Monday, October 26, 2020

Churches - Experience the "Is-ness" of God

(Linda, walking at Sterling State Park on Lake Erie in Monroe)

(I develop these ideas further in my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.) 

In Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Presence, theologian John Jefferson Davis calls 
for a return, in worship and in the people of God ("church"), for ongoing encounters with God. It's not about the preaching, or the musicians. It's not about the stage lighting, or the coffee. It's not about you or me.

Davis talks about the transcendent "heaviness" of God, and the comparative "lightness" of all material and human things. He writes: "To say that the God of the Bible is "heavy" is to draw an intentional contrast with the weightlessness of God in much of contemporary culture and church life." (Davis, Kindle Locations 481-482)

Davis refers to Exodus 3:14, where, when asked by Moses for his name, God replies, "I am that I am." Davis writes:

"My colleague Gary Parrett has remarked that in Ex 3:14 God is saying to Moses, in effect, "I am not who you may think I am, or who you may wish that I am; I am who I am, and you need to adjust your thinking accordingly."" (Davis, Kindle Locations 2572-2573)

Davis cites John Durham's commentary on Exodus.

"Durham states that "I AM WHO I AM" also connotes the sovereignty and freedom of God in his self-disclosure: "By revealing himself as `I AM WHO I AM' the Lord had in effect said, `Yes, I have committed myself to you to be actively present with you, but I am not at your unfettered disposal. My active presence is mine and mine alone to exercise as when and under what conditions I choose" (p. 70)." (In Ib., Kindle Locations 2574-2576)

You and I can dispose of any idea that we have power to control God, or control our relationship with God.

God cannot, and will not, be manufactured, marketed, hyped, billboarded, bought, sold, or controlled. God IS. "This "is-ness" has the sense of "active presence"; this divine presence and reality is not "a bare `is' but a living force, vital and personal." (Ib., Kindle Locations 510-511)

This is what is missing in the Second Temple Judaism Jesus encountered. This is what is needed for influence to activate in the Church.

In my book Praying I have a chapter "Prayer and the Nature of God," emphasizing how our ontological conception of God shapes how we pray.