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First, I want to remind you of a point I made when I began this series a fortnight ago: worship is not just about what we do during this hour on a Sunday morning, but it’s about our whole lives, and everything that we say and do. However, this morning I want to focus on God’s presence in the time of worship where we come together as God’s people to worship him together.

If you happen to be someone who’s into high finance (which I’m not!) you’ve probably heard of credit ratings. If you have a bank account, a mortgage, a credit card, a loan of any sort, you will have a credit rating which determines how creditworthy you are. Nations, too, have credit ratings, depending on how their creditworthiness is seen by big financial institutions, and the best possible credit rating is called a triple A rating. Well, I want to talk this morning about God’s triple A presence: his abiding presence, his awesome presence, and his active presence.

To help us understand this, I hope you’ll forgive me if I use an illustration from football. Lionel Messi is an Argentinian footballer who plays for Barcelona and is generally accepted to be the best footballer in the world today. Imagine he’s been picked for a match and he’s going to be on the pitch for the whole of the 90 minutes: that’s his abiding presence – he’s there all the time. When he walks on to the pitch, the crowd cheer wildly because they know all about him, they’ve seen him regularly, and they know how brilliant he is: that’s his awesome presence. But they won’t see any evidence of that awesomeness until he starts playing: so the ball is passed to him in the middle of the field, he turns and skilfully passes player after player, past the final defender where he powers the ball into the top corner of the net – a stunning goal. That’s his active presence.

Now you’ll be pleased to know that we’re leaving football and turning back to God to reflect on his triple A presence.

  • His abiding presence

      So the first dimension by which God makes his presence known is his abiding presence. When he finally ascended to his Father, some of his last words to his disciples are recorded in Matthew 28 where is says, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” One of the attributes of God is that he is omnipresent: there is nowhere where God is not; and for those of us who are Christians, he is present with us in a special way through his Holy Spirit who, in a supernatural way, indwells each one of us. In Hebrews 13, God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” His promises are never empty promises, so we can be confident that there isn’t a moment when God is not with you. That’s his abiding presence.

  • His awesome presence

      The word awesome has lost a bit of its power today when it’s often used simply to mean very good. It really means inspiring awe. So what are the things which make the God who is present with us this morning an awesome God? Well, where do we begin?

  • He’s the creator of this amazing universe in which we live.
  • He’s placed us on a planet which is designed to perfection for the richness of life which dwells here.
  • He’s provided us with such an astonishing variety of animal life, of plant life, of food to eat: we live in a world of fantastic beauty
  • Even though he’s the creator of the universe, he loves you and me and wants to have a relationship with us mere mortals.
  • He loved us so much that he sent his Son to reveal himself and his love for us by allowing him to die on the cross
  • He has adopted us as his children so that we can speak intimately to him and call him our Father

I’m sure if I went round the room, you could all think of things about God which make him so awesome for you, and that could keep us here for a long time!

So, when you came to worship this morning, consciously or unconsciously, you knew you were coming to worship a God whose presence was guaranteed, and who was awesome in so many ways. Just like those fans in Barcelona when they saw Lionel Messi come on to the pitch. Those fans would then be expecting a brilliant display of football once the game started.

  • His active presence

…and here’s the crunch. Do you think God is going to be active in our worship this morning? What were your expectations when you came in this morning? Was it simply that we’d sing some songs and hymns together, we’d listen to a Bible reading, we’d hear a talk for 20 minutes or so, we’d say a few prayers for the world and ourselves, then we’d go home for our Sunday lunch, having done our duty to God. I’m sorry if that sounds a little bit cynical, but I wonder how many of us had greater expectations than that.

Let’s look for a few minutes at the story in 2 Chronicles which we read today. King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah are about to be invaded by a vast army of Moabites and Ammonites. The king calls the people together and the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel, one of the Levites, and he brought a word of prophecy to the people: they were not to be discouraged because the battle was not theirs but God’s. Then all the people bowed down with the king in worship, and the Levites stood and praised the Lord with very loud voices. Then, as the army set out, Jehoshaphat appointed a group of men to lead the people not with weapons but with singing praises to God. As they began to sing, chaos ensued among the invading armies and, before Jehoshaphat’s army had even begun to engage with them, they were ambushed and ended up fighting against each other till they were totally destroyed, and it took the people three days to collect all the plunder.

After this they returned to the temple where they continued to worship God with singing and music.

Now let me take you forward a few hundred years to Acts 4: Peter and John have just been released from prison and they’ve returned to their fellow believers to tell them what the chief priests and elders had said to them. Then they all spent some time worshipping God and praying together, and when they’d prayed, it says,

                  “The place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were

                  all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

Jehoshaphat’s army were led to battle in worship, and God gave them an amazing victory. Peter and John and the other believers spent time in worship and prayer and the place was shaken and they were filled anew with the Holy Spirit.

In Isaiah 64, Isaiah prays,

                  “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down…

                  Since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived,

                  no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of

                  those who wait for him.”

We know that God is abiding here; we know that he is an awesome God; what do we expect of a God who acts? Just for this moment, could you begin to imagine that, as we worship God this morning, he is going to do something new in your life today? That you’re not just going to walk out of here exactly the same as you came in. God might want to do something quite dramatic in your life, or it may be something quite gentle, like giving you a fresh awareness of his love and forgiveness. That’s why I wanted to speak before we spent some time in sung worship: I want you to be aware of God’s active presence this morning so that his Spirit might move among us afresh in the next few minutes; and I also want you to be aware that God can also be active tomorrow and the day after – not just whilst you’re here in church. So, as we move into a time of sung worship, let’s do it expecting that God is going to be active in you this morning.

Let’s pray.

  • 2 Corinthians 10:17-18

    “But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

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