Genesis 28:10-16 (ESV)
Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
This scripture outlines what church is, or at least is meant to be - the gate of Heaven.A place where people encounter God; where Heaven comes to Earth.
God’s plan for the Earth is His church.
The church isn’t perfect, and as a matter of fact it became imperfect the moment I joined! But God’s plan for the earth is His church. And the church isn’t just God’s people gathered, it’s God’s people scattered, and not in a bad sense of the word, but it is the church scattered across the earth, across this city, across the Northern Beaches of Sydney, spreading a message of faith, hope and love.
But it’s really verse 16 that gets me:
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”
The Lord is in the Church. He's here when we're in worship, when we're having conversations, when we're listening to the Word being preached.
James 4:8 (ESV) says that if we 'Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.'
We can experience God, and not just when we're in a church service, but every day of our lives. We can reach out and have relationship with the creator of the universe.
God sent his son Jesus to bridge that gap, between us and Him. Jesus made a way.
God is good. He is a good good father, and He has a plan for your life - a plan of good and not of evil, a plan to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 tells us).
But look at this, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I DID NOT KNOW IT.
I missed it. I tell you what, something fresh, something new is happening in all our locations across Sydney, but how sad would it be to miss it! That would have to be one of the saddest things; to be on the verge of breakthrough, on the verge of revival, and miss it.
It’s not that God is distant, it’s that we are not present.
It’s not that God is withholding himself, or keeping himself from us.
It’s not that God is ignoring us, or avoiding us.
Yes, we can go through seasons that may feel like that, but that is not truth.
It’s not that God is distant, it’s that we are not present.
Our hearts and minds are elsewhere; we are distracted. And in the day and age we live in, with technology, the Internet, and social media, how easy it is to get distracted. At the push of a button we have access to any information we want. You can go online and do your banking, grocery shopping. We can keep in touch, we can contact and communicate with people from anywhere in the world.
I recently took 3 weeks off from work and took the family to Fiji on a holiday. I purposely left my phone at home in the kitchen drawer. It’s been a busy season, and I wanted to make the most of our time away together.
I remember Ps Mark Kelsey saying, there’s no such thing as a balanced life, but wherever you are, whatever you’re doing; be present. The reality is, life can be busy, and there are some seasons that are busier than others, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, that’s life.
But wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, be present.
If you’re at home, be at home. If you’re at work, be at work. Don’t physically be in one place, but mentally or emotionally be somewhere else. And I understand that can be easier said than done. But I think we can get better at this.
It's easy to get distracted from Him. If it’s not your phone, it’s something else; that boy, that girl, that friendship.
A good question to ask yourself is; does that person build me up in Christ, or do they draw me away from Christ?
Don’t get me wrong, we need to be reaching this world, and to do that means to be in the world, but we’ve got to use wisdom in that. That doesn’t mean we compromise in our beliefs and values.
Some of us are spending too much time playing video and computer games.
Even in church life, even in ministry, we can get distracted and we can miss it.
Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
Martha and Mary
Now as they went on their way, Jesusentered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Martha was the one who welcomed Jesus into her home. Martha was the one doing all the organising, planning and prepping for dinner. What she was doing was not necessarily a bad thing, yet Jesus said there is only one thing that is necessary.
Martha had Jesus in her very home, yet she missed Him. She was distracted with all that needed to be done.
The answer here isn’t to stop serving - yes, sometimes we need to de-clutter our lives, but we’ve still got churches to build, people to reach, the kingdom to advance.
We’ve just got to understand that our relationship with Jesus is the most necessary thing. And I wonder if we would be more fruitful, more productive, more effective if we created more time in our day to day for Jesus. Mary was found sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Philippians 3:8 (NIV)
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.