Worship Lesson # 2 - Hungry For God
Hungry For A Holy God
Revelation 4:8-11 describes the worship of God who sits on His throne. Verse 10 tells us that the 24 elders will fall down before him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him forever and ever (cf. Rev 4:8-11).
Revelation 5: 7 also describes the 24 elders falling down before the throne of God in worship (cf. Rev 5:7-9).
When one is in the presence of God’s glory, he or she can’t stand before the Almighty.
Whenever the word “holy” is spoken in heaven, they fall down.
And yet, here on earth, we haven’t yet begun to worship.
We will never tire of worshipping God the Almighty.
Falling down before God is the eternal reaction of worship.
We will be on our knees and never tire of worshipping God.
Yet, on this side of heaven, we are getting just small glimpses of what it is to be in God’s literal presence.
Examples: In Genesis 17, Abraham saw God’s glory and fell down.
When Joshua faced the Commander of the army – he fell down.
When Moses and Aaron faced the glory of God, they fell down (which we’ll talk about in a moment).
When the fire came down upon the sacrifice in Leviticus 9, In the days of Solomon’s temple and Elijah at Mount Carmel, the glory of God came down and the people fell down.
At the moment of transfiguration and the cloud of glory descended on Jesus, Peter, James and John were on the ground.
John in Revelation 1:10, it’s the same thing. He hears the trumpet and turns around to see the Son of Man, the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and he falls down as a dead man in the glory of God. (cf. Rev 1:17)
This glimpse of glory has a response of falling down in worship, and it will be like this through endless ages.
It’s not just that we have mortal bodies, and our bodies can’t contain the weight of His glory; even in the glory to come, they cannot stand.
It’s the act of falling before the Lord and casting the crowns down.
This act of worship we see in Revelation, chapters 4, 5, 7, 19, and 22 is constant.
They can’t stand; they just keep falling before the glory of God in worship and adoration.
I believe the seeds of this are found here, are found now, our found in our day.
That’s why I believe glimpse in the Old and New Testament show us this.
It is the ministry, and person and work of the Holy Spirit that plants this seed from the very beginning.
I’ve come to talk to you about Him. Not about “it,” but about “Him.”
I’ve come to talk to you about being hungry for God’s presence every second of your life!
For as we’ve just seen, in glory (heaven) we will have the joy of worshipping God forever and ever!
And on this side of heaven, God wants us to be so saturated with His glorious presence that we carry His presence with us everywhere we go in this life.
Do you desire Almighty God’s presence in your life more than anything else?
Are you hungry for a Holy God to reign in your life?
God’s presence is real and available in our lives.
Let’s look at our text and see what it says about how God’s presence is now available to us today.
Hebrews 12:18-24: 18 “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear." 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (NIV)
(This passage is not a new topic, but builds on Hebrews 12:14, which reads: “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”) (NIV)
Verse18 refers to Mount Sinai, where more than 3,000 Israelites were killed!
Deuteronomy 4:10-12 provides the background for Hebrews 12:18:
10 “Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.” (NIV) (see also Ex 19:18: Deut 5:22-23)
The focus is not so much on Mount Sinai itself as on the appearance of God who revealed His majesty and power.
The Israelites had consecrated themselves outwardly by washing their clothes (Ex 19:10-11); but, inwardly, they trembled with fear when they looked at the mountain, for they had come to “darkness, gloom and storm.”
God Himself was present and made Himself heard by the sound of the trumpet (v. 19).
The Israelites were awestruck.
No one was allowed to touch God’s holy mountain, not even an animal that strayed near it (Heb 12:20).
Should man or animal touch the mountain, God said, “he shall not be permitted to live” (Ex 19:13).
The emphasis is on God’s holiness, as God wanted the people to be aware of His sacred majesty, His awesomeness & obey Him.
God came to the Israelites with this covenant so that the fear of God Himself might reside in His people to keep them from sinning (Ex 20:20).
The Israelites were filled with fear and terror.
The overwhelming sight and the thunderous voice of God struck mortal fear into the hearts of the people, so that those who heard it begged no further word be spoken to them (see also Ex 10:19; Deut 5:25-26).
Moses was the intermediary between God and man, for he was God’s spokesman (Heb 12:21).
At the sight of God’s splendor and on hearing God’s voice speak the Ten Commandments, Moses was one with the people and shook with fear.
When God reveals His holiness to man, fear and trembling result.
This is like Isaiah, who saw the Lord God “seated on a throne, high and exalted,” and cried out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Is 6:1,5).
John the Baptist – Apostle Paul – Apostle John
God spoke to the people and gave them the Mosaic Covenant.
