Recently, I was asked to speak to the wives during a breakout session at a pastor’s retreat. The theme of the weekend was ‘Come Away.’ The idea being that we need to come away from the demands of life and ministry to grow in intimacy with God.
As always, as I speak to a group, I get very nervous. I do not enjoy being front and centre; I am more of a background kind of girl. I am not an experienced speaker, and it takes me out of my comfort zone. Thankfully, God is in the habit of using weak vessels. (more about that here and here.)
I regularly remind the ladies in our Bible study group, that I’m not a theologian, nor a bible teacher, we are all just learning together, sharing the things the Lord is showing us on this journey called life. Admittedly, I’ve given the Lord lots of material to work with! Sometimes I’m a better student than others. I always think there is someone who has it all together who should be doing this…That perhaps I’m just a hypocrite when I share my thoughts—after all, I fail Him more often than I’d care to admit.
As I prayed and considered the topic of ‘Come Away’, God, as He is so apt to do, used the everyday stuff in my life: reading, bible studies, and such to speak to me about this topic. (I frequently say I’m a painfully slow learner…sometimes He’s just gotta knock me over the head repeatedly to get His message across.) These events presented several key words and phrases that I associated with ‘coming away’: abide, dwell, revive, refuge, fellowship, among others.
Our Tuesday Bible studies were spent in 1 John. I noticed there were these phrases:
- ‘fellowship with Him’
- ‘abide in Him’
- ‘the Spirit abiding in me’
I am to be like Him, walk in obedience, righteousness and love. I am only able to do this because He lives in me.
In our Ladies’ Bible study, “Pure Joy” we looked at several different passages, including John 15:
- ‘Abide in Me and I in you…abide in My love that My joy may remain in you.’
There’s that word abide again. Stay where you are. I must stay in intimate fellowship. There are a few aspects associated with abiding in the vine. I am to be connected to Jesus, in intimate fellowship. This is a mutual existence. Yet, I am to be dependent on Jesus. My position is in Christ. He is the source of transforming power, of strength and cleansing. Finally, I am to remain in Jesus. Stay where I am, rest in Him, make my relationship with Him a priority.
In my morning devotions with the kids we were studying 1 Peter. Here we were exhorted to:
- ‘sanctify the Lord God in [our] heart[s]’
I am to consecrate my life to Him, bless Him, devote myself wholeheartedly to Him, be holy and obedient. I am also to ‘gird up the loins of [my] mind’ that I might be unencumbered by the distractions of the world, poised to do the work He has for me, to give an answer.
In the chronological plan I’m following, I spent some time in Hosea 6:
- ‘return to Him, He will revive us’
- ‘pursue knowledge of Him, He will come to us’
Hosea makes an appeal to Israel to sincerely repent, not a superficial act, but genuine. Do I come to Him with sincerity and a desire to make Him my first love? Pursue Him. I have responsibility in this fellowship.
Somewhere along the way, I read Psalm 84:
- ‘how lovely is your tabernacle?’
- ‘my soul longs for your courts’
- ‘blessed are those who dwell in your house’
- ‘a day in your courts is better than a thousand’
In this psalm, the exiled Jews longed to be back in Jerusalem. It struck me as I read it, that this should be the state of my heart. Do I long to be in the Lord’s presence? Here as well as in eternity? Is He my home?
Life in ministry–whether as part of a full-time ministry team, or my personal ministry as a Christian aspiring to devote myself to His service–places demands on lives that are often already packed full. As I discovered in the previous passages, it is vital for me to be in His presence.
I love the life jar illustration. If I begin filling my life jar with the less significant, albeit often necessary things of life (like leisure activities, dusting, laundry, etc.), then with the important things (like family, friends, church, work, etc.) there is little room or time for God. However, if I begin with God, add in the important things, and finally throw in the rest of life, there is room for all. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
We understand that even those mundane things can be an act of worship; we are called to do everything ‘heartily, as to the Lord.’ (Colossians 3:23). However, there is something to be said for time set apart for Him.
In come away ~ part two we will consider how the demands of life can interfere with intimacy with God.