Articles

Desperate for His Presence, by Rhonda Hughey, January 20, 2011
 

 Desperate for His Presence
By Rhonda Hughey

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My
soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
(Psalm 42:1-2 NIV)

"AMEN" the pastor declares as the morning worship service concludes, and the
worship leader finishes playing the final song. It was a very nice service,
filled with a variety of interesting activities; a special drama
presentation, an update on a missionary family serving overseas, the
children's special song, and the upcoming fundraiser for the new youth
center.

You watch people chat while making their way to the door. Then you notice a
woman who doesn't seem in any hurry to leave, isn't that the young mother
who was recently divorced? Then you look at the people leaving a little more
closely: the teenager with a blank, empty look on his face, the well dressed
man who is bravely facing a recent diagnosis of inoperable cancer, an
elderly woman with a kind but sad eyes. You wonder about deeper issues that
are invisible, the addictions, emotional bondages, fear of the future,
loneliness, families being torn by conflict. But you couldn't see that of
course when people carried those burdens into the service, and then quietly
carried them back out. Something tugs on your heart.

"What's wrong?" you think to yourself, "this was a normal service, nothing
unusual, the worship was uplifting, the sermon was encouraging". And there
was the prayer time when you felt a moment of peace. You hope that somehow
the peace will last a bit further into this week, at least past your Monday
morning meeting. Reality begins to seep into your mind and your thoughts
race ahead to the coming week…

You take one more look at the people leaving the sanctuary, but something is
wrong, you can't quite put your finger on it. You feel a longing in your
heart for something more. You wonder if there is something missing, or maybe
Someone…

The Silent Cry for 'One Thing'
**
A widespread cry is growing in the hearts of believers for a real, tangible
encounter with God. They want, like Moses, to see Him face to face. They
don't want only to read about Him, talk about Him, and pay homage to Him on
Sunday mornings. This strong undercurrent in our nation manifests as a holy
dissatisfaction with the status quo of the institutional church. Many people
who have attended church faithfully for years are now wandering around
disconnected from any connectedness to the Body of Christ. Researcher George
Barna estimates that more than ten million born-again believers in the
United States are now considered "unchurched". People have become
disillusioned and jaded, many are unwilling to return to the local church in
its current condition.

What are people longing for? I believe it's the presence of God in the midst
of His people, the manifestation of His nearness, and an awareness of His
love that is both real and relevant. We desperately need the tangible
presence of Jesus both in the church and in our communities!

How do we gauge whether or not His presence is among us? Do we just assume
He is present? This is a fair question. How do we know? Can we know? Should
we even ask the question? I'm not referring to the omnipresence of God but
to His manifest presence. Do we believe Jesus is present because we wish Him
to be there? Or is there discernible evidence when He is present and when He
is absent?

God is looking for people with a heart like David, who declared: "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" (Ps. 27:4, italics added NKJ).

Desperate Hunger
**
People who are desperate for God's presence move beyond convenience and
personal comfort. They have gotten hold of something in their spirit, and
they cannot let go. Jesus is not a religious concept - He is reality. If God
intended for Jesus to be simply a religious concept, He wouldn't have found
it necessary to send Him to the earth in human flesh. The very fact that
Jesus came to live among people is a clear example of His desire to be with
us in a way that we can both understand and pursue.

An initial hunger and thirst comes with the gift of salvation, but after the
spiritual honeymoon is over we must intentionally cultivate our spiritual
passion. Recognizing that we may have grown cold in our love toward Him, our
first prayer must be to ask Him to increase our spiritual appetite. Jesus
warns us that in the last days the love of many would grow cold. We must
commit to our pursuit of His presence and accept His invitation for real
relationship and intimacy.
Jesus issues an invitation in Revelation chapter 3. Writing to the church of
Laodicea, he challenges their lukewarmness by saying, "You say 'I am rich; I
have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you
are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked." (Rev 3:17).
His counsel to the compromised church is: "buy from Me gold refined in the
fire that you may be rich; white clothes that you may be clothed, that the
shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye
salve, that you may see". (Rev. 3:18).

How do we buy this gold from Jesus? What type of currency allows us to buy
pure gold in exchange for our "wretched" condition? The answer is hunger.
Desperate hunger is the currency of heaven. Hunger is what causes us to
empty ourselves of compromise and creates holy dissatisfaction that drives
us to our knees and makes us depend on God.

We cannot be hungry for God if we are being satisfied with other things.
Because the church constantly "nibbles" on "junk food" from the world, we
have lost our appetite for God! We never feel the pain of hunger for Him; we
are starving for lack of His presence without even knowing it. In order to
make room for Him in our lives, we must empty our hearts and lay down our
own agendas. Before we can be filled we must be empty!

The best way to get "empty" is to cultivate a life of spiritual hunger and
remove all traces of self-satisfaction. The greater the capacity on the
inside of us, the more desperate our hunger will be for God. We have settled
for so much less than He wants to give us of Himself!

Our relationship with Him cannot simply be added to our life like an
appendage. He is not a lucky charm we carry in our pocket to protect us from
bad things or bring us good fortune. He is God! He doesn't fit into our
little boxes and our self-centered agendas. God wants to fill us to
overflowing with who He is - to conform us to the image of His Son-and then
pour us out into the lives of the people in our communities. In all too many
churches today we are confronted with the reality of Isaiah 64:7: "there is
no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You."