Scripture reveals that the people at Mount Sinai heard the voice of God, but the words He spoke failed to penetrate the hearts and minds of the Israelites.
How do we know this the words failed to penetrate their hearts and minds?
Of all the Israelites who were present at this event in Mount Sinai, no one entered the Promise Land, with the exceptions of Joshua and Caleb.
What a difference between the description of Mount Sinai and that of Mount Zion that we see in Hebrews 12:22. What a contrast!
The first scene at Mount Sinai under the law is one of doom and dread; the second scene in Hebrews under the New Covenant portrays life and joy in God’s presence.
How do you think of God’s presence in your life, with life and joy, or doom and dread?
Mount Zion is described as the “heavenly Jerusalem” and as “the city of the living God.
The verb “have come,” which is used in verse 22, emphasizes to the readers of Hebrews have arrived at a permanent place.
That is, the temporary conditions of the Old Covenant have ended, and the everlasting terms of the New Covenant now prevail.
The New Jerusalem is the place where Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant dwells.
In the days of the Old Testament, Mount Zion was the highest elevation in the city of Jerusalem.
As a fortress, it was fiercely defended by the Jebusites, who were defeated at last by David.
In time, the fortress, including the surrounding area, was called the city of David, but poets and prophets used the name Zion and designated it God’s dwelling place (cf., Ps 2:6; 20:2; 99:2; 135:21; Isa 4:3-5; Jer 8:19).
In the New Testament, the heavenly Zion is where God dwells with all saints (Rev 14:1; 21:2)
And the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem are known as sons and daughters of Zion.
It is the place where “God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev 21:3).
The heavenly Jerusalem excels its earthly counterpart, for sin and death are banished eternally in heaven.
The city has no need of sun or moon, “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev 21:23).
The living God lives among His people forever! What an honor!
Consider this: Moses was given the honor of climbing Mount Sinai and being with God for forty days and forty nights (Ex 34:28).
But we shall be with Him in heaven always, along with thousand and thousands of angels (Heb 12:22)!
Example: If every grain of sand on the beaches and sand dunes in the world = 10,000 years of eternity time, if is still just the beginning of eternity!
We belong to the New Covenant, and our names already have been recorded in the Book of Life (see also Lk 10:20; Phil 4:3; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 20:12).
Verse 23: We will be worshipping the Son, who is the Firstborn! (Heb 12:23)
We will be with the Firstborn forever!
There are 9 occurrences in the NT of the phrase “first born” – Mt 1:25; Lk 2:7; Rom 8:29; Col 1:15, 18; Heb 1:6; 11:28; 12:23), and 7 of these refer to Jesus.
The privilege of the first-born is that he is able to lay claim to the inheritance.
Christ is therefore the heir, and we are co-heirs with Him (Rom 8:17).
[We value our birthright, whereas Esau despised it (Heb 12:16).]
We are the first-born because of Christ who makes us holy, and we who are made holy belong to the same family (Heb 2:11).
However, God is the judge of all men, and no one is higher than God.
Everyone must appear before God. No one will be excluded.
Seated at Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, God summons His people – the “spirits of the righteousness of men (Heb 12:23) – to the judgment seat, not to condemn them, but to justify them.
This judgment of God is to administrate the judgment that took place on the cross.
All believers of both the Old Testament and New Testament times, who have been translated to glory, are declared righteous.
Therefore, only Jesus is found worthy to open the Lamb’s book of life.
No angel or person or demon (Satan) can open it – only Jesus (cf., Rev 5:1-5).
Revelation 5:1-5: “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." (NIV)
Salvation can only be found through Jesus! There is no other way – no other name.
No person’s name or accomplishments can save us.
No other “god” can save us: no one “under the earth” can save us (spirits).
Why? Because we have been made perfect on the basis of Jesus’ work; He is “the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb 12:2).
It is by no one else’s work, but only Jesus. He paid a high price: his life.
So what about death for us? Should we as Christians be fearful?
When death occurs the believer obtains the fulfillment of Christ's atoning work (Heb. 2:10).
In earlier chapters of Hebrews, the writer explained the covenant (7:22; 8:6, 8-12; 9:4, 15-17, 20; 10:16, 29); once more he reminds the readers that Jesus is the mediator of a New Covenant.
Hebrews 12:24 says that Jesus is our Mediator. “ … Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (NIV)
The Hebrew writer purposely uses the name Jesus to bring into focus the suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
At Mount Sinai Moses served as mediator between God and man (sin); and with respect to the covenant God made with his people, Moses was the intermediary.
But Mount Sinai represents that which is temporary: Moses died, and the first covenant eventually came to an end.
