One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. ~ Psalm 27:4
If you could ask for one thing from God, what would it be? How long would you think about that question before submitting your request? Most of us have immediate needs… money for a car repair, or direction for a big decision, or relief from a broken marriage. Those are serious needs, but is that the one thing you want the most?
Let me reframe that question in a way that helps me: if there was one thing I could ask from God that would fulfill and satisfy my heart every day for the remainder of my life, what would it be?
Isn’t that the kind of thing you ask for when you can only ask for one thing?
In Psalm 27:4, David exposes the deepest longing of his heart when he writes, “One thing I have desired of the Lord.” There is something he wants from God… a single desire. He hasn’t said yet what it is, but to get the one thing it seems clear I must want just one thing.
But desire is not enough. He writes, “that will I seek.” Some people will go all their lives wanting God, but will never seriously seek God. David is different. He throws himself into the effort, seeking God by faith with determination and intentionality.
What is he seeking? To dwell in the presence of God “all the days of my life.” Every day. He does not want to merely “visit,” but David wants to live there… in His Presence.
What does he want to do? Two things…
(1) He wants to “behold” Him. He wants to see God, but not with his physical eyes. Walking into the deepest recesses of the Temple complex, David would have only seen the Ark of the Covenant with the eyes in his head, but with the eyes of his heart he knows he can gaze on the “beauty of the Lord.” No speaking is involved, just seeing… simple, childlike wonder at who He is… contentment in His love… deep satisfaction. David’s soul thirst becomes soul rest.
The apostle Paul later describes how the daily practice of “looking” at Jesus was changing him, even in the midst of destructive circumstances. He writes,
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
(2) In the presence of God, David also wants “to inquire.” David stands out from most of the men in his generation because he regularly asked God for direction. He understands that God is sovereign over all creation, and he wants to be personally subject to the rule of God. Throughout most of his life, he rarely made a move without consulting God. For example…
- 1 Samuel 23:1-3 David inquired of the LORD, saying…
- 1 Samuel 23:4-5, 10-11, 12-14 David inquired of the LORD once again.
- 1 Samuel 30:8-9 David inquired of the LORD, saying…
- 2 Samuel 2:1-2; 5:17-21 David inquired of the LORD, saying…
- 2 Samuel 5:22-25 23 David inquired of the LORD…
- 2 Samuel 21:1 …and David inquired of the LORD.
David’s one desire is to live his life within the confines of an intimate relationship with God.
He wants to know God…
He wants to please God in every decision… and
He shares his desire in order to influence the generations that would follow.
This message was given at the Bible Training College in London (February-June 1915), where Chambers was teaching a course called Missionary Matters. Guest lecturers included well-known missionaries and evangelical leaders, such as C.T Studd. Chambers did not know that the school would close in a few months because of Great Britain’s involvement in World War I, or that he and his young family would soon be moving to Egypt to minister to soldiers through the YMCA.
“The first minister of munitions in this Empire has just said: You have read appeals for the front, appeals to the workshop, I would almost say at the present moment everything depends on the workshops of Britain. What is true in the enormous world crisis of war is symbolically true in work for God. But what are the workshops that supply the munitions for God’s enterprises? The workshop of missionary munitions is the hidden, personal, worshipping life of the saint.”
Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” John 1:48
“The constant, private habit of the life of the missionary ought to be worshipping as occasion serves, that is the first great essential for fitness. The time will come when no more fig tree life is possible; when we are right out in the open and glare of the work, and we shall find ourselves without any value then if we have not been worshipping God as occasion serves. We imagine we should be all right if a big crisis arose; but the crisis only reveals the stuff we are made of, it does not put anything into us. If God gives the call, of course, I shall rise to the occasion. You will not, unless you have risen to the occasion in the workshop. If you are not the real article before God there, doing the duty that lies nearest, instead of being revealed as fit for God when the crisis comes, you will be revealed as unfit. Crises always reveal character, and we are all ignorant of our true character until it is revealed to us.”
“If you do not worship as occasion serves at home, you will be of no use in the foreign field; but if you put the worship of God first, and get the revelation of Who God is, then, when the call comes you will be ready for it, because in the unseen life and preparing, and now when the strain comes you are perfectly fit to be relied on by God. Worshipping is greater than work in that it absorbs work.”
Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” John 1:49-51
“Our Lord is the One in Whom God and man can meet as one. If that has never been learned in our private worshipping life, it will never be realised in active public work. There is no need for this private worship of God, I cannot be expected to live the sanctified life in the circumstances I am in; there is no time for praying just now, no time for Bible reading; when I get out into the work and the opportunity comes for all that, of course I shall be all right. If you have not been worshipping as occasion serves, you will not only be useless when you get out into service but a tremendous hindrance to those who are associated with you. Imagine a general having ammunition made in a workshop at the back of the trenches! His men would be blown up whilst attempting it. Yet that is what we seem to expect to do in work for God.”
