Spiritual Discipline Part 2
Community Group (Net Group) Questions

Introduction
Experiencing the presence of God in our daily lives is an essential element of spiritual discipline. As we train and discipline ourselves to recognize God’s presence in various ways we will be drawn to walk more deeply with Him. The result will be an ever growing spiritual discipline.

1. What are some ways you have experienced God’s presence in your life?

2. As you begin to experience God’s presence in your life, spiritual discipline will become less of a chore and more of a joy. Your thoughts on why?
10Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10 (NIV)
11Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Psalm 51:11 (NIV)
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalm 51:12 (NIV)
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
Psalm 51:13 (NIV)

3. Moses knew the task of leading the people of Israel was massive. He knew he would need the constant presence of God for guidance, wisdom, protection and strength. Read Moses conversation with God. Discuss his prayer request and God’s response and how it might apply to your life today.
Exodus 33: 11The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
Exodus 33:12Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’
Exodus 33:13If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
Exodus 33:14The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:15Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
Exodus 33:16How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
Exodus 33:17And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

4. Brother Larry mentioned three different ways we might experience God’s presence in our lives. He talked about experiencing God’s presence as we observe the beauty of His creation. He also mentioned seeing God’s presence in our circumstances, good and bad. He then mentioned finding God’s presence as he ministers to those who are hurting or in need. Discuss your thoughts on one or more of these three ideas.
Possible Scripture verses: Psalm 19:1-6, Philippians 4:11-13, Matthew 25:34-40




Spiritual Discipline
Part 2
Practicing the Presence

Proverbs 1:1-7

1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
Proverbs 1:1 (NIV)

2for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight;
Proverbs 1:2 (NIV)

3for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;
Proverbs 1:3 (NIV)

4for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—
Proverbs 1:4 (NIV)

5let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
Proverbs 1:5 (NIV)

6for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
Proverbs 1:6 (NIV)

7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)

 Could there be a more relevant Scripture in view of this weeks tragic news?

Our world is in desperate need of spiritual discipline!

 The world has been in need of spiritual discipline, and guidance since the fall of mankind.

Without a spiritual and moral center, society cannot survive.


 The events of this week prove beyond any doubt that education alone is not the answer to humankind's problems. Without proper spiritual direction education will only increase the sophistication of evil.
Without the moral guidance that comes through God's revealed truth, the blurring of right and wrong will only get worse and the diabolical nature of man's activities will only escalate!

 God's Word was given to us for a purpose! Listen again...

3for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;
Proverbs 1:3 (NIV)

4for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—
Proverbs 1:4 (NIV)

 Last week we talked about the priority of the heart in spiritual discipline.
Spiritually speaking, if your heart is not in it you will not pursue spiritual discipline.
You've got to want it!
You've got to make it a priority!!

 This week we're going to talk about "practicing the presence of God!"

What in the world do I mean by practicing the presence of God and what does that have to do with spiritual discipline?

This is the subject for today's message.

Let me put it this way…
The more you practice the presence of God in your life, the stronger you will become spiritually!

What do I mean by practicing the presence of God?"

Practicing the presence of God is the process of becoming aware of the presence of God in your daily life.

A person who is keenly aware of the presence of God in their daily life is going to be a person with confidence, courage, care, honesty, integrity, purpose, protection, peace, strength, and the list could go on and on!!

 Recognizing God's presence in your life will make you strong in Him!

A man once had a conversation with Brother Lawrence, a Christian who had to enter a monastery as a layman because he was considered uneducated. It was way back in the 1600's.

Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen and as a cobbler, there for the rest of his life. However, he had a more profound effect on the world and Christianity than his more educated brethren!

Listen to the words of the man who talked with Brother Lawrence...

"…his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of GOD, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine love: and that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with GOD, praising and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy…"
Conversations with Brother Lawrence

Brother Lawrence himself penned these words...

"…when we are faithful to keep ourselves in His holy Presence, and set Him always before us, this not only hinders our offending Him, and doing anything that may displease Him, at least wilfully, but it also begets in us a holy freedom, and if I may so speak, a familiarity with GOD, wherewith we ask, and that successfully, the graces we stand in need of."

"In fine, by often repeating these acts, they become habitual, and
the presence of GOD is rendered as it were natural to us. Give Him thanks, if you please,
with me, for His great goodness towards me, which I can never sufficiently admire, for the
many favours He has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. May all things praise Him."
Brother Lawrence (First Letter)  

Sounds to me like this man wanted spiritual discipline and he desired to be in the presence of God over all other things this old world could offer.

Sounds like a man who understood how important the presence of God is to a human being traveling the rough and rocky paths of this old world!

Or should I say the dangerous streets and interstates of this modern world?

We must understand how vital it is that we walk daily in His presence!!

In the Old Testament, Moses had been asked by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian captivity.

 Listen to the conversation between Moses and God...

11The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
Exodus 33:11 (NIV)

12Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’
Exodus 33:12 (NIV)

13If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
Exodus 33:13 (NIV)

Now that's a prayer every American should cry out to God, on their knees, with desperation, and anticipation of an answer!
Not a moment of silence, but a deafening  chorus of prayer to the only One who can save this nation!

Moses prayed and God answered in a powerful way...

14The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14 (NIV)

15Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
Exodus 33:15 (NIV)

16How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
Exodus 33:16 (NIV)

17And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Exodus 33:17 (NIV)

How powerful! Moses said, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here."