God replaced it with a New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:8-12), and Jesus became the mediator of it.
The establishing of a New Covenant occurred when Jesus voluntarily died on Calvary's cross.
We look to Jesus as mediator of the New Covenant, who calls the believer to joyful and thankful obedience.
By His grace, Jesus removes the burden of guilt and cleanses the sinner's conscience.
He grants us the gift of eternal life and functions as intercessor in behalf of His people.
When Moses formally confirmed the first covenant at Sinai, he sprinkled blood on the altar, the scroll, the people, and even the tabernacle (Ex 24:6-8; Heb 9:17-22).
Sprinkled blood signified forgiveness of sin, for "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22).
Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant by shedding His blood once for all at Calvary.
Because of that sprinkled blood, believers enter the presence of God as forgiven sinners (Heb 10:22; 1 Pet 1:2).
You have come, says the author of Hebrews, "to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."
The comparison is somewhat unequal. The blood of Abel called for revenge, and God placed a curse upon Cain for killing his brother Abel (Gen 4:10-11).
The blood of Christ removed the curse placed upon fallen man and effected reconciliation and peace between God and man.
Abel's blood is the blood of a martyr that evokes revenge.
The blood of Jesus is the blood of the Lamb of God who "takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29).
Jesus took our place on the cross, bearing our sins and paying the full penalty of our sins.
The blood of Jesus sets the sinner free!
Through Jesus great sacrifice on the cross, God rewards His people by renewing them after His image of true righteousness, holiness, and knowledge (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10).
From this brief overview of Hebrews 12:18-24, we have seen that at Mount Sinai, in all His glory, God appears to His people and expects them to increase their reverence for Him.
However, we are no longer under the old Mosaic law, but the New Covenant, established through Jesus our Mediator, in worship of our Father God and sealed by the Holy Spirit who indwells in every genuine Christian.
Under the New Covenant, a new mode of God’s presence is revealed.
It is in Jesus Christ the incarnate Word that God is present among His own (Jn 1:14–18; 17:6, 26).
Jesus’ mission was to reveal God to humanity.
This He did through His whole life’s work as well as through his words.
His revelation of the name of God was expressed in his own name—Jesus (“The Lord Is Salvation”).
And in the person of Jesus the function of the name of God found fulfillment.
Christ was the new temple (Jn 1:14; 2:21; Col 2:9).
He was the locus (center) of the tabernacling presence of God.
But that was only a first installment of the unveiling of God’s presence.
The church now constitutes the temple of God under the New Covenant.
Christianity is not a religion, but is essentially the relating with the presence and communion of God.
The body of Christ, “the spiritual temple” (Eph 2:22), made of “living stones” (1 Pt 2:5), is the residence of the presence of the glorious God.
And now, the individual Christian is also a temple of God (1 Cor 3:16–17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16), through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
God is especially present in the Christian’s spirit; there God reigns, for there is His kingdom; there He is worshiped, for there His glory and His presence have consecrated the inner being into a temple (see Jn 14:23).
Under the Mosaic Law, God was worshipped in a synagogue, or the temple in Jerusalem, but at the time of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple at Jerusalem was torn in two.
Through the Holy Spirit, we live in God’s presence – in the Holy of Holies!
We have God’s Word, and we have God’s Holy Spirit operating in our lives.
Mount Zion has come down to us!
Like Jacob and his vision of the angels ascending and descending to heaven, we have access to Mount Zion!
We not only have access to God’s presence, but we God’s actual presence in our lives.
Therefore, our daily actions, thoughts and attitudes should be responses from heaven (Mount Zion), rather than of this world.
What does this mean practically?
Examples: Taking responsibility for our choices, our anger, our habits, our relationships, our integrity/honesty, our time, etc.
It also means joy in worshipping God; joy in praising God; a desire to spend time in God’s Word and in prayer with our Father.
It means an ongoing adoration of the Father, exalting Him as King, Lord, Master, Savior, Redeemer, Father, etc. … falling down before God Almighty in worship!
It means a whole paradigm shift in our lives; where, everything we do brings glory and honor of God.
It’s allowing God to be LORD over every area of our life: our attitude, our thoughts, our speech; our relationships, our actions.
Are you hungry to be in God’s presence, and responding to life from heaven’s realm?
Is God’s intimate friendship more important than other things?
Are you considered a stranger to God’s throne room, or is our Lord familiar with you?
Do you know what pleases your Father? What He delights in? What honors Him?
Are you hungry for God’s presence – to adore Him, love Him, worship Him, exalt Him?
Long ago, Moses gave the Law before a mountain that burned with fire and shook the plain.