Source: Oswald Chambers, So Send I You: A Series of Missionary Studies (London: Simpkins Marshall, 1930), 83.
Your name… let it be deeply revered by all
Your kingdom… let it come, Your ruling Presence
Your will… let it be fully expressed
on earth in my circumstances
as it is in heaven where Your will is unopposed
Here are my needs, I leave them all with You
the One who cares for me
cancel the mountain of wrongs inflicted by me
and with fear and trembling
I ask You to pour out Your mercy shown to me…
Your grace freely flowing through me…
drenching every person who owes me
As You walk before me into every moment, I am at rest in You
leaning in and listening
as You shelter me in Your shadow
during the enemy’s vicious attempts to destroy me
You are the glorious King… and I am so privileged
to be Your child!
(one expression of His outline for prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13 ~ DP)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus included prayer as a priority topic for His disciples. Emphasizing that our most intimate interactions with God should be done secretly (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18), Jesus pauses to give shape and form to our personal prayer time. In the space of a few verses historically known as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus outlines a series of petitions so we would know what we should be asking for. In the second petition, Jesus taught us to pray for the kingdom to come. Why? Because Kingdom Praying…
- Focuses on a King. Jesus began His ministry preaching this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The kingdom was the central message of Jesus and the early disciples, mentioned over 85 times in the gospels. The kingdom is not a place where God rules. The kingdom is not the church or a collection of churches. Properly understood, the kingdom refers to the active rule or reign of God—His Majesty in action. A kingdom requires a King! As I pray, I am speaking with a King who rules. I must repent and completely turn away from all other rulers and whole-hearted allegiances in my life—He is my King!
- Longs for the King to Rule. I am asking for something to change on earth so that my circumstances reflect more of heaven, where God’s rule is absolute. In heaven, there is no sin or sickness. There is no corruption. Everything is right and as it should be. When I ask for His will to be done on earth, I am asking for God to enter into my circumstances and exert His power. A kingdom that needs to “come” means it is not automatically here. This world and my circumstances do not reflect the rule of God—I need Him to come!
- Enters into an Ancient War. In verse 13, Jesus teaches us to ask the Father to deliver us from the evil one. A kingdom that is not already “here” implies that there is an opposing kingdom at work. This was the worldview of Jesus. Jesus calls the devil the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11). When a person becomes a Christian through faith in Christ, God rescues that person from the enemy’s rule, and places him or her into the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13). Asking for God’s rule on earth, we enter into an ancient conflict for souls.
- Understands the Assignment. Jesus teaches us to ask for His kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth. This means it is not being done now. Here lies an awesome truth: in a world that desperately needs God to come and act, the King has chosen to link His activity to the obedient intercessor. If I do not pray, will the kingdom come? God wants to act, but if I do not ask… will He still act? Will He still come and show Himself strong in the midst of my circumstances?
Jesus was teaching us how to approach and talk to our Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9). I live in a broken universe that is at war with God. Every day I need His presence as I walk in this evil age (Galatians 1:4). Jesus explains that the Father is ready to exit the world I cannot see (Heaven) and come rule in the world that I do see (Earth). Will I ask Him to come?
Twenty-five years later, the experience remains vivid. The Lord still whispers the lyrics of that time across my heart, “this is My church”. Church as He intends it to be. It was an ordinary church retreat, until He touched us with His presence. Five hours later, we were closer to each other. We were closer to Him. He had come. It was only a small taste of what happens in the presence of God. Why do we need revival? Because we need Him!
Revival is essential. Revival is the restoration of God’s presence to His people. In Exodus 33, God threatened to remove His presence from His people. Understanding that there is no real life apart from God’s presence, Moses pleaded for God to return to His people. In verse 15, Moses said, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.” God’s presence is essential. We need Him, and we were never intended to do life or church without Him.
Revival is also experiential. In other words, when God is present, life is different. In Acts 3:19, Peter said, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Peter understood that the presence of God alone could refresh and renew the hearts of His people.
Why do we need God’s Presence?
- We need Him if we are ever going to recover a biblical sense of fear and awe. In Revelation 1:17, John fell on his face in the presence of God. He simply could not stand. More than a physical response, the bowing of our bodies reflects the yielding of our hearts to His rule in our lives. When God is present, our lives are reoriented around Him and not ourselves.
- We need Him if we are going to do real battle with sin in our lives. In Isaiah 6:1-5, the prophet had a life-defining encounter with the holy presence of God. The result was that he became intensely aware of his own sinfulness. Like raising the lights in a darkened room, God’s holiness will highlight all the impurities in our lives. Isaiah wanted to deal with the sin in his life and so will we!
