5 Ways to Let Jesus Draw Nearer to You in 2021
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
— Mark 1:35
What do you notice in this scene?
Daybreak still tucked in bed?
A man putting on a tunic and sandals?
A leader getting away to be with God?
But what if there was something more happening, here? After all, this picture of Jesus praying before the break of day is not a one-off. The Gospels offer but a handful of glimpses of Christ intentionally seeking out a place and a time to pray and to be with the Father.
By making room for solitude, Jesus experienced his deepening relationship with his Father God.
He retreated not because it was written in his Outlook calendar, but rather out of true devotion to his Father was written on his heart.
If Jesus retreated regularly to draw upon the One who called him his beloved, what about every Christian leader who’s chosen to walk with Jesus and serve in his name?
Before the new year dawns, consider these five opportunities you can intentionally retreat to be with Jesus and experience God in the company of the Holy Spirit:
1) Annual Personal Retreat
“Ruth Haley Barton, a popular guest on the Flourishing Culture Podcast, captures the spiritual longing of many leaders who have discovered their need to get away once a year:
As I prepared to leave for a recent speaking engagement, I realized how tired I was, how I longed for my own experience of intimacy with God, and how much I needed the very things I would be guiding others into on that day. After twenty-five years of life in ministry, I had learned to pay attention to such inner dynamics and knew better than to wait for a better time. I packed a simple bag, made overnight arrangements as I drove to the retreat I was leading, and left right from the speaking engagement to enter into twenty-four hours of silent retreat.”
2) Quarterly Refresher
Steve Macchia, who heads Leadership Transformations knows the value of finding time every three months.
“In today’s Age of Distraction, many people (including Christian leaders) are more interested in their cell phones, Facebook, and Twitter accounts than the health of their soul. The soul is the most neglected aspect of a leader’s life. But when leaders push the pause button on their distractions and go deeper into listening to God, remarkable things happen.”
Think of a quarterly refresher as a partial- or full-day priority to journey with God at a favorite, nearby destination, away from anything that beeps, chimes, or rings.
3) Monthly Escape
Ask yourself these three questions:
- What relaxing destination is within a one-hour drive?
- What passage of Scripture has my attention, and/or speaks to my immediate need and desire for God?
- When can I get out of dodge?
4) Weekly Sabbath
So, what does God-ordained rest look like? Most explicitly it is observing the Sabbath. This is not a work, or something for us to do in order to feel more righteous, but rather something to enjoy. This is the Lord’s Day, a day that gives us a glimpse of the joy to come. It is thus a day for feasting, worship, and rest. It takes effort to rest on Sunday, we have to plan ahead in order to make it happen, but God blesses us when we do. And if something comes up that needs to be done on Sunday, we have the freedom to do it. But as my RUF pastor warned, if our ox is in the ditch every Sunday, we need to get a new ox.
5) Daily Examen
Every morning or evening offers every leader the freedom to draw near God:
The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.
Jesus arose before dawn and went out to pray to his Father. Before the sun rises in 2021 you can do the same. For a week, a month, and throughout the entire year to come.
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