However, the terror felt by that generation will be nothing to that felt by those who in this day cannot see spiritual realities and fail to enter the kingdom of Jesus.
God’s kingdom alone will remain when the universe itself is shaken, and this temporary creation disappears, to then be replaced by a new heaven and new earth, which will last forever.
How good it is to be securing in knowing that we are citizens of the kingdom of God – that we are in God’s family.
How good it will be to spend an eternity in worship of our Creator God.
Good News: God’s presence is available to us today – even before we leave the earth!
God longs to fill our lives with His glorious presence!
Are you hungry for God’s presence in your life?
Or are you satisfied simply following tracks?!
Example: Hunter follows a bear’s tracks. Not happy simply to follow tracks and goes home. But the hunter is thrilled when he or she has pursues the bear and kills it.
If you are indeed hungry for God, you will not be happy to simply follow God’s tracks.
You will follow God’s “tracks” until you apprehend His presence.
The difference between truth of God and revelation is very simple: truth is where God’s been. Revelation is where God is. Truth is God’s tracks.
God is not asking you how much you know about Him, but rather, “Do you really know Me? Do you really want Me?”
When people attend your church services, do they meet God’s presence?
People may be tired of church because the Church has been somewhat less than what the Book advertised!
People want to connect with a higher power! They are currently interested in the “spiritual.”
But just knowing someone about them doesn’t imply intimacy.
Just knowing my wife does not mean I am close relationally with her. This takes time, effort and energy.
I am afraid that for too long the Church has been only conversant in the things of God.
We talk about techniques, but we don’t talk with Him. … It’s simply not enough to know about God; rather, we must know God intimately.
Many churches are filled with people who can win Bible trivia contests but how don’t know Him intimately.
Many of us have been side-tracked or entangled by everything from prosperity to poverty.
We’ve become such an ingrown society of the self-righteous that our desires and our wants and those of the Holy Spirit are two different matters.
If we’re not careful, we can become so comfortable - with our comfortable pastor, our comfortable church building, and our comfortable circle of friends, that we forget about the thousands of discontented, wounded, and dying people who pass by our comfortable church every day!
If we fail to even try to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then He sure wasted a lot of blood on Calvary.
More times than not, we have a tendency of programming our church services so tightly that we really don't leave room for the Holy Spirit.
Oh, we might be somewhat flexible, perhaps by letting God speak prophetically to us a little, but we get nervous if He tries to break out of our schedules.
We can't let God out of the box too much because He can ruin everything.
Our prayer should be: "Break out of our boxes, Lord, and ruin everything that isn't of You!"
May I ask you a question?: How long has it been since you came to church and said, "We are going to wait on the Lord"?
We are afraid to wait on Him because we're afraid He won't show up.
Scripture has a promise for you: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Is. 40:31a).
Do you want to know why we've lived in weakness as Christians and have not had all that God wanted for us?
Do you want to know why we have lived beneath our privilege and have not had the strength to overcome our own carnality?
Maybe it's because we haven't waited on Him to show up to empower us, and we're trying to do too much in the power of our own flesh.
It is true that most Christians and most of our leaders genuinely mean well, but there is so much more!
We need to be “God-chasers.”
You can "catch" God – ask Jacob.
Jacob wrestled with God and it crippled him for life.
We talk and preach and teach about revival until the Church is sick of hearing about it.
Do we pray that God will break out of His box and “ruined everything” when He shows up?
Do we pray that God will show up and for several meetings in a row?
Does He show up four or five weeks straight, hundreds of people a night would stand in line to repent and receive Christ, worship, wait, and pray.
This is taking place during these days in which we live.
Example: An example from the book entitled, “The God Chasers” in which author Tommy Tenney tells a true story:
A long time friend of pastor Tommy Tenney who pastured in Houston, Texas, asked him to speak at his church.
A hunger had birthed in Tenney’s heart that would not grow away. He was sick of church! He spoke at the church and the pastor invited him to come back to speak the next Sunday.
This second Sunday was even more intense. No one wanted to leave the building after the Sunday night service.
"What should we do?" my pastor friend asked.
"We should have a prayer meeting on Monday night," Tenney said, "with no other agenda.
Let's gauge the hunger of the people and see what's happening."
400 people showed up that Monday for the prayer meeting, and all they did was seek the face of God.
Something was definitely going on. A minuscule crack was appearing in the brass heavens over the city of Houston.
Collective hunger was crying for a corporate visitation.
Tenney went back home and by Wednesday the pastor was on the phone again, saying, "Tommy, can you come back again for Sunday?"