- We need Him if our land is going to be healed. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says that if His people are repentant, then He will “heal their land.” Our land is suffering. Secularists are forecasting the loss of U.S. economic and military influence around the world. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods… from natural disasters to national debt, it seems clear our nation is in trouble. Not only has infertility doubled in the U.S. since 1992, the World Health Organization believes the infertility will be the third most serious disease of the twenty-first century, following cancer and cardiovascular disorders. Is God getting our attention? This was similar to what the people of Israel were experiencing in the days of Haggai the prophet: “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” (Haggai 1:6)
- We need Him if we are going to love the world the way He does. In Luke 9:36-38, Jesus has compassion on the masses of people without God. He feels something that is visceral, engaging all the emotions in a desire to release others from spiritual darkness and disorientation. When He is present among us, our hearts will come into alignment with His heart.
- We need Him if we are going to answer the heart cry of our generation. All around us, people have questions about God. Who is He? What is He like? Can He forgive me? Can He help me? They are interested in talking to someone who really knows God, but studies indicate that they are not looking to churches for those answers. They are not moving away from an interest in God, as much as they are running away from the institutional church. They have questions about God and a real hunger for spiritual reality, and they want those answers from people they know and trust.
- We need Him if we are going to recover the hearts of students and young adults. Recently, I was talking to a young couple I met in a coffee shop, asking them to share their thoughts about God and church. He was a second-year law student; she was a nurse. Although they had been raised in evangelical churches, they understood very little about God or the gospel message. They had not been discipled by parents or the church to walk with God. Youth are “graduating” from church at the same time they graduate from high school. Last November, Barna Research reported that almost 60 percent of young people age 15 to 29 have left active involvement in a church. Only God’s presence can turn this around.
- We need Him if we are going to see more people giving their lives to Christ, trusting Him for salvation. In the presence of God, lives are changed and resistance to the gospel melts away. However, today we are seeing the fewest number of people coming to Christ since the 1950s. In 2010, Southern Baptists baptized 332,321, the lowest number in sixty years. Baptisms in Southern Baptist churches have been in decline for over a decade.
- We need Him if we are going to impact our nation for Christ. During the First Great Awakening, 20 percent of the colonial population came to Christ and joined churches. Today, less than 20 percent regularly attend church. Discussed at length in his book The American Church in Crisis (Zondervan, 2009), David Olson conducted research showing that only 17.5 percent of the population attends church on any given weekend in America. In their book Comeback Churches (B&H Publishing, 2007), Mike Dodson and Ed Stetzer explain that less than 5 percent of churches are experiencing significant conversion growth—most churches are simply reshuffling existing members. Although Southern Baptists boast having more than 16 million members, only one-third will attend church this coming Sunday. One observer concluded that the church has become nothing more than a symbolic place for “hatching, matching, and dispatching” (i.e., baby dedications, weddings, and funerals).
Everything changes when God comes among us! Let us pray that He will revive each of our hearts with Himself, transforming our nation as we are transformed as His people.
“Lord… am I getting this right? I am about to speak to a group of people and you are changing the message?”
On May 22, 2011, I was driving to Monticello, Arkansas to speak in the morning services at First Baptist Church, where I had been serving as interim pastor for over a year. Each week, I prepared sermon notes, a fill-in-the-blank listening guide for the bulletin, and an accompanying slide presentation. I usually emailed the handout to the church office by Thursday. Enjoying the creative exercise, I prepared the slides on Saturday morning. All week long, I reflected on what I could use as a creative element to help “burn in” the truth of God’s Word – something to make it memorable. Hours are involved.
Where is God in the process? I normally pray about what I am going to preach. I listen for His direction and usually feel a sense of “oughtness” as I set a course for the preaching schedule. It is common for me to drive around the church property on Sunday mornings. Call it “prayer driving,” but I am typically asking the Lord to come, to drive away every wrong spirit and distraction, and to draw everyone to the church that needs to be there on that day.
Consequently, during that particular morning drive last May, I felt good about my readiness for the day. Until the thoughts came about 80 miles from Monticello. The thoughts I knew I didn’t initiate. Thoughts I recognized as coming from Him. Thoughts about a different message to be shared that morning.
I love creativity, but divine spontaneity is a little scary. The message came quickly and clearly. I grabbed a notepad and set it on the armrest. Scribbling while keeping my eyes on the road, I jotted down an outline about the final judgment of God described in Revelation 20:11-15. I gave it the title Six Reasons to Keep the End in Mind. God used it… He spoke to His people that day.
Sometimes His guidance comes that way—as thoughts that He brings to mind. Walking with God requires me to be prepared to listen to Him when He speaks and in the different ways He speaks.
One of the defining characteristics of the earliest Christ-followers in the book of Acts was their readiness to change course when the Holy Spirit spoke.
- Acts 8:29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.”
- Acts 10:19 While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you.”
