I was tired – physically, emotionally – honestly, I didn’t even want to keep the lunch meeting with Pastor Dale. But, I respect him a lot and knew it would be good to talk to someone with over forty years of ministry experience. He chose Panera Bread by the USF campus. It was packed with college students. We finally get a booth and dove into our sandwiches and conversation. He asks me, “How are you doing spiritually?” I sighed and said, “Honestly Pastor Dale, I am tired. My devotion time is not good. It seems like every time I pray, it hits a brass ceiling and I don’t feel anything.” Pastor Dale, gave a little smile, saying the following…“Do you mean to tell me (pause) that you are not feeling God’s love! (pause) That you don’t know what it is like to feel him pull you close, (pause) invite you to sit on His lap, (pause) take you in His arms, (double pause with a smile) and feel the love of your heavenly father!” Notice the exclamation points – what started as a statement turned into an exuberant shout, with arms waving and Pastor Dale coming out of his seat – all to the stares of the college kids in the restaurant. I am pulling on his arm saying “Sit down” and he is smiling really big and says, “that is what you need and here is how you can get it.” It was out of that conversation that I developed the strategy of choosing one of four ways to encounter God on a daily basis – The Word, prayer, worship or solitude. We both laugh about that day and he still gets a sly grin on his face when I tell it.
Do you spend time with God? Let me go right to the top and give you an example.
Luke 4:42 – 44 NLT “Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.
My Thursday morning men’s group is going through Luke and we talked about these three verses for a half an hour. We talked about why Jesus would do this (recharge, get fresh direction, spend time with God, get away from the distractions, prepare for the next step, etc). At the very end of the discussion, the question was asked, “Would you agree that it was a good thing for Jesus to do this?” All the men nodded and agreed, “Yes,” it was a good thing. Then the “bam” question, “Then why don’t you do this on a regular basis.” We all agreed that for all the same reasons that it was good for Jesus to get away and spend time with God, it is good for us to do the same. How about you – do you need this? Look what Jesus said when he was found – “I must go preach…” You are called to preach and minister God’s love every day. You might not have a pulpit, a microphone or a bible in front of you. You are going into a world that only you can reach with the message of Jesus Christ. No one can go in your shoes and live a life like you can that will personify the heart that Christ has for the people in your job, school, social groups, and relationships.
So here is where it gets tricky. Sometimes, our devotion time is vibrant and we are drawn into God’s presence. Other times, we leave that time frustrated because God seems so far away. The end result is a forgotten quiet time or we just do it so we can “check the box” saying we completed it. We begin to rely on our past victories and stories instead of allowing God to give us new insights and truths that we can apply today. (Yes, even ministers can do this.) I just got back from a vacation at New Smyrna Beach. The undertow there is fierce some days. You can feel yourself being dragged down the shoreline. Either you give up and let it move you down the beach or you expend a lot of energy just to stay in one place. Ministry out of the past is like that. You want to grow in your relationship with God but instead you feel like you are caught in a spiritual undertow. You are dragging through your time with the Lord. Eventually, it gets so tiring, you just give up.
You don’t want to live in the undertow of the past – it is time to get back to the overflow of the present.
Final thought…and it came to me out my devotional time six days ago. I was reading and this scripture stood out to me:
I Corinthians 2:9 NLT “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.'” I have read it so many times and this time, it fired me up. I started thinking about what it would look like if God “blew my mind” more than I could imagine. Like you, I can imagine a lot. Between services that morning, I was with a group praying for a friend who is battling cancer (again.) The faith of the group was high and I felt like I should pray that scripture over him. As he moves forward, I have that scripture in my car and when I see it , I remember to pray for him. I ended up putting that scripture in my staff devotion this week. And I asked this question – “What would it look like if God blew you mind more than you could imagine in _______?” (You fill in the blank). I think this question takes us back to the personal relationship with Christ. I don’t want to God to blow my mind with things, achievements or accolades. I want him to blow my mind with things that are intimate to my heart. People, relationship and situations that when God does it, it will mean way more than what was accomplished. It will draw me another step closer to Him. Just pondering this scripture over the last week has grown my faith and built my expectation in an amazing God. God is BIG. This weeklong journey started with a simple reading of God’s Word. That’s the difference of consistent time with God. There will be “down times” and up times. Yet, the consistency draws me into Him and He will show up.
When is the last time God blew your mind…could it be today?