Moses did not want to take one step without knowing God's presence was with him!


One of the problems with the modern day church is that we routinely strike out on our own, unconcerned whether or not God's presence is with us.

But here's the clincher…It is God's presence that makes the difference. It's God's presence with us and in us that helps distinguish us from the rest of the world! Moses said...

16How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
Exodus 33:16 (NIV)

One of the major differences between a church that is making a difference in their community and on that is not is the presence of God. I'm not talking about the presence of God only at worship services on Sunday morning, but the presence of God in the lives of the individual members of the church on a daily basis.

What was God's response to Moses' request for God's presence to go with him and the people?


17And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Exodus 33:17 (NIV)

Absolutely amazing!!! "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name!"

Don't you want that to be God's response to you?

"I am pleased with you and I know you by name!"

That's got to be the most awesome response to a prayer request anyone could ever receive.

Spiritual Discipline becomes a reality for those who practice the presence of God!

How does that work?

When you begin to practice the presence of God in your daily life, you'll be drawn to Him!! You'll want to know more of Him in His Word! You'll want to talk more to Him in precious prayer! You'll want to see more of Him working in the circumstances of your life!


Once you've experienced the presence of God in your life your prayer will be like that of the Psalmist...

10Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

11Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Psalm 51:11 (NIV)

12Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalm 51:12 (NIV)

13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
Psalm 51:13 (NIV)

Ok, now I'm going to get practical on you.
Just how does a person actually find and experience God's presence in this world?

Let's spend the remainder of our time this morning discovering some of the really cool ways we experience God's presence in our daily lives.

We'll only touch the surface of the many, many possible ways God will reveal Himself to us on a moment by moment basis, if we are looking!

We can experience the presence of God is in His Creation!

1The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

2Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
Psalm 19:2 (NIV)

3There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Psalm 19:3 (NIV)

4Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
Psalm 19:4 (NIV)

5which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
Psalm 19:5 (NIV)

6It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
Psalm 19:6 (NIV)

There are things we can discover about God through His creation...

20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Romans 1:20 (NIV)

We can experience the presence of God in our circumstances!

11...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Philippians 4:11 (NIV)

12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Philippians 4:12 (NIV)

13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

I love the way Brother Lawrence put it...

"Good when He gives,
supremely good;
Nor less when He denies: Afflictions,
from His sovereign hand, Are blessings in disguise."
Brother Lawrence

How powerful is it when we can experience the presence of God in the good and bad times of life. When our faith remains steadfast and strong because we know the God who loves us will never fail us or leave us or forsake us!!

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Sometimes, when things are really bad, I anticipate with excitement the experience of the presence of God I am about to encounter. Why? Because, as a songwriter friend of mine once put it, "It's another chance for God to be God!!"

We can experience God in those who are hurting!

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
Matthew 25:34 (NIV)

35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
Matthew 25:35 (NIV)

36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Matthew 25:36 (NIV)

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
Matthew 25:37 (NIV)

38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
Matthew 25:38 (NIV)

39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
Matthew 25:39 (NIV)

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

Jesus takes it personally when you choose or refuse to care about someone in need! Of course, we should be wise in the way we help those who are in need! We want to help a person get better and not enable them to continue destructive lifestyles, but if we just ignore them, we miss an opportunity to experience the presence of God!

And what about those who are in prison? You might be inclined to say, "well they are there for a reason!" Yes they are, but I hope you never forget, "Except for the Grace of God, there go I."
I've got three individuals I'm visiting who are incarcerated.

One of the things that has struck me in my conversations with each one is their humble dependence upon God. Their priorities have changed.
There's a lot of folks on the outside, who could learn a lot from their testimony. The testimony of how ungodly priorities landed them where they are. You and I need to constantly examine our priorities!

Every time I leave the jail, I know I've experienced the presence of God as I minister to those behind the bars. God cares about them.

 This past Wednesday I experienced the presence of God with my family as we buried one of my Aunts. I preached her funeral. God was faithful and showed up to comfort and encourage us all. God cares about those who are broken hearted...

32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
John 11:32 (NIV)

33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
John 11:33 (NIV)

34“Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
John 11:34 (NIV)

35Jesus wept.
John 11:35 (NIV)

 I had a first happen to me this week. I went to pray with someone who is in an advanced stage of cancer. I was asked to go and encourage him. I sat close to the man because he could barely speak. At the end of my prayer with him, he didn't let go of my hands.

 And then with tears running down his cheek, he prayed for me! He prayed for me to have strength to continue to share the message of hope I had shared with him!!
What a blessing! Did I see God's presence in that place? Indeed I did! It moved my heart and encouraged me more than that man could ever know!!

 Do you want to become spiritually strong, spiritually disciplined? Practice recognizing the presence of God in your daily life. In your prayer time, in your study time, your worship time, yes, but also in God's creation, in life's circumstances, and in those who are in need.  

 In fact, the Psalmist let's us in on a little secret. For those who are looking, God's presence is everywhere…

7Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
Psalm 139:7 (NIV)

8If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Psalm 139:8 (NIV)

9If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
Psalm 139:9 (NIV)

10even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:10 (NIV)

11If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
Psalm 139:11 (NIV)

12even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:12 (NIV)

 Let's pray!!