Encounters with the Lord

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Acts 9:1-6

Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians when he had a life-changing encounter with the Lord. Jesus showed up in such a powerful way that it knocked Saul to the ground and blinded him. This was the beginning of the Pharisee Saul becoming the apostle Paul.

Encounters with the Lord change us. But not all encounters are like the one Saul had. Throughout the Bible we see people having encounters with the Lord in different ways. And in the New Testament church, because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, those encounters only increased in variety.

What follows is a list of a variety of different encounters that are available to us. This list is not exhaustive but instead representative of the variety of ways Jesus encounters us through the Spirit. There are as many kinds of encounters as there are characteristics of Christ.

1. Mercy Encounter: most Christians have had this kind of encounter with the Lord. This is when the Lord reveals our sin and our unworthy state as we stand vulnerable before the Lord and He pours out his forgiveness upon us. As His grace and mercy envelop us, we feel free from the guilt and shame of our sin. We feel washed clean and made right with the Lord. Tears often accompany this encounter.

2. Truth Encounter: this is when we have been shackled by a lie (or lies) and we didn’t even know it. The Lord reveals a powerful truth to us through scripture, through prayer, through a sermon, or through a friend. That truth rocks us to the core and breaks the chains of the lie we had been believing. Jesus is the Truth as He comes with a fresh perspective and sets us free. An “ah ha” feeling, a feeling of new revelation and new perspective, often accompanies this kind of encounter.

3. Love Encounter: this is when the Love of the Father gets poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We may have felt unaccepted or unloved until this moment. When God’s love pours out on us we feel totally accepted and cherished as a child of God. Performance mentality is broken off of us. We finally accept that we don’t have to earn God’s love. We just bask in it. More than tears, weeping often accompanies this kind of encounter. Others have felt what they can only describe as liquid love pouring onto them.

4. Power Encounter: this is when the power of God shoots through someone’s body like electricity. These encounters most often happen during prayers of impartation, prayers for healing, and prayers for deliverance. The power of God surges through someone physically and they have physical reactions to it. They often tremble, shake, fall to the ground, have muscle contractions, and sometimes experience pain. It makes sense that our frail human bodies would have a hard time handling the power of our omnipotent God. Sometimes, especially if this kind of encounter is new to someone, it is a little frightening because a person can lose control of their bodies for a moment.

5. Peace Encounter: this is when the peace of Christ comes and blankets us. We suddenly go from a mind filled with anxiety, fear, worry, and grief to a complete calm. All the anxiety, fear, and worry leave. We feel totally at peace. Our problems that seemed so huge before melt away. The problem doesn’t change but we see it differently now. We are confident in God’s ability to work in any situation. We are not worrying about the future nor trapped in the past. When the peace of Christ blankets us, we are completely present in the moment. A sense of total calm mixed with unconditional hope often accompanies this kind of encounter.

6. Joy Encounter: this is when the explainable joy of the Lord fills our hearts. This is not joy based on people around us or our circumstances. This is an outpouring of joy from the heart of God. Sometimes there is a feeling that a person is so filled with the Spirit that they feel intoxicated or high. The heaviness of life, despair, depression, and hopelessness immediately evaporate as they are overwhelmed by the joy of the Lord. This joy encounter can be momentary (just a few hours) or it can last days. People often experience uncontrollable laughter even when nothing around them is funny.

7. Fire Encounter: this is when the fire of God comes upon a person. This is a kind of power encounter. The person feels heat all over their body or in one particular part of their body. It gets so hot that the person often sweats profusely though no one around them is warm. This can be localized if someone is praying for healing for a particular part of the body, or it can be felt all over if the Presence of God is all over a person.

8. Vision/Dream Encounter: this is a revelatory encounter where God gives a person an open vision. An internal vision is when God gives us a picture or a scene in our mind’s eye. That is a much more common experience than an open vision. An open vision is when a person is stopped in their tracks by seeing a spiritual vision externally with their physical eyes. We see this kind of encounter many times in the New Testament. Those with prophetic gifts will have more of these kinds of encounters. This kind of encounter can also happen while we are sleeping if Jesus comes to speak to us in our dreams.

9. Angelic Encounter: this is when a person sees with their physical eyes an angel near them. Often the angel has been sent to do something or say something to them. The angel is never worshipped as they are simply servants in the Kingdom of God. But the experience of seeing an angel can shake a person and cause a level of holy fear. The angel often has just been in God’s Presence and, like an aroma or a kind of radiation, the residue of God’s Presence can be felt on them.

10. Fear of the Lord Encounter: this is when a person encounters God’s Presence and God reveals to them just how close He was to them. When that revelation hits, the awesome fear of the Lord falls upon them. The awareness of just how awesome, powerful, holy, and glorious the Lord is hits a person all at once and it’s terrifying. Holy fear envelops them. Shaking, weeping, and repentance often accompanies this kind of encounter.

