James 1:2-4 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
The Bible is filled with people encountering God and details of each experience designed to point men and women to the Cross. From Abraham to Moses to Saul who would become Paul, their stories are depicted so that ordinary people could follow the handprint of a Living God from Genesis to Revelation and all the days in between. We are living in such a time. Revelation is a warning of what is to come and the events of the Return of Jesus Christ. It is both exciting and startling all at the same time. But many people still do not read the Bible or find it relevant. In fact, I was talking about the Bible with our youngest child who informed me that she had been instructed never to bring her Bible to school during orientation as it would result in a referral. Fire burned within me as her right to worship is being violated. She is afraid to carry the Word of God with her that she might be punished. I assured her that if she brought her Bible to school and anyone questioned her on it, that mommy with all the primal fierceness of a she-bear protecting her cub would be there immediately to take care of the problem. Not only has God tried to reveal His Identity to others in the Word of God that is written, but He speaks to mankind every day. However, how many people really pray anymore or care what the Lord is whispering? Humanity chooses to live out loud and full blast to try to fill the empty void in need of completion. The only satisfaction that can provide peace and joy is Jesus Christ but nobody is looking for the Lord anymore. Even though we have taken our eyes and ears off God closing our minds to His Existence and ignoring His Sovereignty – my friend, God has not forgotten you. He is well aware of the trials and troubles that you are facing. The Lord knows all the horrors that the enemy is hurling against you. Each day God has planned a close encounter with you! He desires for you to discover His Character and all the blessings of His Faithfulness. He will even allow your weak faith and feeble trust to be tested in the rare chance that it might grow. God wants you to have confident hope that is found at the end of yourself. How far are you willing to go to have a close encounter with the Lord? What will you do when He finds you? Will you be ready or will it create conflict in your life? God has one purpose. He wants a full blown relationship with you! He wants to be your God, to love you and care for you as only a Father with the greatest of resources can. His Purpose is that your faith will be fully developed allowing you to experience firsthand perfection and completion with full contentment lacking no good thing! Are you ready for this kind of life? Well then get ready to encounter God!
Deuteronomy 11:1-2 (NLT)
“You must love the LORD your God and obey all his requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands. Keep in mind that I am not talking now to your children, who have never experienced the discipline of the LORD your God or seen his greatness and his strong hand and powerful arm.”
YOU must love the Lord YOUR God and obey all His Requirements. God encounters His People one-on-one and personally. You will never be expected to obey a law or decree of God that you do not know. However, once you are aware then you become accountable. I love that the Lord tells us that He is not talking to our children but to us directly. Those who have never experienced Him firsthand cannot be expected to know God in such a way. It requires a personal encounter. Personal revelation and repentance are only possible when one meets the Lord individually. However, religion has created a spirit of illegitimate adoption that makes many think if they will just do what the pastor, preacher or priest tells them to do and follow all the doctrinal rules, decrees and by-laws of the congregation that they will be saved. How many people can testify as Paul did that He was born into a religious family, underwent all the rituals of tradition, even became a member of the highest religious order – only to meet Jesus and realize it meant nothing at all. When a person has a “Word from the Lord” for me, then begins to recite the words of every preacher they know and follow – it is very difficult for me to follow. I have learned to encounter God. Each day, I just wait to hear His Words and study the truth. God has never left me waiting even when I am sorely offbeat in my attitude or invested in personal thought, when I just sit and ask Him to speak – the Lord always does. God wants to talk directly to you. He wants to reveal His Character and Love to you firsthand. You will never know God personally from other people’s experience. It should simply create curiosity and awareness that God is here. To really know God and have faith in the Lord requires a close encounter which is not always as we expect but never leaves us lacking. Thank you Jesus that we are not held responsible for the knowledge of previous generations but that the Lord allows us to encounter Him one-on-one.
Acts 22:6-10 (NLT)
“As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. “And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.’ The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me. “I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ “And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’“I was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by my companions.”