What they both wanted was God. The church had fueled a flaming hunger in the pastors. They too had been preparing for pursuit of God.
There was a sense that we were close to "catching" Him.
You can’t really catch God; but it’s like a child who comes and tries to a father, who really can't catch an adult.
After awhile, the child will laughingly say, "Oh daddy," and it's at that moment that he or she captures the father’s, if not my presence or body.
And then in turn, the child is no longer chasing the father, but the father is chasing the child, and he catches the child and tumble together in the grass with hugs and kisses.
The pursuer becomes the pursued.
So can we really literally catch God?
Not really, but we can catch His heart.
David did. And if we catch His heart, then He turns and chases us.
That's the beauty of being a God chaser.
You're chasing the impossible, knowing it's possible.
This body of believers in Houston had two scheduled services on Sundays. The first morning service started at 8:30, and the second one followed and began at 11.
When Tenney returned for the third weekend, while in the hotel, he sensed a heavy anointing of some kind, a brooding of the Spirit, and he literally wept and trembled.
The following morning, the pastors walked into the building for the 8:30 Sunday service expecting to see the usual early morning first service "sleepy" crowd with their low-key worship.
As Tenney walked in to sit down in the front row that morning, the presence of God was already in that place so heavily that the air was "thick." You could barely breathe.
The musicians were clearly struggling to continue their ministry; their tears got in the way.
Music became more difficult to play.
Finally, the presence of God hovered so strongly that they couldn't sing or play any longer.
The worship leader crumpled in sobs behind the keyboard.
Pastor Tenney spoke to his wife to continue to lead the congregation in worship.
She quietly moved to the front and continued to facilitate the worship and ministry to the Lord.
It wasn't anything fancy; it was just simple. That was the only appropriate response in that moment.
The atmosphere reminded pastor Tenney of the passage in Isaiah 6, something he'd read about, and even dared dream he might experience himself.
In this passage the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
Pastor Tenneynever understood what it meant for the glory of the Lord to fill a place.
Although he had sensed God come in places, but this time in Houston, even after there was all of God that he thought was available in the building, more of His presence literally packed itself into the room.
It's like the bridal train of a bride that, after she has personally entered the building, her bridal train continues to enter the building after her. God was there; of that there was no doubt.
But more of Him kept coming in the place until, as in Isaiah; it literally filled the building.
At times the air was so rarefied that it became almost unbreathable. Oxygen came in short gasps, seemingly.
Muffled sobs broke through the room. In the midst of this, the pastor turned to me and asked me a question.
"Tommy, are you ready to take the service?"
"Pastor,” Tenney replied, “I'm just about half-afraid to step up there, because I sense that God is about to do something."
Pastor Tenney wasn't afraid that God was going to strike me down, or that something bad was going to happen.
He just didn't want to interfere and grieve the precious presence that was filling up that room!
For too long we humans have only allowed the Holy Spirit to take control up to a certain point.
Basically, whenever it gets outside of our comfort zone or just a little beyond our control, we pull in the reins.
The Bible calls it "quenching the Spirit" in First Thessalonians 5:19.
We stop at the tabernacle veil too many times.
Tenney’s pastor friend said he had a word from the Lord. With profuse tears, Tenney nodded assent and said, "Go, go."
Tenney’s pastor friend was not a man given to any kind of outward demonstration; he was essentially a man of "even" emotions.
But when he got up to walk to the platform, he appeared visibly shaky.
At this point Tommy Tenney so sensed something was about to happen, that he walked all the way from the front row to the back of the room to stand by the sound booth.
He knew God was going to do something; but just didn't know where.
Tenney’s friend stepped up to the clear' pulpit in the center of the platform, opened the Bible, and quietly read the gripping passage from Second Chronicles 7:14:
“If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Then he closed his Bible, gripped the edges of the pulpit with trembling hands, and said, "The word of the Lord to us is to stop seeking His benefits and seek Him.
We are not to seek His hands any longer, but seek His face."
In that instant, Tenney heard what sounded like a thunderclap echo through the building, and the pastor was literally picked up and thrown backward about ten feet, effectively separating him from the pulpit.
When he went backward, the pulpit fell forward.
The beautiful flower arrangement positioned in front of it fell to the ground, but by the time the pulpit hit the ground, it was already in two pieces.
It had split into two pieces almost as if lightning had hit it!
At that instant the tangible terror of the presence of God filled that room.
Tommy Tenney quickly stepped to the microphone from the back of the room and said, "In case you aren't aware of it, God has just moved into this place. The pastor is fine. He's going to be fine."
It was two and a half hours before he could even get up, though-and even then the ushers had to carry him. Only his hand trembled slightly to give proof of life.
