It is sometimes a good thing to stand back from all that comes into our lives as believers, both personally and collectively, and ask some fundamental questions. ‘Why, really, are we here? Why am I a Christian? What did God mean when He brought Christ into my life? Above and beyond all the details of life and work the trials, sufferings, perplexities; the hopes, blessings, and activities, is there one thing that, in God’s thought, governs all?’
Yes, there is! It is that there may be written on the life initially, to become progressively clearer and more luminous: “Jehovah-Shammah” – “The Lord is there”. This is a statement of fact supported by the whole Bible. This is a test of everything and the standard of all values and judgment. This is the explanation of all discipline and suffering.
The same is true of the collective aspect. The ‘meetings’, ‘congregations’, ‘services’, ‘churches’, etc., are to God’s pleasure and satisfaction just and only in the measure in which it is positively true that the Lord is there, and is met there. Not artificial and formal ways and means of making an impression of solemnity and reverence; not mysticism and artistry; not soulish emotions, either sober or ecstatic; but the sin-challenging, life and light-giving, heart-satisfying and soul-saving presence of God. The verdict must be not this or that about any feature, but ‘We have been in the presence of the Lord: the Lord was there; we have met the Lord!’
May the Lord keep us alive in all things to this ultimate criterion. May we ever be exercised that when people meet us they shall meet the Lord, and that when they gather with us, the predominant and abiding impression may be “THE LORD IS THERE”.