Summary: There is a huge difference between an encounter and a Close Encounter. In this 4 part series, learn the ingredients that are necessary to have a Close Encounter with God. You will be challenged by this series.
Pt. 1 - The Challenge
From the very beginning we want to make it very clear that we are here on purpose. We believe that we have a very clear mandate from God. That mandate can be simply wrapped up in three words . . . Encounter, Equip, Engage. We are passionate and committed will continue to be passionate and committed to these three things. Nothing more, nothing less. So this morning and for the next three weeks I would like to examine that first word . . . Encounter illustrated by the idea of Hands Up. I am calling this morning’s message “Close Encounters – The Challenge.” I know you are not supposed to propose questions and challenges and not give the steps and processes by which to answer or meet those challenges. However, that is what I am going to do today because over the next three weeks I will share with you how to achieve what we talk about today.
It was released in 1977. It took the movie world by storm. It instantly became a classis and is still considered by many as one of the top Sci-Fi movies of all times. It won an Oscar and was nominated for 29 other awards of which it won 10. This, Steven Spielburg, masterpiece’s tag line was simply “Close Encounter of the First Kind - Sighting of a UFO. Close Encounter of the Second Kind - Physical Evidence. Close Encounter of the Third Kind - Contact. WE ARE NOT ALONE”
Although, until recently I never saw this movie, the title has stuck in my mind for years. I believe it is because it speaks to the very essence of what I long for and look for in my walk with God. I want, desire, and cry out for a close encounter of the third kind with Him. I have had close encounters of the first kind – sightings of Him. From my earliest days as a child in church I have seen Him work. I have close encounters of the second kind – physical evidence of Him. I have watched Him step into the physical realm and move on my behalf. However, I am holding out for me and holding out for you for a close encounter of the third kind – contact. Daily interaction. Daily communion. Daily presence. Daily relationship.
I have come to the conclusion that we encounter many things when we talk about God and church. On a regular basis we encounter men. We encounter slick presentations. We encounter slick talk. We encounter professional lighting, professional sound, professional programs, and slick promos. We encounter church. We encounter emotional moments. We encounter exhilarating times of worship. But my question is when was the last time that you had a close encounter with God? Notice I didn’t say when was the last time you were impressed with a church. When was the last time you were impressed by the music, the lights, the logo, the people. When was the last time you had a close encounter with God?
We must understand that there is a huge difference between an encounter and a close encounter.
For instance, how many of you have driving down the road and you are driving just a little bit fast and you see a police officer coming towards you and just before he passes by you he hits his lights and wags a finger at you to get you to slow down? That is an encounter. However, how many of you have been in the same situation only to have the officer pass you, slam on his breaks, whip his car around violently, get behind you and pull you to the side of the road? That is a close encounter. There is a huge difference . . . probably about a $200 or $300 difference.
How many of you have been in a restaurant or air port when someone famous has walked in? One time I ate about 5 tables from Paul Newman. In the Utah airport I stood not to far from Rasheed Wallace. Just recently I sat three rows behind Adrian Peterson on a plane. Those are encounters. However, if Paul Newman had waived me over and offered me a seat and we ate together, or if Rasheed had looked down to me and engaged me in conversations, or if Adrian had switched seats to sit by me just because he wanted to get to know me and get some of my patented running expertise . . . my encounter would have given way to close encounters. There is a huge difference.
I submit to you that as church folks living in the Bible belt that most of us have become accustom to encounters with God. I submit to you this morning that too many of us have been attending church for years, faithfully, religiously, and we have been having encounters. We settle for weekly encounters with God. We see Him at a distance. We see physical evidence of Him in our life. But I want to challenge you that we need more than just an encounter. We need a close encounter. Contact!