- Acts 13:2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
- Acts 16:6-7 They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.
The Lord gives clear and specific guidance to His people. My need for that kind of direction continues today. More than dutiful obedience, this way of walking with God captures the essence of my relationship to Him: I am dependent on Him for everything.
In the absence of such “unexpected direction,” I have a mind and I have the God-breathed direction of the Bible. Those precious resources are a primary and sufficient mechanism for receiving direction from God. There are other times, however, when He is clearly speaking to me in a way that supersedes my logic and reason, without contradicting the written Word of God.
I believe we must learn to recognize and become sensitive to His voice whenever and wherever He speaks.
[Author’s Note: This post was originally published March 11, 2012 at DonPucik.com and migrated to EquippingSaints.com]
In 1984, Gail and I were serving in Southern California as missionaries with the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board (HMB). Living in a small apartment in West Hollywood, we were working alongside veteran missionaries Bob and Glenda Tremaine, nurturing the small First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills congregation, and laying the groundwork for new churches to be planted in the greater Los Angeles area.
In so many ways, Bob became a “father” in the Lord for me. His walk with God had been shaped by years of ministry and church planting experiences in New Mexico, New England, and south Florida. By the time we had started working together, the Tremaines had planted over thirty churches. They knew God, loved God, and walked with God. When Bob told me that the Lord was going to do something… that’s what happened. Over and over again, we saw God at work. Bob taught me to bring everything to the Lord in prayer… even routine business and ministry decisions.
We were doing ministry on the border between two cities. West Hollywood was truly a mosaic of cultures and lifestyles, composed of high density housing in the form of apartments and condominiums. Beverly Hills was a secure enclave of wealthy financiers, physicians, attorneys, media executives, and a few celebrities. Each Sunday, the persons attending our worship services reflected a variety of occupations: accountants and actors, waiters and writers, maids and millionaires. How could our little church develop a presence in our community?
In the early eighties, the use of direct mail by churches was a new idea. Affectionately known as “junk mail” today, direct mail campaigns seemed to be helping businesses and organizations get the word out. Bob asked me to develop a pilot project, experimenting with direct mail as an outreach tool for the church. The HMB also embraced the project, putting in $2,000 to the budget. I went to work.
Our church budget had a few hundred dollars to spare. Based on the available funds, I prepared a proposal that involved using our state-of-the-art copier to produce black-and-white brochures. I went to school on direct mail campaigns, attending seminars and contacting the best direct mail vendors in L.A. for current pricing. My plan was to do a single mailing to all of the addresses in the zip codes associated with West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. I vividly recall the meeting with Bob where I shared my best ideas.
“You’re going about this in the wrong way,” he said. I was stunned and a little indignant, but I listened. “You are pursuing a plan based on your budget. But if you had all the money you needed, what would you do then? Determine the very best approach first, then come back to me with what it will cost to do it right.”
Okay. So I went back to my office and started over. What would it take to really test the value of direct mail as an outreach tool? Well… I needed color brochures if I was mailing to the upscale residences around us. I needed to mail it more than once. I needed to experiment with repeat mailings and different frequencies. My budget swelled to several thousand dollars. I felt sure Bob would choke when he saw the new number. He didn’t. He didn’t even blink.
“Good work,” he said. “Now, let’s take this to the Lord and see what He wants to do. Too many times we limit God by focusing on our resources alone. It’s much better to expand the idea to the limits of your imagination, then let God hem you in to what He wants to do. His provision will determine the scope of this project.” So we prayed.
Within two weeks, God had provided all of the funding we needed… for the entire project. Everything.
I was basing my plan on the current, visible supply of resources: the money the church had in the bank. I did not consider God’s resources or what He wanted to do with the project. Asking me to “push out the walls” and think about what I could do with unlimited resources, Bob helped me discover that God was willing to do more than I was planning!
Since then I’ve learned that many times there is a gap between what I’m thinking and what God is thinking. He is often prepared to do more than I am expecting. Today, when I pray about something, I keep this in mind: God has a will and a plan. Rather than superimpose my expectations on a situation, it is better for me to try and understand what God wants to do — and then ask Him to do that. Centuries ago, the apostle John understood this when he wrote:
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14–15).
Prayer is not about me getting what I want. Prayer is about getting what God wants (which is much, much better). I know this raises lots of questions, especially when I don’t like my circumstances or when I have needs that are not going away. I can still trust Him. He does not abandon me. He is still listening. He is still working.
Walking with God is seeking His will every day. As each new question and decision arises, ask, “Lord, how do you want me to respond to this?” Then wait… he will answer you.
Learning to pray and trust God in daily life propels you out of the rank-and-file world of just being religious.
[Author’s Note: This post was originally published March 7, 2012 at DonPucik.com and migrated to EquippingSaints.com]