While all of this happened, the ushers quickly ran to the front to check on the pastor and to pick up the two pieces of the split pulpit.
No one really paid much attention to the split pulpit; they were too occupied with the torn heavenlies.
The presence of God had hit that place like some kind of bomb.
People began to weep and to wail. Pastor Tenney said, "If you're not where you need to be, this is a good time to get right with God."
Tenney had never seen such an altar call. It was pure pandemonium. People shoved one another out of the way.
They wouldn't wait for the aisles to clear; they climbed over pews, businessmen tore their ties off, and they were literally stacked on top of one another, in the most horribly harmonious sound of repentance you ever heard.
Just the thought of it still sends chills down my back. When pastor Tenney gave the altar call then for the 8:30 am. service, he had no idea that it would be but the first of seven altar calls that day.
When it was time for the 11:00 service to begin, nobody had left the building. The people were still on their faces and, even though there was hardly any music being played at this point, worship was rampant and uninhibited.
Grown men were ballet dancing; little children were weeping in repentance.
People were on their faces, on their feet, on their knees, but mostly in His presence.
There was so much of the presence and the power of God there that people began to feel an urgent need to be baptized.
Pastor Tenney watched people walk through the doors of repentance, and one after another experienced the glory and the presence of God as He came near.
Then they wanted baptized, and he was in a quandary about what to do.
The home pastor was still unavailable on the floor.
Prominent people walked up to pastor Tenney and stated, "I've got to be baptized. Somebody tell me what to do."
They joined with the parade of the unsaved, who were now saved, provoked purely by encountering the presence of God.
There was no sermon and no real song just His Spirit that day.
Two and a half hours had passed, and since the pastor had only managed to wiggle one finger at that point to call the elders to him, the ushers had carried him to his office.
Meanwhile, all these people were asking Tenney (or anyone else they could find) if they could be baptized.
As a visiting minister at the church, pastor Tenney didn't want to assume the authority to tell anyone to baptize these folks, so he sent people back to the pastor's office to see if he would authorize the water baptisms.
Pastor Tenney gave one altar call after another, and hundreds of people were coming forward.
As more and more people came asking about water baptism, he noticed that no one he had sent to the pastor's office had returned.
Finally Tenney sent a senior assistant pastor back there and told him, "Please find out what Pastor wants to do about the water baptisms-nobody has come back to tell me yet."
The man stuck his head in the pastor's office, and to his shock he saw the pastor still lying before the Lord, and everyone pastor Tenney had sent there was sprawled on the floor too, just weeping and repenting before God.
He hurried back to tell Tenney what he had seen and added, "I'll go ask him, but if I go in that office I may not be back either."
Pastor Tenney shrugged my shoulders and agreed with the associate pastor, "I guess it's all right to baptize them."
So they ended up baptizing people for hours.
More and more people kept pouring in, and since the people from the early service were still there, there were cars parked everywhere outside the church building.
A big open-air ball field next to the building was filled with cars parked every which way.
As people drove onto the parking lot, they sensed the presence of God so strongly that some began to weep uncontrollably.
They just found themselves driving up onto the parking lot or into the grass not knowing what was going on.
Some started to get out of their cars and barely managed to stagger across the parking lot.
Some came inside the building only to fall to the floor just inside the doors.
The hard pressed ushers had to literally pull the helpless people away from the doors and stack them up along the walls of the hallways to clear the entrance.
Others managed to make it part way down the hallways, and some made it to the foyer before they fell on their faces in repentance.
Some actually made it inside the auditorium, but most of them didn't bother to find seats.
They just made for the altar.
No matter what they did or how far they made it, it wasn't long before they began to weep and repent.
There wasn't any preaching. There wasn't even any music part of the time.
Primarily one thing happened that day: The presence of God showed up.
When that happens, the first thing you do is the same thing Isaiah did when he saw the Lord high and lifted up. He cried out from the depths of his soul:
“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).
You see, the instant Isaiah the prophet, the chosen servant of God, saw the King of glory, what he used to think was clean and holy now looked like filthy rags.
He was thinking, “I thought I knew God, but I didn't know this much of God!”
People just kept filling the auditorium again and again, beginning with that strange service that started at 8:30 that morning.
Pastor Tenney finally went to eat at around 4:00 that afternoon, and then came right back to the church building.
Many never left. The continuous "Sunday morning service" lasted until 1:00 Monday morning.
The leaders didn't have to announce our plans for Monday evening.
Everybody already knew. Frankly, there would have been a meeting whether we announced it or not.
