There are so many stories that accumulate over 10 Days in God’s presence. Multiply that over 35 different locations with thousands of people seeking God’s face, and that’s a lot of stuff happening. Over the next weeks, we’ll highlight stories from the various cities that did 10 Days as we reflect on the goodness of God.
I wanted to start by sharing a personal story of how God met me this year in a life-changing way.
I spend a lot of time talking to people about 10 Days with the goal of mobilizing cities to “stop everything” and seek God’s face. I’m called to do that, and it’s great but if it doesn’t change me personally, I know I’m missing out on what I’m preaching.
During our 10 Days at the Moody Campus in Northfield, it seemed that every day the presence of God increased. On the fourth night, a Saturday, the Presence of God was very strong during communion. I got up to try and speak but found that I couldn’t use my tongue, so just kind of stammered a bit. I was fine with looking foolish because the love and joy of God all over me, and I was pretty happy! This sense of God’s presence was characterized by love, joy, lightness, pleasure, what some people call being “drunk in the spirit”, and in my case not being able to speak so well. Aside from being tongue-tied (that was new), the experience was familiar to me. I had no idea at the time what God was setting me up for, which would be totally new.
Sunday night, a few of us drove down and visited the 10 Days in Bridgeport, CT. Bridgeport was hosting a city-wide 10 Days in one location, with many of the cities congregations participating. Entering the room, there were about 400 people there for the evening gathering. The worship music was loud, so I sought out a seat on the side where the speakers weren’t directly pointing at us.
Initially, I had a hard time entering into worship. However, as the time of extended worship continued, the presence of God began to grow and grow and get quite heavy in the room.
It was not that joyful, playful, loving presence of God like the night before. Instead, it was Holy, Heavy, Glorious, the fear of the Lord, the kind of presence of God that Isaiah encountered when He said “woe is me, for I am undone.” It was a throne room type manifestation of the presence of God, a Revelation 4 manifestation, the kind that causes the elders to fall on their faces and throw their crowns on the ground.
As this Holy presence of God increased, I noticed that I was filled with insight, revelation, words, visions, and the like. The activity of the Holy Spirit was speeding up! All of a sudden, I was seeing things very clearly, getting insights into God, having visions. I was supposed to speak about 10 Days and so I was getting all these great insights and wonderful things to say. Part of the initial 2004 vision of 10 Days involved a city “stopping everything” and becoming an image “on earth” of the Revelation 4 Throne Room “in heaven”. I realized I was seeing a beginning of that reality before my eyes in a brand new way. Wow! God!
Here’s the problem though: the presence of God was so thick and strong I couldn’t say any of what God was showing me! I was just struck dumb, sitting in my chair, crying.
A pastor got up on the stage to speak… “How is he even standing up under that weight of glory?” I wondered. Immediately, he got to the ground and started speaking from his knees and face-down. When it was my turn to speak, I couldn’t stand either, couldn’t open my eyes, couldn’t speak…it was like my tongue was stuck just like the night before, but this time it was in front of 400 people that I didn’t know! I tried to kneel, but it’s awkward with my long legs, so I just sat on the stage and finally managed to share a vision on Humility and kingship that God had given in 2009. I walked off the stage, sat back down, and just cried and cried for the rest of the service.
This weight of His glory—it was almost painful, it was fearful, and yet the most beautiful, incredible thing in the world.
"Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness." - 1 Chronicles 16:29
The next morning we were back in Northfield and it just kept increasing! It started on the car ride. I was totally exhausted, not thinking about anything and I found myself in God’s presence and praying on the way there completely separate of my conscious mind. When we began worship and sharing testimonies, it was as though we just ascended. The same glory came in the room and was increased from the night before!
I had a vision that led me to repentance. In the vision, I saw that I had been living in this little tiny shack, and yet this entire expansive mansion and territory was available to me. I knew this represented the level of the knowledge and awareness of God I was living in versus what God had made available. I got up and repented publicly, with tears. “I don’t want to live in this shack anymore.” Then I sat down and just cried and cried overwhelmed by this majestic Holiness of God. Our morning prayer time was 3 hours long, but it felt like we were there for 6 hours and many of us were totally exhausted, undone by the experience.
