Have you heard it said, “The worship leader ushers us into the presence of God?” Well if that’s true then the abundance or lack of God’s presence falls solely on the minister of music. Along with other crafty human phrases that are also false, like the above one, we are met with two very mysterious questions: What does the presence of God look like? And what system should I learn to encounter him every time, without fail?
What do Moses, the High Priest, and Jesus have in common? All three, and of course many more in the Bible, have had powerful, tangible and life changing experiences in the presence of God. The frustrating thing is there’s basically no literature of the details during their encounters. Why didn’t Moses bring with him a present day journal and write down how God sounded, what the tone of his voice was, what he did while talking to God, and what his posture was? Why didn’t the high priest write down steps 1, 2 and 3 of how to experience the day of atonement?
And lastly, why didn’t the disciples creep up on Jesus and write down how he talked to the Father? What did he say? Did he bring a guitar? A latte? A leather bound journal? We have small bits of information on these three stories, but we want more.
If I want to repeatedly make the best cup of coffee I will measure the beans before they are ground, raise the water to the perfect temperature and pour said water over the beans at the same rate every time. Why can’t the presence of God be quantized? I think the answer is that His presence is so unique and different that to explain it in details like a cup of coffee just wouldn’t make sense. His presence through history looks like fire, seas parting, smoke, a spirit/being walking through the walls of the upper room, a random stranger walking on the road, and a voice from within every believer’s heart.
My 9 year old son came downstairs one morning and interrupted my devotions, so I let him join me. I asked him what “Seeking God” meant. He replied, “it must be like Hide and Seek.” I then asked him what he does if he can’t find the person he’s looking for. He then said, “well, I would just yell, come out, I can’t find you.” What if the reason we can’t find God’s presence is because we are looking for it in the wrong places? What if God knows we are seeking him, but he has chosen for a season to not show up in the comfortable and predictable places? Now I know God the Spirit lives in us, but we all are still looking for his presence manifested in different ways as he has proven over history to show himself like that. What if the pastor’s sermon and the Sunday music has become the old Holy of Holies post resurrection where God no longer dwells? What if the daily devotional that has become stale has left you wondering where God’s all consuming, powerful and awe-inspiring presence is? Could it be that we have selected a few places in our lives where we expect him to show up if we do our part?
Join Him where He is
In the book Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, we learn that instead of trying to manufacture God’s presence, we should just join him where he is already working. The default “presence of God” looks like hands raised during singing and people feeling emotionally stirred by a Sunday morning experience. Why can’t the presence of God look like a husband looking at his wife and asking her for forgiveness? Why can’t the presence of God look like a lunch meeting where two people are sharing their life stories or what the Bible would call their testimonies? Why can’t the presence of God look like a mom and a dad being present and playing kickball in the backyard with their children? Why can’t the presence of God look like a quiet, no music, windows rolled up drive to work?
God is so much more than the small boxes we create and put him in. Can he work in the worship service? Absolutely. But, maybe we have lost the refreshing times of the presence of God because we are afraid to venture out into the wild where he calls us and/or we have become too comfortable with the tabernacle’s holy of holies. After all, it’s familiar. If we could build a system that could guarantee his presence, we would end up worshipping the system. Sounds like the problem we had before Christ came.
Josh Bramos is the Worship Leader at City Rev Church in Pembroke Pines. If you’re a worship leader interested in getting involved with Village Hymns, please email [email protected] or visit their website at villagehymns.com/get-involved.
For more on Village Hymns, visit goodnewsfl.org/uniting-the-church-in-worship/