Looking out on the rolling fields of Ohio from our retreat setting is so exuberating. It’s peaceful here in Amish country as Lucy and I meet with 8 other believers to pray, to wait on God, and to seek a Word from Him. The center is warm and cozy, the gorgeous views from this hill are constant reminders of our Creator God, and our fellow seekers are encouragers in our search to hear from God. Though we love the whole atmosphere here, none of it meets the deeper needs of our heart – we need an encounter with God! We have the certainty that God will choose to meet our cry for Him.
Those living around 4 BC in Palestine were in need of a rendezvous with God. At one time their ancestors waited with excitement for an encounter with God – for the coming of the Messiah. But as years turned into decades and then into centuries – that hope had diminished until hardly anyone was waiting for God to show up. And servitude life under Roman rule was no refreshing get-away like Lucy and I are enjoying right now. In fact they not only were unready for God to come they doubted His existence – or at least His concern for their plight.
I think also of Jesus’ twelve disciples much later on. They had spent 3 wonderful years with Him [close fellowship] – spent 3 exciting years watching Him in ministry [oh the miracles, oh the lessons received, and oh the love experienced] – and spent 3 years learning to do ministry with Him [performing miracles, confronting demons, helping people]. Then Jesus tells them that He is leaving – which He followed up with His voluntary death on the cross. They were devastated. Yet Jesus rises from the dead, spends intermittent time with them over the next 40 days, and then informs them a second time that He is leaving – this time via ascension. And once more their lives take a roller coaster tumble straight down. Oh how they needed a new encounter with God.
Are you aware of that need in your own life? Are you crying out for a fresh encounter with God? It is what has drawn Lucy and I to retreat from our ministry in the China Grove area – to pursue a quiet place where we can meet with the Lover of our souls – to seek intimacy with Him. In fact we’ve come by His personal invitation – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest [Matthew 11:28]. That same invite is to you as well.
God showed up in 4 BC to have an encounter with His people – to meet their greatest need – and hardly anyone took notice. They just missed Him – right there – but missed Jesus. They were the reason He came to earth [Christmas], yet they could say with Jacob, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it” [Genesis 28:16]. They missed the only One who mattered.
Some thirty three years later a group of believers, gathered together in the upper room, met God in an awesome fashion. On the Day of Pentecost their encounter with God the Holy Spirit changed their lives forever.
God showed up in both instances. Why did one set of people [those in the upper room] encounter Him and those living when He was born did not? What made the difference? Let’s think about it this way. Do you remember, as a child, playing “I Spy”? You know someone would say “I spy something green” and then it would be up to you to keep naming green things within sight until someone guessed the right item spied. Or maybe you have seen the “I Spy” books where you are given a picture and asked to find certain items [ram’s head, six butterflies, a swan, a hatchet, etc.] Our retreat center had a half a dozen of those books and all ten of us were gathered around a couple of them looking to see if we could spy all the items. It required total concentration and effort. Those in the upper room were playing “I Spy” – their one desire – their full attention and effort was to wait until God showed up – they were anticipating saying “I spy God!!!!” And because they sought God – because they cried out for Him – because they waited for the Lord – they didn’t miss Him when He came.
When was the last time you encountered God? When was the last time you intimately met with Him and can say “I’ve never been the same since”? If it’s been too long, don’t you think it’s time to pull aside – to seek intimacy with the Lord – to wait on and cry out to Him for a fresh Word. God is constantly showing up and most of us are not aware of it – we don’t spy Him – we miss out on a transforming encounter with Almighty God.
Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior – Brother Steve