Image: Port St Mary Beach Mission, Isle of Man, 2009 (crunklygill on Flickr)
Can you remember the significant moments, places and people when you encountered God? BUY THIS IS THAT
Jacob met with God as a heavenly ladder came to earth where he was sleeping. He built an altar there and called the place Bethel, the home of God. That’s in Genesis 28 and years later in chapter 35 he returns, builds another altar and has another powerful encounter with God even though it is at a time of life where there is sadness and grief for him.
I have just been away to a place where I have great memories of encounters with God. In fact, this is the only place I have consciously heard angels sing. It is so good to remember, deeply, the experiences that have been spiritually formative. As I was in this building, Ashburnham Place in Sussex, I kept thinking of other occasions of significance; of my feelings at the time, of the sense of the presence of Jesus. And that remembering enabled me to enter in to those experiences once again, to be filled with the same Holy Spirit, to be refreshed and to be re-called to serve God.
The previous week I was in another significant place, on the Isle of Man, where I first ever encountered Jesus as a 9 year old. As we looked up at the building where I had prayed (see pic - prob the last house on the right or maybe the one next to it out of frame), I told the person I was with how I ended up in a room, praying, and then feeling transformed and light-hearted. I then walked some of the significant paths associated with those first worshipful moments with God, and looked at the same scenery I had looked at through child’s eyes. I had returned many times as I grew up and had further encounters and altar building moments. One year, as a 19 year old, I sat on a bench and various 9 year old children came up to me saying they wanted to know Jesus, so I prayed with each of them.
It is fascinating how an experience can be embedded in a place and among some people. The same spirit that fills and transforms us also shapes and cleanses environments, places and even generations. Think of Jacob who met God powerfully when he was running away from his deception and lies, and then years later, in the same place, met God again and found a repeated and more deeply excavated call from God, which included a name change and a call to become a father of a nation and a company of nations.
This helps me see that callings don’t fade and die; encounters don’t have to just be memories of a faith-filled time. Although we change and our understanding of God and life changes, his word to us always carries life and it is possible to revisit our encounters - whether that is physically like I have been doing, or simply by remembrance. Either way, it stimulates faith and reignites passion. Words from heaven are heard again, re-imagined and freshly planted.
Building an alter is a about creating a place of worship and reverence. It is holy. It is a good thing to do as it connects heaven and earth like Jacob’s ladder at Bethel. Encounters with God are well worth revisiting.
Martin J Young