We know so little of the presence of God.
We know so little of it, in fact, that I wonder if in our desperation for it we add things to all of our services and ideas that just give us the illusion of it - something else that feels fantastic - the best we have, but still short of God's undeniable power.
We've all been in services that absorbed us in the sounds of the band, the lights from the stage, the beauty of the production, still empty of that sense of God's pleasure.
Then, there have been those times when God was obvious and the production stuff was a dim shadow to his presence.
The same is true for a small, raw, intimate, worship gathering at a friend's house.
The modesty of an environment has little to do with the presence of God.
One reflection on the Passion Movement (which is near and dear to my heart): it's enormous now. It's absolutely HUGE, and NO ONE does production like they do. (Umm, there were LASERS in the Georgia Dome in January, just sayin'.)
Know what else was there? The undeniable presence of Jesus. You can even feel it on the new record.
Say what you want about Passion, but where they go, the presence of God goes with them.
In all the conversations about form, and style, and what's now, and next, what's traditional, what's "attractional," what's "missional"—man, if the presence of God is missing in any of it, it's bankrupt.
Human at the core, and inspirational at best—religion.
If God is there, the form just won't matter much. He is not hindered by form of any kind.
One thing hinders God, and one thing alone: faithlessness.
I remember once going to a worship/concert thing. The artist was not super well-known. We arrived late, probably 45 minutes into his set. I remember walking through the doors immediately knowing I was in God's presence. My first thought was, "Man, it's been SO LONG since I've felt this."
I've attended hundreds of similar meetings that were easily forgotten because they were powerless, empty of wonder and awe and faith and power. I've led quite a few of those meetings, by the way. That's bothersome to me, because God is ready to ride my faith right into town. I just wonder if he can find any to ride on. I grieve my own faithlessness. I want to be done with it.
Trying to describe the presence of God is like trying to describe the wind and where it comes from.
The night of the worship/concert thing there was a massive sense of wonder, accompanied by a strange peace. My body felt heavy and I started crying. I wasn't sad. I just felt known through and through and I felt no shame. It's funny how shame accompanies being known deeply and therefore keeps "being known" from happening. It was incredible to feel known and unconditionally loved all at once, and even more incredible to realize that's what it's like to be with God.
A few minutes of that goes a long way in a soul. All manner of stuff gets set straight.
I'm sad over how little of God's presence we tend to experience, in general, across the church.
Why don't we experience it more? A few possibilities:
* Many people have never experienced God's presence so they have no point of reference—therefore, no hunger for that blessing.
* Church leaders and congregations aren't praying and believing for it.
* It takes serious time and discipline in prayer to cultivate that kind of faith environment. It rarely just happens.
* We are enamored with stuff we have created in our own strength and are happy to enjoy that instead.
I'm growing more and more convinced that the presence of God is the thing every heart craves but rarely experiences.
We dodge this whole issue of God's powerful presence by saying God is everywhere all the time, so of course, we have his "presence."
To be direct: That's true, and let's stop hiding behind that. We all know there is more we aren't getting. In fact, we scratch our heads and wonder why we don't have what's described in Acts. Let's not theologize our lack of experience just because we don't know what else to do.
We can do something about this. We can pray for it, believe for it, and live into it.
Pentecost happened as people gathered in a house to wait on the presence of God because there was nothing else to do. God showed up via his Holy Spirit, empowered his church, and sent them into the world with the power of his presence.
This is what I'm going for these days. Especially in my house and on my street.
I want to worship at home more because I think this is a missional issue.
As a worship leader, being able to lead people into God's presence is a currency I have. It's a gift. I should spend it in a missional way.
Imagine me (better yet, imagine you), in a room, singing certain kinds of songs that beg God for his blessing on my/your neighbors and neighborhood.
I want to pray and cultivate the presence of God here at home because I believe that will be a blessing to our block, and the many people who come through our house any given week.
What do you think it would mean to my neighbors if they learned that I pray daily for their relationships and homes to be blessed; that I sing over their kids as well as my own?
Still, it won't be enough to just pray and worship. I'm going to serve my neighbors and throw great dinner parties with them as well. But my question, and I believe a crucial one, is, "How much better being present will be when we are together in the presence of God?"