Expect to Encounter

Have you ever heard the saying “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”?
Well, with respect to motivational posters everywhere, I would like to politely disagree. It is absolutely about the destination.
Let me tell you about a recent journey of ours, and perhaps you will understand where I’m coming from.
It may not have been the longest journey of my life, but it certainly felt like it, in fact, even making it onto the plane felt like the longest journey!

Our story starts in a nursing home in Christchurch, New Zealand, where my husband’s grandfather, who had been incapacitated for about 9 years in hospital, passed away peacefully. Following this, many discussions amongst the Australian branch of the family tree took place and eventually it was decided that we would make the trip to the funeral, which was in three days.

My husband is a travel agent (remember this fact for a later part of the story), so flights were booked quickly and we were all set.
Until the next day – 2 days out from leaving – when we realised that our daughter, three months old, did not have a passport.

There was no way I was ready to leave her behind. But no problem, we decided we could just get some photos done and take her birth certificate the passport office and they could rush through a priority one on compassionate grounds. No problem.

PROBLEM: that was when we realised her birth certificate had never arrived.

No problem, I could just reapply for a birth certificate through the “Service Tas Express Service” and they could send it straight to births, deaths and marriages that day. Excellent.
Until they told me “your daughter’s birth certificate will be ready on Monday.” Flight was Thursday, that comes before Monday!

It turns out that internal mail from the “Express Service” at ST in Hobart to BDM in Rosny takes 3 days (to make a 10 minute trip!). Eventually, I was able to convince an army of bureaucrats that I could speed this process up by simply driving the application there myself. We got the birth certificate that day.

So with 2 days to go, we have photos and the birth certificate and I rock up to the passport office with cautious optimism. However, I had forgotten we needed one of our passports in order to get one for Eleanor. I realised this with 45 minutes to go until the PP office closed.

Enter Katie Swift, hero of the hour, who braved our very large dog, broke into our house, rifled through our wardrobe and drove like the clappers with our passports to the city. She made it in time, so all good. Right?

Wrong. We needed someone to guarantee the photos and Eleanor’s details. I was back on the phone to beg one of Simon’s colleagues to leave work and come and verify that I wasn’t trying to steal a baby. Although why ANYONE would want to take a baby that wasn’t even theirs on a plane is beyond me!

Meanwhile my husband, remember what he does for a living again, informs me that we need to get the passport processed even faster, because he accidentally booked the flight out of the wrong airport!

So the application is in. The passport office is closed. We have done it. NO. The phone rings again, it’s Sandra from the PP office; apparently I have put the wrong date in a page of the form and I have to go back and fix it, she agreed to wait for me, bless you Sandra.

Finally, an hour after the PP office should be closed, Eleanor’s application was complete, but, Sandra informed me “there’s no guarantee it will be processed in time!”

Thanks for nothing, Sandra.

In fact, it was processed in time, and Eleanor’s passport was the fastest passport ever processed by the Hobart office. It was completed just under 2 hours before our flight was supposed to leave. Perfect.

Except for one thing: Eleanor’s passport was TOO NEW! When we arrived, we found that the passport had not yet been loaded into the national database of non-criminals. So we couldn’t check in. No problem, we were told, there must be a way to over-ride.
It became apparent as the flight we were supposed to be on was called, that if there was a way to over-ride, this employee had no idea what it was.

In the end, we checked in for the first leg and prayed that by the time we arrived for the international connection, the passport would be in the database!

Thankfully, it was. Finally, we were able to get on the plane. Eleanor celebrated by screaming all the way to Christchurch and pooping through her cloths twice.

I was pretty excited to touch down in Christchurch. Let me tell you, it was definitely about the destination.

Worship is a journey. Revelation is a destination. Your encounter with God is not over until there is change, breakthrough, transformation.

If you haven’t read it recently, check out Psalm 24. It’s a psalm of ascension: coming into the presence of God. The mountain of the Lord, Mt Zion, was the seat of the first temples, where the priests entered God’s presence on behalf of the people of Israel. The mountain is a Holy place, where David experiences God’s presence, much like Moses did when he climbed Mt Sinai to sit in God’s presence on behalf of the people.

He has made and sustains this incredible world; He has gathered those who seek Him and made a way for us to become His family. He is waiting, expecting an encounter with us! We need to be a church who expect to encounter God in the every day!

So, how do we live expecting to encounter?

Firstly, we need to take authority over the atmosphere.
David began this psalm with a declaration:
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”

When we expect to encounter God, we declare that over our lives as well. I remember when I babysat as a teenager, once the kids were in bed, the house, the TV, the snacks, were mine for the next few hours; I could spread my homework out, kick my shoes off, make mess, I didn’t expect the parents home for awhile. So in that time, it didn’t look like the house was theirs and everything in it! BUT, as the time approached when I expected them home, I would tidy up, I would put my stuff away, I would do the dishes, the house would look like it was theirs again. My expectation controlled the atmosphere.

