If you are like me, you don’t always feel and experience the Lord’s presence. It takes work, and even then feeling Him is rare.
When I was unemployed in 2009 I spent 2-3 hours a day seeking the Lord in the morning at Starbucks, trying to discern Jesus’ will for my life. I would wake up between 8:00 and 9:00am, eat some breakfast and walk to Starbucks. On the way I would quiet my mind, pray a short prayer, “Lord, what do You want me to learn today?” and then I would listen for the 10-15 minutes it would take to walk to my destination.
When I would arrive at Bucks I would purchase a tall drip (“Komodo Dragon” is my favorite) and a grande cup of ice. I would fill the cup of ice with half-and-half and three packs of all natural sugar, then add the freshly brewed coffee (yum). Then I would open my Bible and start reading S-L-O-W-L-Y. I was intent on understanding every word, which requires concentration.
Have you ever read a whole chapter of the Bible and not even remembered one word?
I had to learn the discipline of concentration to understand everything I was reading. I also had to learn the discipline of practicing the presence of the Lord while reading, asking the Holy Spirit to teach me His will. I started in Genesis 1 and read every note in my NASB Ryrie Study Bible. I would spend two, three, four hours doing this every day (along with reading other good Christian literature on leadership, theology, or apologetics). Typically I would only get through two or three chapters in the Bible during this time, and a chapter or two from each book. But it was well worth it. The Lord filled my heart every day. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing or what the next step was for a job to feed my family, but I knew I was following the Lord, and He spoke.
As I would read the scriptures there was a theme that the Holy Spirit was pointing out to me every day, “To love Me is to obey Me!” Was this a literal audio voice? No, but it sure felt like it. I was becoming addicted to GOD.
This went on for 7 months, and it was spiritually some of the best 7 months of my life.
When the Lord called me to be Pastor at Grace Church Seattle these devotional times continued, but they were abbreviated. Instead of 2 or 3 hours a day, it was more like an hour on Mondays and 10-15 minutes each night before bed time.
I now look forward to Mondays; this is my date with GOD. I get the same kind of coffee and go through a similar exercise. But the personal connectedness is not like it was when I was unemployed. For 2009 and 2010 I experienced GOD intimately during these times, I literally felt His presence. I would come back from Bucks and be overflowing with knowledge and wisdom from Scripture and the refreshment of the Lord’s purifying work in my heart. It was awesome!!! For 2011-2014, these times of refreshment have not been as frequent. But this past week, when I was in my study searching the Scriptures for what to preach on Sunday, I felt the bold presence of the Lord. As I was reading Daniel 7 and Zechariah 8-14 the heaviness of the Lord, His holiness was intense. At one point it was so overwhelming that I was literally floored under my desk.
Friends, GOD is real! He is Sovereign! He is powerful! He is almighty! He is to be revered!
I feel convicted that in leading a church there needs to be less of me, and more of GOD. Wouldn’t it be great if we all sought to prepare ourselves to come into the presence of the Lord on Sundays, to recognize that He is always with us and to lend our hearts fully to the Lord, seeking to sense He is with us?
This will be our focus during worship on Sundays for the fall: practicing the presence of the Lord in our corporate worship service.
I want to share with you this Sunday what I experienced, and do whatever I can as pastor to lead us as a congregation into His presence. Do you desire this too? I long to worship with you this Sunday, and if you are in a different state or country, know that we are with each other in spirit even if we are absent from each other in body.
May the Lord richly bless you this Sunday.