Sensing The Lord In Unsuspected Places
When and where do you most often ‘feel’ or ‘sense’ or are ‘made aware’ of the Lord God’s presence? Is it when you are standing on the peak of one of the majestic mountains in the Smokies?
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How about while standing in the trickling water of Virgin River looking straight up at the massive walls surrounding you at Zion National Park? Or did you sense the Lord when you sat alone on the warm sand of Cocoa Beach as the waves crashed in front of you? Or maybe while you are singing a heartfelt hymn during a worship service? How about while floating silently twenty-five hundred feet over the desert outside Albuquerque in a hot air balloon? Maybe you witnessed a successful heart transplant and you were spiritually amazed at this medical miracle! You just have to sense the Spirit of the Lord with you as you hold a newborn baby in your arms, right?
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Or how about when you quietly enter into an empty, ancient and magnificently ornate cathedral in Germany? Do you sense the holiness and transcendence of the Lord at that time, or during any other spiritual encounters you’ve had with the Lord. I would think that all those who have come to faith in Christ can maybe agree that we all experience or sense or ‘feel’ the Lord in different ways and at different times.
I’ve noticed as of late – although these sorts of posts are always popular on Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media – people posting beautiful and serene images of their recent trip to the mountains, or the beach, or on a riverboat trip through Venezuela, or a photo of the starry sky above them on perfectly clear night, far from the city lights – and the person posting the image would comment on how they really sensed the ‘presence of the Lord’ in that special place, and at that special time.
I became even more aware of this yesterday when one of my former youth group students – now police officer for the City of Tampa – Dan Wilson (who is the younger brother of Grace’s Kimberly Johnson) posted a couple of short videos of himself skiing at a resort in Crested Butte, Colorado.
image credit: flickr
He had an ever-popular Go-Pro attached to his helmet so he recorded a couple of amazing runs down the slopes. I’ve never skied, so this was the closest I’ve come to the experience, and it was breathtaking! Not just because of the virtual experience of skiing down the mountain, but also because of the gorgeous blue sky, the sheets of white snow, stately evergreen trees, and the awe-inspiring snow-covered mountains in the background. And after viewing the two videos I couldn’t help but say, “Boy, Dan and his family are certainly out there in God’s Country. They must surely be sensing the Lord’s presence out there!” And that’s when it hit me…..
Now, I know that our Christian ‘religion’ is based on ‘faith’ (“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1), rather than based on what we do or don’t see. Some skeptics think that our faith in biblical/spiritual things is a ‘blind faith’, which is a faith or a trusting in something that you have absolutely no trustworthy evidence to sustain or maintain that hope. When Indiana Jones stepped out into the nothingness of the deep and wide chasm that separated him from the grotto that contained the Holy Grail, that was pure ‘blind faith’. He had nothing but a scribbled and cryptic handwritten note from his father’s notebook to base this suicidal ‘step of faith’.
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There was no ‘evidence’ that he could magically walk across nothing. But (spoiler alert!) in his case, it worked. But that’s not real faith.
Because Romans 1:18-25 (A must read!!) says that all mankind suppresses – buries/denies – the truth of God’s existence because He is holy and we are not (The Truth hurts!!), man is incapable of ‘finding God/Jesus for himself’ by pure reason or feeling. This is because our “reason” and “feelings” are so tainted by innate sin, that there is no desire to think ‘rationally’ about the biblical Lord God Almighty, nor is there any reason or ability to ‘feel’ God’s presence, since suppressing the Truth of who He really is, only forces us further and further away from who He really is. BUT, once the Lord – only by His grace and Spirit – opens the eyes of a spiritually dead sinner and brings His life into them, will the Word of God and the truth of their now new saving faith begin to become rational, logical, mysterious, experiential, and that faith will ultimately be based on the truth of God’s Word, and the assurance given by the Spirit in our hearts, and not just on a so-called spiritual experience.
Oh sure, there’s still a lot of ‘faith’ – believing or trusting our life in what we haven’t actually seen as of yet – but His Spirit within us gradually begins to reveal to us via answered prayers, His providence, His people, circumstances, and of course, through the inward voice of the Spirit and mostly through His Word – that our God and His Word are absolutely true! Unbelievers and skeptics may still laugh and mock and doubt our ‘testimony’, but that shouldn’t surprise us. How can they believe, trust and accept this mysterious but logical/rational way of salvation if they are still spiritually dead in their sin? It only comes by grace. And guess what? If and when they do come to faith, they will be the first ones to say to you, “NOW, I get it!” But let’s get back to ‘spiritual experiences to sense the Lord God’.