Please understand to encounter the Lord is not the end but only the beginning. Saul was carrying out orders from the leaders in the Temple when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. It was not an unfamiliar route but one that he had traveled many times. But today would be different – is this the day that you will have a close encounter with the Lord? I hope so. Everyone has a different expectation of when the Lord comes. Most of the time, we expect God to be Santa Claus bringing us everything we want no matter whether we have been naughty or nice. After all grace provided us access to God’s Goodness despite our deplorable condition, right? Wrong. Everyone will encounter the Lord in their lifetime. It is be design as God handwrote the days of your life. However, what happens after that determines whether your experience leads to everlasting life or eternal disappointment. The Light of His Love blinded Saul. He asked, “Who are you, lord?” The Power of God is undeniable and the Lordship of Jesus Christ inevitable in the life of everyone who encounters the Trinity. But the human mind is not raised to intimately know God, but rather with consciousness that makes us wonder. It is faith that builds a foundation to receive the knowledge of God and do something with it through the Blood of Christ. In the instance of encounter, it is immediately clear that we are not worthy of the One who loves us most and has pursued us for a lifetime. In that instant, all you can do is ask, “What can I do Lord?” Did you notice the change? Saul went from lord to Lord. A heart change occurred in Saul’s encounter with Jesus and he would never be the same. That did not mean that everything would be flowers and unicorns, but rather he would be forced to change direction based on an experience with the Living God. An encounter with God will do three things by definition – 1) it is usually be unexpected so be ready, 2) it will cause inner conflict between flesh and His New Residing Spirit, and 3) you will be faced with contention for the rest of your life as now by encounter you experience God and begin to follow Jesus Christ. Contention will be your struggle to remain in the Light despite the pursuit of darkness to reclaim your soul and return you to your past life. Saul became Paul tumbling from the top of religion to a face-to-face relationship with Jesus. He went from nobility and notoriety to poverty and persecution. He never was willing to give up one day of following Jesus to go back to his old life of comfort. An encounter with God will not allow you to go back. To experience His Amazing Love firsthand changes one’s who perspective on this life when compared on His Glory that is to come. Do not let religion rob you of a relationship. Do not let comfort keep you in complacency that will keep you from completion. From this moment forward, the Lord will guide you and His Spirit will lead you into His Will and Way for your life if you will just expect to encounter God.
Revelation 3:2-3 (NLT)
Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.
Perhaps, you encountered God but it was a long time ago. Maybe somehow you have lost your way. Time is of the essence. “Strengthen what little remains…” Could the Lord be referring to the weak faith that just barely keeps us in the race? Confident hope is dead in the church today or people would be giving the heart and life to Jesus daily not necessarily at the altar but in preparation of His Return, they would be giving their life away to other people to share the story of His Love. The requirement of God for all who have encountered Him is to “love the LORD your God and obey all his requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands.” A little over a year ago, I knew that our faith was not where it had been at one time and seemed to be withering. The Lord spoke to my heart to return where it began to grow again. I did that and now it flourishes once more. That does not mean that our life has not been without trials and troubles but at the end of each one, His Love, Glory and Grace is rediscovered and faith grows some more. Confident hope is revived that there is more to life than this and motivates our family to look for it and live for it. We must make confident hope the anchor of our soul and hold tightly to it. (Hebrews 6:19) Never letting go just so things will let up, your encounter with the Lord was so that you would be complete lacking nothing when He returns. Are you ready? If not, it is as easy as just turning around. The Lord never left you despite your intention to leave Him.
Revelation 16:15 (NLT)
“Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.”
There is an old expression “don’t be caught with your pants down.” I believe it applies here. Those who encounter God becoming intimately acquainted with the grace, mercy and love of Jesus Christ experiencing the prevailing presence of the Holy Spirit in everyday life will not be caught unaware and will be ready when Jesus comes back. “I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10) One encounter with God will change you forever. To meet Jesus Christ face-to-face will bring every Word of God to life. His Spirit will guide you through opposition to the glory that is intended just for you. You will experience peace, joy and contentment like never before. You will not be able to take your eyes off of the Lord in great anticipation and expectation of what He will do next. But you have to start somewhere…you must have a close encounter with the Lord. Salvation is only the beginning for if you do not put on the clothes of righteousness provided by repentance, you will find yourself right back where you began. Experience comes from obeying God’s Word, following Jesus and being led by His Spirit beginning with a close encounter!
Psalm 27:4-6 (NLT)
The one thing I ask of the LORD—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the LORD with music.