Sunday, September 07, 2008

Even keel

I remember the days when I couldn't wait for the Sunday morning and Sunday evening services because it was during those services that I "felt" God more. In fact it seemed like it was pretty much only during those services that I "felt" God, and I didn't really "feel" Him during the rest of my week as I went about my daily living "outside of church." There was something about the atmosphere - the music leader, the singers, and especially the music itself - that made me "feel" closer to God.

Sometimes there were special times of prayer, in which some or many of us would go up front near "the altar" and cry out to God, presenting our requests to Him, often praying in tongues. Often during these times I would "feel" the presence of God and I would "feel" as if all my worries were gone and my problems were done away with. I might then "feel" good all day on Sunday. But by the time Monday came around and reality set in, I had lost the "feeling," and I was left looking sooooo forward to the next Sunday so I could go and meet with God again and "feel" His presence.

The key words above, if you couldn't tell, are "feel" and "felt." Now I don't want to diminish the idea of feeling close to God. It's a great thing to feel close to Him! But so many of those experiences from my past were really nothing more than emotional releases that I got from being around other like-minded people, and also, like I said, the emotions came from the atmosphere that was created by the musicians and stage settings. When I was away from those services, I could no longer "feel" God. I "felt" so far away from Him. As I look back, it's easy for me to now see that it wasn't really the presence of God that I was feeling. It was the atmosphere of the service that I was feeling, and I was mistaking that for the presence of God. "Rollercoaster ride" is probably the best term that described my life in Christ at that time. Up and down, up and down - but mostly down.

In the mid 90's, when I finally began to understand the grace and faithfulness of God, and His continuous, never-ending presence in my life that wasn't dependent upon me going to some church meeting, or reaching some high level of prayer or praise or thanksgiving or anything else, or trying to find some way to "break through" to His presence, I was finally able to begin to describe my life with a much different term. "Even keel" was how I felt and was how I described my life, and it's pretty much remained that way! I don't mean to say that I don't have changing emotions or that the circumstances of life are always "even keel." Storms do indeed come and go, and my emotions do waver from time to time. But in my relating to God, I've come to understand and know that I am one with Him, and He is steadfast and He is an anchor. He has never left me nor forsaken me. I can't ask Him to please come and be in the presence of me and my fellow saints, because that would be asking Him to do something that He's already presently doing! In fact, not only is He "with" me, He is my life. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Tuesday afternoon, 4am on Friday, church service, no church service, whenever, wherever, He is in me and I am in Him, and He is my very life. When I finally realized that the pressure wasn't upon ME to maintain God's presence, but that His presence and His grace was a gift that always remained with me, my life finally became much more even keeled.

By the way, I don't mean to say that it's a bad thing for the saints to gather together and "be" in God's presence together. It's great to be together as a family, relating to God and to each other in various ways. But "worship" is really a lifestyle of relating to God and to each other, not just in church meetings, and not really having anything to do with atmosphere, emotions, or the performance of a praise band. Aida gets into a lot of this in What is true worship?

What I'm really trying to say here is that I think we miss God in the everyday things because we're waiting to "meet with Him" in the big meeting(s). In reality, He is our life at all times!

Is this type of thinking/understanding important to you? Has your life 'changed' in any way like mine (or in your own unique way) through coming to understand and appropriate God's 24/7 presence in your life?


  1. I can totally relate, Joel. I love the land of even keel!

  2. We are strangely enough on the same wavelength, again. :)
    Although people point to their circumstances and feelings as if refuting the finished work, only the truth of the finished work will bring liberty to all areas of our life. Whatever the question, the answer is Jesus, His love, mrecy, and grace.
    There aren't enough church services, TV ministries, resources, etc, to replace the realization of the Reality of Christ in you, the Wonderful Mystery.

  3. Joel,
    Your experience described here of "feeling" close to God during only those Sundays sounds so familiar. That's how I felt too...and believed. Sad, isn't it...that most congregations teach and encourage such thinking. Sigh...and it happens in literally everything of the traditional church walls. The preacher says, "Isn't it good to be in the House of God today?!" as if God only shows up inside those sacred 4 walls. Such nonsense. He lives within each and every one of His children...we believers. As well, the "worship" songs encouraged this thinking, songs such as "God Come Down," (He already has) "Reign In Me" (He is) etc...

    "It was the atmosphere of the service that I was feeling, and I was mistaking that for the presence of God."
    Amen. Your point of many of those experiences being emotional releases, excellent. Yes, indeed, Father blesses us with wonderful times of feeling intimacy with Him in amazing ways. Yet, during the times we may not feel Him so strongly, what's important is KNOWING, without a shadow of a doubt that He is, indeed, within us, and is very much moving, flowing, living and working in us.

    It's been amazing to me. Ever since I stopped attending congregations (my personal choice I felt the Lord speak to me to do), I've felt the never-ending beautiful Presence of God all the more deeply and securely within me than I ever had within the four-walls. I really like your use of "Even Keel." Great descriptor! I can relate. it's a peace within me that's unshakable...even when I'm going through something challenging or rough. And bingo...worship IS a way of living! A lifestyle of Him living in me, and me living in Him, and us, together loving others. The expression of me in Him in my life.

    Again, great blog, Joel.

    ~Amy :)

  4. Why do you think people run to the post modern praise and worship services Sunday after Sunday?

    They are desperate to 'feel' God! But sadly, many of them do not realize that they already have what they are looking for.

    I know some churches even grade the 'success' of their services based on how much they could stir people up to sing/dance/laugh/fall/cry.

  5. Tracy,

    It's wonderful, isn't it!


    Great thoughts... only the finished work, God's grace, love, mercy. Experiences can be great, but nothing can replace the reality of the truth of Christ in us.


    Amen... what's important is knowing "Christ in us."

    Along with what else you said, I haven't been attending church services for over a year (a church known for its wonderful worship services) and I've grown so much during the year and I've realized what I already knew - that knowing God isn't from the wonderful atmosphere that is created by the musicians and stage settings. It's in everyday life as we get to know Christ in us more and more.


    Your point is really the reason I began to write this post, but I kind of went off course.

    So many people are desperate to "feel" God, and the only way they know to feel God is through the worship services. I think many churches have unknowingly set it up that way. Perhaps thinking that they are helping people to be close to God, they're taking away from the moment by moment life in Christ that we already have. As you say, they are looking for what they already have, and since the service gives them better "feelings" (which of course is not always bad, and can indeed be very good), they don't think they can really know God deeply in any better way.

  6. Joel, I'm trying to catch up and I know this is ancient history but I really enjoyed this post. You made some really good points.

    "In reality, He is our life at all times!"

    I believe that's the key. The other stuff may be nice but it shouldn't be our focus. As I've continued to focus on him rather than looking for those emotional highs, my life and my emotions have settled down. Life is no longar an emotional roller coaster ride of highs and lows. I believe "even keel" is a good description of the life I now live.

  7. Yep, Aida, what you're saying perfectly describes what I was saying here. Some of those external things are fine, but I look around and I see so many people putting their hope and security in all those things, under the illusion that it's all about God, but yet missing Him all along.