Preparing to Encounter God

by Richard Blackaby

Jeff Clubbs was home sick from his job as a Social Studies teacher when six people came to his door in Des Moines, Iowa. President Obama was coming to town the following Wednesday and wanted a home to host him. They chose the Clubbs’ house. Jeff and Sandy Clubbs are ordinary people. Jeff is a teacher and Sandy is a college athletic director. They have an 11-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. One hundred people could attend the event in the Clubbs’ backyard and the Clubbs were allowed to invite 80 of them. “My first thought was I wanted to have my kitchen redone” said Sandy. In preparation for the presidential visit, 30 additional phone lines were installed, security devices were stored in the basement, computers were set up in the upstairs office, video equipment was positioned in the kitchen, gas lines and overhead wires were mapped out, living room furniture was rearranged, metal crowd-control fences were erected, and a row of potted evergreen trees was strategically placed. Security checks were run the guests. The Clubbs’ daughter Skyelar taped a sign outside her bedroom door: “If you’re a girl or the Prez come in if not knock.”

One doesn’t merely pull another chair up to the kitchen table when the president stops by! How do you prepare to meet with God? When the Israelites were going to encounter God, He instructed Moses “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (Exodus 19:10-11). God later instructed Joshua: “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5).

Almighty God expects His people to prepare for their meetings with Him. Too often we simply flip open our Bibles and skim a few verses before dashing off to work, not even expecting our mechanical efforts to bring about a life-changing, profound divine encounter. We have a day set aside for worship but do we prepare for that encounter in any significant way? Weary from staying up to watch a late movie on Saturday night, we grumpily complain about the lack of parking as we arrive at church. Entering the auditorium we are bombarded with a cacophony of sounds as people excitedly rehearse yesterday’s football games, describe their recent hunting trip or catch up with their friends. When the worship service begins, we rush to find our seats, search for our wallet to find something to place in the offering, whisper to our spouse about where we’ll go to eat after the service, and try to find our Bible.

Too often people are walking away from their quiet time or worship service in exactly the same condition they entered it. Scripture warns: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). How much better to prepare our hearts in advance for an encounter with our Creator and Lord? How much more could we experience if we focused our thoughts, confessed our sins, and prepared the soil of our hearts to receive and respond to God’s word? (Matthew 13:8-9). If God matches the encounters we have with Him with the level of our preparation for them, what should we expect? Just as we would never enter a board meeting unprepared, it is an affront to God to think we can enter a time of worship completely distracted and yet experience a life-changing encounter.

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