Experiences are fine – occasionally! But experiences change – they come and go – and because of the weakness of our flesh, experiences can be tainted by so many non-spiritual/biblical reasons. But God’s Word remains constant and true. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away”. And speaking of Jesus Christ, He never changes either. We read in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Which brings me to the point of this little and elementary message. Indeed it seems ‘easier’ to ‘sense the Lord’s presence’ in those tender, uplifting, and loving moments of life; and also at those times when we see the beauty of God’s creation. As a matter of fact, here’s what Psalm 19:1-4a says about ‘seeing or hearing the Lord in creation’:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
And this is exactly what the Romans 1:18-25 reference I mentioned earlier is talking about. God’s holiness and other divine attributes are spiritually seen from His creation, but the spiritual dead or rebellious spirit of mankind suppresses that reality. The creation screams, “He is indeed the Lord God of all creation, and He deserves to be worshipped!” but the spiritually dead spirits of unbelievers are distressed with those words. No one likes to admit that they are wrong, inadequate, and incapable of saving themselves. So, just as a person covers their eyes when they leave a dark building and walk out into the bright sunshine, the unbeliever covers or buries the reality of God’s existence, and invents a god that is far less holy (PLEASE read Romans 1:18-25!!)
Back to my original point…again! Yes, the Lord can be very, very special in those beautiful places of creation and in emotionally moving situations, BUT if the Lord is omnipresent (everywhere all the time), and if He also dwells in the transformed heart of a believer, then the Lord is also very present (and believe it or not, sometimes even more so!) in those places where you’d least ‘expect’ Him.
I’m a sensitive and emotional guy, but I’m also rational enough to not get too caught up in esoteric religious experiences. I don’t deny them – I just know that I don’t have to depend on them to validate my salvation and the presence of the Lord.
I have sincerely sensed the spiritual presence of the Lord (and I’m not talking about some gooey emotional experience or one in which I saw the Lord, heard His voice, or joined in with a choir of angels, but one experience or received by faith in my heart) while sitting on the dirt floor of a poor Christian family’s thatch shack in the mountains of El Salvador.
There were no stained glass windows to gaze at; no deeply resonating strains of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from “Handel’s ‘Messiah” were being sung; no tranquil waters babbling over rocks in a hidden river in a secluded forest in the Alaskan wilderness; and the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham was not with us preaching. Just a handful of Christ followers, who didn’t even understand the same language, yet still spending some joyful time reflecting on God’s grace towards us.
One of the most gut-wrenchingly sad experiences of my life was also one of the most spiritual and deeply moving encounters with the Lord (And again, no heavenly bells and whistles) and it occurred within the first month or two of starting Grace Christian Fellowship twenty-one years ago. I stood in the emergency room of Bayfront Center, St. Petersburg, holding on to a weeping mother, as we stood next to the bed that held her now dead ten year old son, who an hour before was accidentally shot in the head by a friend with a gun that belong to the friend’s father.
We were NOT singing the praises of our Great God, King and Savior, but rather we were just holding each other and crying, as I tried to whisper a prayer of comfort into the mom’s ear, and that was when the peace of God, which passes all understanding, enveloped us in a very unique, special, comforting and loving manner (Philippians 4:7). The mom’s grief wasn’t immediately wiped away – not by a long shot – but the Lord was lovingly there, and we both knew it.
So, are you looking for the next big thing to come down the hyper-spiritual pike? Are you climbing the highest mountain in North America to ‘get to the Lord’? Are you aimlessly wandering in search for that perfect God place?
Hey, by all means, acknowledge, honor, praise and worship our Lord God when you find yourself in one of those ‘special places and situations’, but let’s not forget that if you know Christ – if you are depending on the work of Christ upon the cross to satisfy the justice of the Father on your behalf – then the Lord is with you in the grocery store; at a Rays game (whether they are winning or losing!); at a funeral of a friend, when you’re changing that flat tire late at night in the rain, when you’re in the putrid smelling village in the garbage dump; and when you’re picking up the vast horde of toys your kids have once again spread through the entire house.
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We just have to take a good deep breathe, acknowledge by faith that your Savior is with you, and enjoy the conversation, quiet privacy of the moment, or the joy of the Lord that settles upon in His children when they worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. He’s a Father, a Savior, and a Friend who desires for you to rest in Him while enjoying His forever presence.