“One good Baptist (once) said to Dr. Tozer, ‘If God withdrew the Holy Spirit tomorrow, my church would function just the same; we wouldn’t even know He was gone’.”
“I believe every church is either supernatural or superficial. I don’t believe there’s any middle ground.”
“We’re a million, billion miles away from New Testament Christianity!”
“Someone asked me, ‘Do you pray for the dead?’ I said, ‘No, I preach to them!’ I think every pew in every church is death row. Think about that! They’re dead! They sing about God; they talk about God, but they’re dead! They have no living relationship (with God).”
“You young men that came tonight, listen! The most important thing in the world while you’re on this side of eternity is that you learn to worship God. If you’re going to do it forever and ever, dear Lord, you ought to practice it now!”
“Revival is when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented that He shows up Himself.”
“If you know a church on fire for God, tell me and I’ll go. A church where (after) you’ve gone in, you don’t come out the same, believing that God is there (and) you’ve been in His holy presence!”
“You don’t worship God standing up; you worship God on your belly. Worship is speechless adoration!”
“I’m looking for something so majestic (that) no man dare to stick his name on it. If he did, he’d drop dead.”
As I said at the start, the experience described in 1 Chronicles may not be a road map for all Christian gatherings today. But surely all believers should have such a longing for a profound sense of the holy, almighty God that it would not surprise them in the least if such an occurrence did take place. They would welcome it with open arms.