The lack of desperate longing for God has brought us to our present
condition. The stale quality of our religious lives is a result of our lack
of holy desire. Jesus waits to be seriously wanted and invited, in response
we must trade our complacency for abandonment. He promises that those who
hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled. Let us ask the Lord
to "salt our hearts" and cause a fresh hunger and thirst to overtake us. He
will give us as much of Himself as we ask for!

Running to the Altars

I witnessed a powerful example of desperate spiritual hunger during an
international revival conference in Argentina. That evening, as evangelist
Carlos Annacondia preached to eight thousand people in a stadium, the air
was filled with anticipation! God had already done so many marvelous things
during the conference. Leaders who had traveled from more than forty nations
waited to be touched by the power and goodness of God.

The floor of the stadium could hold only five thousand standing people, so
we knew it would be interesting to see what would happen when Annacondia
invited them forward to pray. Sure enough, as the evangelist closed his
message, people quietly began to creep to the stadium floor and sneaked
along the wall toward the platform. It was fun to watch. Soon the "sneakers"
grew in number. Undaunted by the polite request to keep the stadium floor
clear, they had done the calculations and knew that all eight thousand
people couldn't fit on the floor. As a result they made a decision. Because
of their desperate hunger for God, they decided that no matter what it took,
they would get to that altar and receive prayer!

Then it happened: when Carols Annacondia issued the invitation for the altar
call, the crowd surged toward the altar. Within seconds five thousand hungry
people pressed in tightly on the stadium floor, hands raised, crying out to
God. I heard a testimony from a pastor later who said when the power of God
fell on the crowd, it felt like a lightning bolt had struck his head. He
remembered thinking, "This is going to kill me!"

At the same time another interesting situation was unfolding up in the
bleachers. I had to walk up and out of the stadium during the altar time,
and as I did so a small group of leaders from the United States grabbed my
arm and stopped me. "We have traveled thousands of miles and spent a lot of
money to come to this conference to have Carlos Anacondia pray for us," they
shouted. "Now look! The floor is already filled, and there is no way we can
get to him!"

They were important leaders, and I knew I should be helpful as their host.
But as I looked down at the floor packed with hungry people getting touched
by God, the only thing I could think of was: "Well, you need to learn to run
to the altar." As many other people ran forward in desperate hunger for God,
these guys were all still sitting comfortably in their chairs! We had no way
of keeping the "sneakers" from getting there first, nor were we interested
in policing spiritually hungry people to make room for those who felt
"entitled" to be there.

The realization struck me that some people expect special treatment. They
want the presence of God brought to them. They want it to be easy. I started
noticing this same attitude in cities where I traveled and ministered. We in
the Western World aren't so willing to run to the altar. We expect God's
glory to come to us on our terms and in our timing. God is not our butler!
But sometimes we treat Him like one. When He hasn't served up revival in our
timing and on our terms, we conclude that it is not going to come.
Subsequently, we go about our business and then compensate for the lack of
God's manifest presence with distracting activities or entertaining events.

What Are We Hungry For?* *

The issue is a lack of hunger - desperate, aching, unspeakable hunger for
His presence! How hungry are we? We say we are hungry for God, but are we
really? What are we hungry for? What are we filling ourselves with? If we
are already full of the lesser pleasures of this world, how can we really
have an appetite for God?

We must abandon ourselves to the pursuit of God until the nature of Jesus is
formed within us and His life flows out of us like a river. We must become
desperate in our search for God!

The pursuit of God's presence is costly! It requires sacrifice, diligence,
and time! And this requires us to make choices about how we live our lives.
Perhaps the amount of God's presence we experience is related directly to
the sacrifice we pour out. Jesus wants to be "found" by us! God is trying to
get our attention, to reveal Himself to us, to communicate with us. As we
intentionally pursue His presence in our lives, our hearts become tenderized
by His love and our capacity to know Him increases. Intimate fellowship with
God makes our hearts receptive to further revelation of His nature. We have
within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His invitation.
Jesus promises in John 7:37-38, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and
drink. He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart
will flow rivers of living water." Anyone! If you are thirsty you qualify!
It is the rightful inheritance of every believer to have a heart overflowing
with the Living Water of the Holy Spirit. This is a promise Jesus sets forth
in His Word.

Our thirst for God can be quenched by lesser things, and we must be
intentional to guard that thirst according to the warning in Proverbs 4:23:
"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of
life". The scripture makes it clear that this river flows out of the
believer, that means that what God pours into you is intended to flow out
from you. There is a big difference between a river and a lake! God intends
there to be an ongoing reality in our lives of thirst for God, being poured
out and then as a result becoming thirsty again!

People who are desperately hungry will do almost anything to satisfy that
hunger. Those who are willing to move out of their normal routine and
circumstances to seek to encounter the presence of God will not be
disappointed.

We must become hungry and thirsty for more of Jesus in our midst. We must
cry out in desperation for God's presence to be restored in our lives, our
churches and ultimately in our cities. We must treasures the manifest
presence of God, because as Jesus said in John 15:5 "Without Me you can do
nothing".

From "Desperate for His Presence" By Rhonda Hughey:

http://www.amazon.com/Desperate-His-Presence-Design-Transform/dp/0764...


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