Recently, I had the pleasure of breaking bread with a fellow minister; we sat in the restaurant for close to 3 hours, enjoying our time of fellowship and getting better acquainted. It was merely a time of fellowship, a time for he and I to get to know each other a bit better, yet it lasted almost three full hours.
A couple weeks ago, I met another friend at a well-known coffee house; we sat there over a cup of coffee and killed two hours. The only reason we parted ways was because we both had kids in school, waiting to be picked up.
It is not uncommon, in Pentecostal churches at least, for fellowship to last upwards of an hour after service has ended. Ironically, we'll stand around in the foyer (or parking lot) talking for a half-hour about where we're going to go fellowship for the next hour and a half.
I can enjoy a meal with my family, and when the last bite is finished, and the last plate pushed away with a contented sigh, sit there and continue the conversation for hours. And this is before it dawns on me (or someone else) that the livingroom furniture is more comfortable so "why don't we go on in there and talk for a spell?"
So why do we have such problems lingering in the presence of God? Whatever happened to lingering?
I can recall those services where the glory of God seemed to fall right close to the end of the altar service. No, nothing spectacular may have occurred during the course of the service, and there may have been no miraculous in-filling of the Spirit to an unsaved person, but there was a "lingering" that called us to just hang around for a few minutes longer. No rush to get to the restaurants, no hurry to get the kids in bed (although chances are, they'd go home and dawdle about that, anyway), no thoughts of 5:00AM coming early so I need to rush home and get to bed...
No, there was just that quiet, drawing Spirit that called us to just hang around...don't rush out, don't be in a hurry to leave. It was similar to that comforting feeling of hanging around the table after Thanksgiving dinner, or savoring a cup of coffee with a friend.
What a Friend we have in Jesus...
So why don't I prolong my time with Him?
What has happened to those services where we want to hang around, where we're more interested in what's happening right there in the sanctuary of God? Is it maybe because we've stopped realizing what a sanctuary His Presence really is? Is it possible that we've become so engrossed with everything else in life that we cannot even slow down to realize that, in His Presence, there's fullness of joy?
I know that I'm not the only one affected by this malady of misdirection, but I cannot change anyone other than myself. I am responsible for my own relationship with God, and the words that I write this evening are directed at my own heart. Call it introspection, if you will, but I have come to realize how precious His presence is to me.
What a fellowship, what a joy divine...
Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear...
There is absolutely nothing like the Presence of God, and it is in those times that we stand in His Glory and majesty that it becomes almost overwhelming to realize that, one of these days, if we remain faithful to Him, we will enjoy that inexplicable peace for all eternity. It is more than the human mind can fathom.
So why don't I linger more? Why am I always in such a hurry to get things done, to move on to the next service, the next weekend, the next midweek Bible study?
Why is it that suddenly---in the last few years, I suppose---that life has become so demanding? I have said for years, and will continue to believe, that those whom the enemy knows he cannot turn back, he will try to turn aside. If Satan cannot get a child of God to turn back to a life of sin, then his next biggest threat is to get them distracted, looking in all directions but the one that really matters.
With all of our calendars, Day-Timers, planners, pocket PC's, etc, we have managed to schedule our time so much more efficiently that we have almost scheduled God out of the picture. Pardon me if this sounds abrupt, but are we guilty of "penciling God in for an hour on Friday"? What would happen to my day---stop and think about this concerning your own schedule---if I actually got lost in the spirit of prayer and fellowship with God, and spent eight full hours with Him, instead of rushing about doing everything I'm trying to do? Would the world collapse? Would the church go bankrupt?
Or would I discover God in a way that I have yet to know Him? Would I become more closely acquainted with Him, as I did with my minister friend over a three-hour lunch a few days ago?
We need a revival of lingering in our services. I realize that we cannot force God's hand, we cannot make His Spirit sweep through our altar services, causing us to want to hang around. Pardon me for being a bit blunt, but I wonder sometimes if God desires fellowship more than we do? Is it possible that I leave Him standing there wondering where I rushed off to?
"Could ye not tarry one hour?"
Is He still asking me the same question that He posed to His other disciples?