I was reminded of the experience of Thomas Aquinas shortly before his death where He received a revelation that so completely overwhelmed him that he didn’t ever write again or speak of it. He only said, “All I have written seems like so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.” That’s how I felt by the noon hour on Monday, “Have I even known the Lord to this point in my life?”
Because the presence of God had been building and building day after day, I thought this level of encounter with the Lord was just going to continue! I thought I was just going to go deeper and deeper into this throne room reality that God had allowed me to taste…and in truth, I would love nothing more than to live there always and go deeper and deeper and deeper.
I expected our afternoon prayer meeting to be more of the same. Instead, it felt scattered and weak. What happened God? I was so disappointed, like I had just begun to know God and then he pulled this away from me. The rest of the 10 Days was very, very good. God showed up in a variety of ways, amazing ways. But, not in that same way, and not to the same extent. I felt like the woman in the Song of Songs 5:6,
“I opened for by beloved, but my beloved had left. He was gone. My heart sank at his departure. I looked for him but did not find him. I called him but he did not answer…”
However, the encounter has marked me, made me hungry for more of God, made me realize how little I really know Him and how deep my own spiritual poverty really is.
Take-Aways: “Over Our Heads”
Before 10 Days in 2015, the Lord spoke some things to me about the next seven years, including that I’d been in the river of His Spirit “up to my waist” but that these next seven years would be about going in “over my head”. I’ve wondered about that every since. With this encounter with God during 10 Days, there was definitely that sense of being “over my head” in a new way. I believe this is not just a personal experience, but really an invitation to all who have been seeking Him: Let’s get in over our heads!
The Glory and the Gifts
The experience also really marked me related to the Glory of God and the Gifts of the Spirit. It was amazing to me how in this heavy presence, revelatory and other gifts were going like crazy, but I couldn’t use them at all! It was like Holy Spirit overload, everything was spinning super fast, but nothing was needed. I couldn’t share the revelation God was giving me in that atmosphere, but could only say exactly what He wanted (if I could say anything at all). Like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, my heart was asking, “why can’t it just be like this all the time?”
God has given us all amazing gifts to give one another. However, when the perfect comes, those things really aren’t even needed. Our gifts are meant to impart grace to one another—however, when you’re underwater in the grace and glory of God, it’s not so important to impart grace to each other—it’s already done! I told our team that the gifts are like water balloons that we throw at one another—they release grace (water) from one to another. However, when you’re underwater in the river, there’s not that much use for water-ballons!
I’m sure that the 24 elders around the throne are excellent preachers, teachers, prophets, healers; I’m sure they have all the gifts. However, the only gift they need in that atmosphere of glory and the direct presence of God is the ability to throw themselves on the ground, cast their crowns, and cry HOLY!
Finally, this experience impressed on me how many sides there are to God. His wisdom is “mani-fold”, or many-sided, and we all see only a small part of it. He can show himself to us in one way, and then show himself to us in a completely different way. His Love, Holiness, Justice, Mercy, Wrath, Power, Kindness, Patience, and all His attributes are expressions of His many-sided and overwhelming personality. They’re all legitimate. And we can only see him a little bit at a time. We can be crying one minute, laughing the next, dancing, then face-down, then sitting, then spinning. As my friend Zaim said, it’s the same Spirit, but there are many, many different flavors and such a diversity of how He chooses to show Himself to us.
And, however God is showing himself at any given time, that’s how we need to relate to Him. We can seek Him, but we can’t really control how He shows up. He leads, we follow! Interestingly, this experience of not needing “gifts” left me more able to receive grace from others according to their gifts—I realized how vast God was, how little I saw of Him, and how much I needed what others were carrying.
10 Days is an incredible opportunity to stop everything, seek God, and if we seek Him, we will definitely find Him. I hope this personal story is encouraging to you. There’s so much more to God that we know. Let’s head out into the deeper waters and get in over our heads together!