God Did Not Show Up

Back in my pastoring days, I was chatting with a member of the flock I was shepherding, when the woman with whom I was chatting said something that struck me, and has stuck with me for more than twenty years. She said, “You’re a wordcrafter.”

Wordcrafter is a term I’d not heard prior to her saying it, but I liked the sound of it, and the longer I pondered it, the more I believed she was correct. I have used it ever since.

Being a wordcrafter carries with it the inherent danger of one morphing into a “grammar cop,” and I constantly resist that urge. I love words, and relish precision in their use. I do not always hit the target with that, but I do enjoy the chase.

Language is important, because it is what we use to interact with one another, and to convey our ideas. It is through language, that we ensure we are understanding events and circumstances similarly and accurately. It is through the abuse of language that we twist meanings, escape prosecution, and avoid contractual obligations.

Language matters, and with that in mind, I want to challenge the Christ-following community to jettison a specific phrase – the phrase “God showed up.” I bristle and cringe when I hear an excited man or woman exclaim, “Wow! God really showed up this evening.”

I believe it is more in line with reality to say, “Wow, I really showed up this evening,” or perhaps, “I was genuinely ready to receive this evening,” when that may not normally be the case. Distractions and life-concerns get in the way, and they threaten to barricade us from any receptive posture, and from that experience we conclude what? God didn’t show up? What folly!

Typically, I hear the phrase used to describe a time when a worshiper had an especially heightened religious experience. The music was so moving, and the lighting enhanced that experience. Emotional energy flowed through the crowd, and in a moment of religious fervor they said it, “Wow! God really showed up.”

No. God did not show up.

You showed up. I showed up. The person sitting in front of us or behind us showed up. The keynote speaker showed up, as did the band, but God was always there. Our saying, “God showed up,” is more an indictment of our own spiritual blindness and inability to see the hand of God in our everyday lives than it is an acknowledgment of God’s willingness to arbitrarily gin up an exciting worship experience on our behalf.

I believe in the omnipresence of God, and I believe it to be a truth supported by scripture.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
– Psalm 139:7-10, NASB

David would never say, “Hey, Jonathan! God really showed up in my morning meditation.” No. David knows that he can never escape God’s presence, even if he wanted to do so.

David speaks of God with the understanding that there is no mountain so high but that God is not higher, and no valley so deep but that God is not deeper still. There is no place to which we can go but that God is not already there.

Yet we regularly speak of God as though he is someplace else, as though we need to go there to find him, or that he needs to be invited into where we are. The “God showed up” theology teaches us that our worship time is supposedly devoid of God’s presence and influence nine out of ten times, but on that one arbitrary Wednesday night, God really showed up, and we were lucky enough to have been there to experience it.

I have seen worshipers literally reach out from themselves and pull air toward their bodies as though this is going to draw the Holy Spirit into their experience. Such an action belies the reality that out bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Thus to engage in this “drawing in” is to invite the Holy Spirit into a place he already dwells, 24/7/365. It is an absurdity!

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? – 1 Corinthians 6:19, NASB

God is no more present with me at the Third Day concert, or the Billy Graham funeral, than he is as I sit here at my desk, typing this sentence. The only difference is that I may or may not be more aware of, or attuned to God’s presence and activity in my life during those times. This moment is as filled with God, and as holy as the moment I hold my wife’s hand during our walk to the library, or the moment I scrub the dishes in the kitchen sink.

As a Christ-follower, there is no time in which God is more “with me” than any other time.

Every moment of your life is holy, because you are holy, because Christ makes you holy. (Hebrews 10:10).

Let’s purge this phrase from our vocabulary, and honor God’s omnipresence as the reality of our lives.

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon

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Damon J. Gray

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  1. Julie on March 7, 2018 at 12:00 AM

    Amen! And yes, please! And while we are at it, can we please stop saying, “it’s a God thing” or “it’s a God moment”, which is just weird and frankly, condescending to God. It always reminds me of the old commercials for a Kodak moment – like we need to capture this thing on film because it might not ever come up again. Seriously? I feel the Holy Spirit all the time now. Sometimes it is just a gentle lifting of my heart at a kind word, or a sunrise, or a prayer answered, but when you truly walk with the Lord, it never leaves you. So, God is certainly not a “thing”. He has plans for us, and they are devised with great purpose and meaning and intent. We may not see it in the “moment” – but you know what, He doesn’t really need to capture anything in a moment, because He is all about bringing us to eternity. He is not a freeze-frame kind of Almighty. He already knows how it ends. We would do well to remember that. And as for those people grasping air in the middle of a church service like they could somehow lasso God and reel Him into their souls, don’t even get me started on that. This was a great post, Damon. And long overdue. Thanks for saying what I wish I would have said.

    • Damon J. Gray on March 7, 2018 at 12:00 AM

      Ha! There is a sense in which it was kind of ridiculous, but then if you just imagine what that slab of sticky whatever it is must have looked like going through the scanner, I guess he needed to examine it more closely.

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