The people simply went home to get some sleep or do the things they had to do, and they came right back for more-not for more of men and their programs, but for God and His presence.
Night after night, the pastor and I would come in and say, "What are we going to do?"
Most of the time our answer to one another was just as predictable: "What do you want to do?"
What we meant was, “I don’t know what to do. What does He want to do?”
Sometimes Tenney and leaders would go in and start trying to “have church,” but the crying hunger of the people would quickly draw in the presence of God and suddenly God had us!
Pastor Tenney says: “Listen, my friend, God doesn’t care about your music, your midget steeples, and your flesh-impressive buildings. Your church carpet [décor] doesn’t impress Him – He carpets the fields. God doesn’t really care about anything you can ‘do’ for Him; He only cares about your answer to one question: ‘Do you really want me?’”
You see, what happened to pastor Tenney and this church in Houston has happened in history, past and present, is happening again.
God wants to do this everywhere. He wants to reveal Himself among us.
As far as I can tell, there is only one thing that stops Him.
He is not going to pour out His Spirit where He doesn't find hunger.
God is looking for those who are hungry for Him.
Spiritual hunger means that you're dissatisfied with the way it has been because it forces you to live without Him in His fullness in your life.
He can only come when you are ready to turn all of your life – and everything in it - over to Him.
God is coming back to repossess His Church, but you have to be hungry.
He wants to come ever stronger, and stronger, and stronger, and stronger until your flesh won't be able to stand it.
If there is any sin in us, we will immediately want to repent because we will not want anything to separate us from God.
Our desire is that God’s presence is so among us and so observable from the unsaved, that they will not be able to resist.
We must pray for this to happen, that sinners will knock on the doors of our churches or homes and say, "Please, there's something here, I've got to have it."
Are you tired of trying to pass out tracts, knocking on doors, and trying to make things happen in your own strength?
I’m afraid we've been trying to make things happen in our own strength for a long time.
Now He wants to make it happen! Why don't you find out what He's doing and join in?
That's what Jesus did. He said, "Father, what are You doing? That's what I'll do.”
God wants to move in with your church family.
How long has it been since you've been so hungry for God that it consumed you to the point where you couldn't care less what people thought of you?
I challenge you right now to forget about every distraction, every opinion, but one.
Rise up and pursue His presence. Become hungry for God!
I'm not talking about the excitement of praise and worship, as we would call it.
We may know how to get the music "just right" so the singing is stunning, the accompaniment is awesome, and everything seems perfect.
Rather, I’m referring about a hunger for God's presence.
Let me be blunt for a moment. the truth of the matter is this: In many places, the Church has lived in self-righteous smugness for so long that it stinks in God's nostrils.
He can't even look at us in our present state. In the same way that you or I might feel embarrassed in a restaurant when we see someone's children acting up and getting away with it, God feels the same way about our self-righteousness.
God is uncomfortable with our smug self-righteousness. We are not "as together" as we think we are.
So what must we do? We must repent!
“`.'" (Mt 3:1-3) (NIV)
Repentance prepares the way and makes the road of our hearts straight.
Repentance builds up every low place and takes down every high place in our lives and church families.
Repentance prepares us for His presence; in fact, you cannot live in His presence without repentance.
Repentance permits pursuit of His presence. It builds the road for you to get to God (or for God to get to you!).
This is the crux of what must be said: How long has it been since you said, "I'm going for God? I’m hungry to be at Mount Zion in the Lord’s presence.”
How long has it been since you laid aside everything that ever occupied you and ran down the road of repentance to pursue God?
Nothing else should matter to us anymore. We should not care about what other people or leaders think about us; rather, we should going after God.
This is not a pride thing; it's a hunger thing.
When you pursue God with all your heart, soul, and body, He will turn to meet you and you will come out of it responding to heaven, rather than the world.
Allow your heart be broken by the Holy Spirit.
It's time for you to make your life holy and pure.
Quit watching what you used to watch; quit reading what you used to read if you are reading it more than you read His Word.
He must be your first and greatest hunger – more than TV, more than movies, more than video games, more than sports, more than sex, more than anything else in your life!
For those who are hungry, the Lord has a promise: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matt 5:6).
Our problem is that we have never really been hungry.
Why? We have allowed things of this world to satisfy our lives and satiate our hunger.
And so we have come to God week after week, year after year, just to have Him fill in the little empty spaces of our hearts.
However, God is tired of being "second place" to everything else in our lives.
He is even tired of being second to the local church program and church life!
Everything good, including the things your local church does – from feeding the poor, to rescuing babies at the pregnancy counseling center, to teaching kids in the Sunday school classes – should flow from the presence of God.