Does your life declare that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it?” Are you waiting for Him to walk in at any moment? Are you ready for an encounter?What is controlling your atmosphere? Fear? Pride? Hurt? Or faith? Expectation?
If we want to live life encountering God, let’s take every opportunity to make faith declarations that we are His.

Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 “All authority under heaven and earth has been given to me; GO therefore and make disciples!”
He passes His authority onto us with the expectation that we will do something with it!

In my classroom I have the authority. I’ve been given the authority to be in charge, but it’s not automatic, trust me, I’ve seen enough out of control classrooms to know that!
If I don’t make it clear to the students that I’m in charge, I won’t be!

James 4:7 makes resisting the devil part and parcel of encountering God.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
Submit to God, Resist the devil, draw near to God.
The devil has no choice to recognise your authority, but only if you USE it.

When we expect to encounter God, we repent and receive from Him. In other words, let’s get wet! Repentance is not a one-time thing. At least for me, it’s an almost constant part of life! Repentance is how we become that one with clean hands and a pure heart, able to come into God’s presence.
The apostle Paul sums this up well in 1 Timothy 1
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, that He considered me faithful and appointed me to service. I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man; yet because I had acted in ignorance and unbelief, I was shown mercy. And the grace of our Lord overflowed to me, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. But for this very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His perfect patience, as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”

Jesus has poured out grace over all of us, but refusing to acknoweldege and deal with sin, which is what repentance is, not just saying sorry, is like having a permanent umbrella up in that downpour of grace.

Imagine standing in the rain with an umbrella, you can see the rain, it’s all around you, but you are unaffected; it can’t change you!
When we don’t repent, it doesn’t change the power or potency of God’s grace, He is still who He is, but we can’t be transformed by Him.

Let’s all get drenched in the outpouring of his grace! Let’s be brave and throw off everything that hinders and the sin which so easily entangles. (Hebrews 12)
Your encounter with God is not over until you are free from whatever is entangling you, so keep bringing it back to the cross, even if it is every day, because it’s not about the journey, it’s about the destination and our destination is total freedom.

Living with the expectation of encounters with God means being committed to seek His Face.
“They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.[b
We need a bit of effort and a bit of boldness to seek the face of God.” (PS24:5-6)

To put it simply, you don’t seek something if you already know where it is.

Everyone has mild superpowers, things that are a little bit magical about them. One of my very mild superpowers is knowing where everything in our house at any given time, which, given we have a 2 year old who likes to help put things away in weird places, is very impressive to my husband.
After Simon has searched the house fruitlessly for at least 3 minutes, he will usually admit defeat and ask me if I have seen some missing item (usually his phone, or a sippy cup for Jasper).
Usually, I don’t need to search, because I know where it is. It’s familiar.

We don’t seek the familiar.

Seeking the face of God means always going into unchartered territory. It means facing the unfamiliar all the time. We will spend an eternity discovering who God is! It can also be an uncomfortable experience, because God is a radiant light and radiant lights, have a habit of showing up flaws and imperfections.

John 1:5
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

Coming into the presence of God might make us feel exposed, because we cannot hide the dark parts of our life, but God’s heart is not to expose, but to heal those areas. His light overcomes the darkness, His perfect love drives out all fear.

In Exodus 34, we read that when Moses would come down from Mt. Sinai, which he would climb to represent the people in the presence of God, his face would visibly glow. When we seek the face of God, we need to be prepared that we will be transformed.

A life which expects to encounter God is an open life. There are always going to be barriers to encountering God. If it were easy, then the metaphor in the Bible would not be climbing a mountain!
“Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.” (PS24:7)

What are the barriers for you? Is it doubt – questions you can’t answer? Is it disappointment from past experiences? Is it fear of what people think? Is it comfort?

Revelation 3:20
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Jesus is knocking; it is always up to us to open the door if we want to encounter Him. He would not be on your doorstep is He wasn’t expecting an encounter with you!

Sometimes we need to open the same door again and again; four times in this psalm, David calls for the ancient gates to open up.
Ancient gates can be sticky, rusty even. The residue of hurt, disappointment, bitterness and wrong mindsets makes it a challenge for us to stay open for God, but Jesus will always be outside that door waiting for us to encounter him afresh.

If we are going to continually encounter God, we need to keep asking who He is. When the door knocks, the appropriate response is ‘who’s there?’ Twice in this psalm, David repeats the question “who is this King of Glory?” Normally in poetry, which is what the psalms are, a question is rhetorical, it doesn’t require an answer, but in this case, the question demands an answer.

In fact, it is one of the most important questions you will ever encounter. It is a question that will give your life purpose. It is a question I have devoted my whole life to answering:

Who is this King of Glory?
Who is Jesus Christ?

It’s the same questions the disciples asked on the boat when Jesus silenced the storm:
“Who is this man?”

Nothing is more important than know Him. The more you know Him, the more you understand how much he wants to draw near to you. Let’s be people who continually ask Who is Jesus Christ?
Let’s be people who continue to expect to encounter him.

– Jen Grubb


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