I know all of these encounters are real and available to us as followers of Jesus because I’ve had most of them. Though I’ve never had an open vision, I have had inner visions and I’ve had good friends who’ve experienced open visions. Though I’ve never had an angelic encounter, I have good friends and loved ones who have. All the rest of these I’ve experienced firsthand. And this is only a list of 10. There are so many attributes of God and encounters with Him that await those who pursue Him.

We don’t pursue the encounter, we pursue Jesus. We go after Him with everything we are and He meets us where we are with a unique encounter just for us. Encountering Jesus through the Spirit is life-changing. Every time we have an experience with Him we are changed by it. We get a taste of His nature and His character and we want more. And as we get to know Him, we want to be just like Him.

Fear of the Lord

That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians… And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Exodus 14:30-31

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the people of the world revere him…

No king is saved by the size of his army;
    no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
    despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

Psalm 33:8, 16-18

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

I believe the Lord is inviting the church back to the fear of the Lord. We must know how loved and cherished we are by our Father in heaven. We must know that we are a son or daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We must understand our inheritance in the Kingdom of God. And knowing all of this will inevitably lead to the fear of the Lord, an encounter with His holiness.

What is the fear of the Lord?

1. It is absolute surrender. It’s saying “Yes” to God before we even fully understand His command.

2. It is freedom from the fear of man. It’s no longer being bound by people pleasing. It’s seeking God’s approval above all others.

3. It is humility. It’s owning the fact that He is God and we are not. It’s living out the reality that we are not equal with God. (Philippians 2:5-8) He gets to call the shots. We are following Jesus not the other way around.

4. It is waiting on the Lord. It’s knowing that going forward without Him is pointless.

5. It is going boldly when we are sent by the Lord. It’s taking risks and stepping out in faith.

6. It is making hosting God’s Presence the primary concern, making sure He feels welcome before anyone else feels welcome.

There are a few reasons I feel like the Lord wants to return the fear of the Lord to the church. I’ve heard more than one major church leader talk about feeling this pull toward the fear of the Lord. I’ve also had talks with prophetic friends who feel the same way.

But the main reason I think Jesus wants to reintroduce the fear of the Lord to the church is because of an encounter I had at the end of 2019. I experienced just a taste of God’s raw holiness and was undone by the fear of the Lord. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I’ll never forget it. I believe the Lord was giving me a taste of what is to come. I wrote about that experience here.

In the future, I believe entire worship services will be taken over by the fear of the Lord. People will bow in repentance and kneel weeping before the Lord as they encounter His awesome holiness. Lukewarm Christianity will be broken in half. Syncretistic agreement with our current culture will be washed away in the hearts of believers. Being obedient will take precedence over being liked. The fear of the Lord will shake us and cause a full surrender.

Stimulus

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. 

Acts 2:42-44

Everyone knows that the economic stimulus package that is being sent out to people, while temporarily helpful, is just a band-aid. Strangely enough, stimulus checks like this are most helpful in stimulating the economy when they are given to people who aren’t struggling financially. Only those who have an economic engine–like a good job or investment strategy–and are responsible with their money can take that check and pour it back into the economy. Those really struggling need it just to survive and pay debts. The check stops with them.

This same principle applies to our life with God. Moments where we might have a spiritual encounter, like at a retreat or conference, are helpful but can’t be expected to sustain a person. Strangely enough, these moments are most helpful to the Kingdom when they impact those with a spiritual engine already established in their life. For those really struggling, the moment often stops with them. But for those with an established spiritual engine, the moment turns the person into a conduit of the Spirit, impacting all the people around them.

A spiritual engine is a pattern of spiritual disciplines that daily connect a person to the Lord. This is what truly sustains growth in the Christian life.

For the early church, they had this kind of spiritual engine. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. For us this would be regular time in God’s word, studying and meditating on scripture. The early church devoted themselves to fellowship and the breaking of bread. For us this would be regular times of gathering with other believers to be encouraged and challenged in our walk with the Lord. And the early church devoted themselves to prayer. For us this would be daily time talking to Jesus, laying out our requests, and listening to the Spirit for comfort, guidance, and direction.

When we have these disciplines in our life, they become a spiritual engine that helps to keep us on fire for the Lord. And the fruit from this kind of intimacy with the Lord is undeniable. For the early church, the apostles regularly engaged in signs and wonders, miracles, healings, and deliverances, etc. The miracles were signs pointing people to the reality of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God among them. And all the believers shared their possessions with each other. They took care of each other and the outsider. They were a close-knit community.

