“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13 New King James Version)
This coming Sunday night (February 21) our church is holding a “God Encounter” service. I confess I stole the title “God Encounter”. I was privileged to attend an all day seminar by Southern Baptist Bible teacher Henry Blackaby several weeks ago. Henry and his wife mentioned that their son (who pastors a large church in Georgia) has very popular “God Encounter” services where people come to pray and REALLY meet with God in a special way, and that wonderful things happen in these services! I did a Google search for “God Encounter” and found that there are a number of churches and ministries now using that title.
I used to advertise services using terms such as “healing service” or “special service” and I have found that most people, be they Christian, non-Christian, or “whatever” just kind of yawn and have a “so what?” attitude about it.
I like the idea of a “God Encounter” service much better! Blackaby is controversial in Southern Baptist circles. In a lot of very “doctrinal” and “cerebral” mainline evangelical circles he has pressed for people to EXPERIENCE GOD. That revolutionary thought has freaked a lot of people out. But he’s right!
I know some people may think I’m crazy, but I’ve “experienced God” and I’ve had “God encounters”. There was the night in 1976, for instance, that I was gloriously baptized in the Holy Spirit and as the Scripture says, I “spoke in other tongues as the Spirit gave the utterance”. There was the morning in 2001 that my sister and I laid hands on our accountant right in his office and prayed for him. He was critically ill with bladder cancer. God miraculously healed that accountant. I just saw him for my tax appointment last Saturday and he’s still doing fine! There was the time in 1988 God spoke specific things to me in my spirit as I drove to Cape Cod for a vacation, telling me I’d buy a car on the trip. I thought that was nuts. But I “ran into” a car salesman friend of mine (totally unexpectedly) at the Sandwich Fish Hatchery, and the next day he sold me a great car I ended up driving for years. I can go on and on with these stories...
No, my life is NOT always that easy or simple. Sometimes God DOES seem to be a million miles away. Sometimes there have been very painful happenings in my life that did not make sense, such as my mother dying just 7 weeks after my father during the summer of 2000. It was a horrific, crazy time, but God saw me through. That’s also true of the sudden death of my brother in 1983 just a few weeks before my son (our first child) was born.
Our society is much too busy and much too technical and scientific. Sometimes we need to just STOP and seek the face of God and open ourselves up to the moving of the Holy Spirit.
I’m a compulsive planner. I like to kind of hyper-plan the services I lead. As I’ve been thinking and praying about the special “God Encounter” service to be held at our small church this coming Sunday night, I’m not sure what it will be like. It may be that God will give very little direction about it until I get there on Sunday night. Will it be a very LOUD and WILD type of service...or will it be a very quiet, reverent and still service? Will there be a lot of dramatic manifestations of the Holy Spirit, or will there be the still peaceful presence of God? Will obvious life changing things happen in the service...or will it be the kind of service where it seems like very little happened, but 6 months later people are still coming to you and saying, “God touched me that night”? I don’t know. But I do know that each of us who goes to First Assembly of God of Framingham this coming Sunday night, if there’s 10 or us, or 50 of us, or some number in-between, is going to have a “God Encounter” ...and it’s going to be a service we’ll remember.
If you’re anywhere within driving distance of downtown Framingham, please come and join us for the “God Encounter” service this coming Sunday night at 6:30. We’re located at 32 South Street (South and Taylor Sts.) right off Route 135 and almost directly behind the Chicken Bone Restaurant. Please check out our website at www.agframingham.org