"The Lord Is In This Place"           

Genesis 28:16


     The first and chief glory of any local church is the manifest presence of God. Without this, our preaching, our prayers, our hymns, our gifts, and our works are all vain. If our God meets with us, our meetings are truly fruitful. If he does not, they are empty rituals. When our Lord threatened the church at Ephesus with the removal of her candlestick, he was not referring to the destruction of her buildings, or even of the congregation. He was threatening the removal of his presence. No greater evil can be brought upon a congregation than for God to write Ichabod upon her and forsake her.

     The manifest presence of God is the work of God the Holy Spirit in the house of God. It is the fruit effectually brought forth by him from our prayers, hymns, readings, meditations, and preaching of the gospel, the salvation of sinners, the comfort, correction, and edifying of believers in the entirety of their beings. Many attempt to fake the manifestation of God's presence by clapping their hands, singing repetitious choruses, calling for audible responses from the audience, playing on the emotions of people, etc. The church service may be very active, full of entertainment, excitement, and emotion, yet not one soul will afterwards retain any serious, lasting impressions of grace.

     The manifest presence of God may be found where there is no show of religion or emotionalism. The worship may be very simple by design, the preaching bold, straightforward, and dogmatic, with nothing to impress, excite, or even attract the flesh, but God is there and the sons of Jacob know it. Wherever men and women meet in the name of Christ, trusting his blood and righteousness alone, seeking the will of God and the glory of God, waiting upon the almighty work of God the Holy Spirit, there God is! (Matt. 18:20). In that place, the very temple of God (I Cor. 3;16), God shows his glory in redemption, meets with sinners in mercy, and works his works of grace in the hearts of chosen sinners. The building may be modest and the congregation small, but that truly is the house of God!



Don Fortner