When moments of spiritual encounter come, they fuel the fire of those who are already operating with a spiritual engine in their life. Without this, these incredible moments become a flash in the pan. Too many followers of Jesus think that spending one-on-one time with the Lord is optional. It’s not. Daily time in the word, in prayer, and regular time connecting to other believers is essential for growth.

Re-baptism

Do you know that feeling of being in love?

You think about the person all the time. At the store you think about fun gifts you could buy for them. At the stop light your mind drifts to them, wondering what they are doing. Regular daydreams featuring that person cloud your mind throughout the day. Just thinking about the person makes you smile, and sometimes it makes you tear up. You go through your day in awe of their love for you and intoxicated by your love for them. It’s a beautiful thing, but it usually doesn’t last very long.

Do you know that feeling of loving someone sacrificially for a long time?

This feeling is different than being in love. There is a grit and a strength to this kind of love that doesn’t disappear when hard times come. This kind of love has seen it all and comes back for more. This love isn’t easily offended or deflated. It sees past the surface of things and into the heart of a person. This is a love that is willing to do the hard thing, the messy thing, the painful thing. This love is deep and lasting. This is the love that grows in a marriage that has stood the test of time.

Now imagine if you were able to combine these two loves. Imagine if you could experience the depth of sacrificial love with the fire of being in love. That is the best way I know how to describe what it felt like for me to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Luke 24:49 & Acts 1:4-5

I had been a Christian for 26 years. I had been in full-time pastoral ministry for 10 years. I had a good relationship with the Lord. I loved God and served Him as faithfully as I knew how. But getting baptized/filled with the Spirit was life-changing. I found myself radically and totally in love with Jesus like never before. It wasn’t the kind of “in love” feeling that was fleeting. It was a deep and lasting love. And I’ve been in love ever since. It has now been over four years and the intoxicating love of God just seems to increase.

I find my mind drifting to Him when I sit at stop lights. Sometimes I just pray prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving. Other times, His love is so tangible that it brings tears to my eyes. Even after all those years as a Christian and all those years in ministry, I never knew this kind of closeness and connection to the Father was possible. I never knew you could actually be in love with God and have that intimacy last forever. This is not a youth group camp spiritual high. I know what that is like. This isn’t that. This is like being married to someone for 30 years and falling deeper in love with them than the day you married them.

Use whatever label you want. Some Christian traditions call it being baptized in the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5; 11:15-16). Others call it being filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4; 4:31; Ephesians 5:18). Still others use those terms interchangeably. For them, baptism in the Spirit is the first of many fillings of the Spirit that happen sometime after receiving the Spirit at salvation. The debate about what to call it comes down to an argument about whether there is an experience of the Spirit that happens after salvation–after we’ve received the Spirit.

I used to think the answer to that question was “No.” I used to think we received the Spirit at salvation and that was it. But I was wrong. There is more! I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. You can call it whatever you want, whatever fits with your theological tradition. But make no mistake, there is an additional encounter of the Spirit after salvation that is life-changing.

People have asked me if I think I got more of the Spirit in this experience. I tell them that I didn’t get more of the Spirit but that the Spirit got more of me. And because He got access to more of me–more pieces of my life in total surrender to Him–I got greater access to Him. I didn’t get more of Him as if He is some spiritual liquid. No, I got all of Him when He came into my life at salvation. But I now experience more of Him. Just as we experience more of a person when we go from friendship to marriage–more connection, more physical intimacy, more closeness–so too we experience more of the Holy Spirit after being baptized/filled with the Spirit.

Baptism in the Spirit is available for every Christian, and every Christian, if they knew how amazing it really is, would want it with all their heart. It’s not something you earn. It’s something you receive, like salvation, with a heart that is postured to receive it.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled“(Matthew 5:6). Hunger matters. If you want more of what I described here, then ask Jesus to baptize you in the Holy Spirit. Or, if that language is difficult for you, ask Jesus to fill you with the Holy Spirit. There is more! There is always more of our infinite God to experience in our lives.

Father, You are so good and so gracious. You pursued me–a skeptic with a scientific and theological mind. You broke down the walls of doubt that I had put up around my understanding of You. Holy Spirit, You flooded my heart, my mind, and my body with Your Presence. Holy Spirit, even after all of my sin, even after all of my rejection of You, even after I mocked those who believed in Your gifts and manifestations, You still pursued me. You still came after me. You still came flooding in, upending my life. And I am so grateful.

Jesus, I ask in Your name that You would do the same for those reading this who hunger for more. I ask You to flood their lives, baptize them in the Spirit, fill them with your Holy Spirit. Break down the walls that are keeping them from experiencing more of Your Spirit in their lives. Holy Spirit, come! Have Your way! We give You our “Yes,” our unconditional “Yes!” More Lord!