Ministry flows out of being, not out of doing!
Our primary motivating factor should be, "We do it because of Him and because it is His heart."
But if we're not careful, we can get so caught up in doing things for Him that we forget about Him.
You can get so caught up in being "religious" that you never become spiritual.
It doesn't matter how much you pray.
It doesn’t matter how much you know about the Bible, or what you know about Him, but rather, do you know Him?
Is it possible that we have satisfied our hunger for Him by only reading old love letters from Him to the churches in the Epistles of the New Testament.
These are good, holy, and necessary, but we replace true intimacy with Him with the substitute of reading about Him.
We have stifled our hunger for His presence by doing things for Him, rather than being in His presence.
Example: A husband and wife can do things for each other while never really loving each other.
They can go through childbirth classes together, have kids, and share a mortgage, but never enjoy the high level of intimacy that God ordained and designed for a marriage (and I'm not just talking about sexual things).
Too often we live on a lower plane than what God intended for us, so when He unexpectedly shows up in His power, we are shocked.
Most of us are simply not prepared to see "His train fill the temple."
The priority of God’s presence has been lost in the modern Church.
We’re like bakeries that are open, but have no bread. And furthermore, we’re not interested in selling bread.
We just like the chit-chat that goes on around cold ovens and empty shelves.
In fact, do we even know whether He’s here or not, and if He is here, what is He doing?
Where is He going?
Or are we just too preoccupied with sweeping out imaginary crumbs from bakeries with no bread?
John 12 records Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, in which the religious establishment missed the coming of the Messiah. – They missed the hour of their visitation. The long-awaited Messiah was in town and they didn’t even know it! The Messiah passed right by their door while they were inside praying for Him to come.
Have we missed God when He shows up? Will we miss it?
It is time for us to learn that our programs are not progress. What we need is His presence.
We need to decide that whatever it takes and wherever it comes from, we must have Him.
And He wants to come, but on His terms, not ours.
We should not pursue God’s presence solely for our personal benefit; but so that others may experience His presence and glory, too.
Ruth 1:1-6 describes how Naomi and her husband and two sons left home and moved to Moab because there was a famine in Bethlehem. (Bethlehem = “house of bread”).
There was no bread in the house.
It’s simple, why people do not attend church – or leave churches – there’s no bread.
Bread was a part of the temple practices as well; it was proof of His presence – the showbread, the bread of the presence.
Bread has always been the one thing historically that was an indicator of God’s presence.
We find in the OT that bread in the form of the showbread was in the Holy Place.
It was called “the bread of the Presence” (Num 4:7 NRSV).
Showbread might better be interpreted as “show up bread,” or in the Hebraic terms, “face bread.”
It was a heavenly symbol of God Himself.
If we can lead people into the manifest presence of God, all false theological houses of cards will tumble down (see Jn 9:25).
People have come to the House of Bread time and again only to find there was simply too much of man and too little of God there.
God the Almighty is out to restore the sense of His awesome manifest presence in our lives and places of worship.
There is much more of God available than we have ever known or imagined, but we have become so satisfied with where we are and what we have that we don’t press in for God’s best.
Yes, God is moving among us and working in our lives, but we have been content to comb the carpet for crumbs as opposed to having the abundant loaves of hot bread God has prepared for us in the ovens of Heaven!
He has prepared a great table – a huge feast - of His presence in this day, and He is calling to the Church, “Come and dine.”
Yet, we ignore God’s summons while carefully counting our stale crumbs of yesteryear’s bread.
Meanwhile, millions of people outside our church walls are starving for life.
They are sick and overstuffed with our man-made programs for self-help and self-advancement.
They are starving for Him, not stories about Him.
They want food that will bring life. They desperately need the Bread of Life!
Our constant claims of hot bread backed only by stale crumbs on a frayed carpet of man’s tradition have left countless generations hungry, homeless, and with nowhere else to go but Moab.
And so they grow weary with the cruel taskmaster who takes his tax in their marriages, children and lives.
Revival as we know it in the present is really the “recycling” of saved people through the Church to keep them fired up.
But the next wave of true revival will bring waves of unchurched people into the House of Bread – people who have never darkened the door of a church in their lives.
When they hear that there really is bread in the house, they will stream through our doors after smelling the fragrance of hot bread from the ovens of Heaven!
Satan’s ploy has been to keep us so full of junk that we’re not hungry for Him, and it has worked magnificently for centuries.
The greatest trick the enemy has used to rob the [American] Church of its vitality has been the “lollipop of prosperity.”
Compared to what God wants to do, we’re digging for crumbs in the carpet when He has hot loaves baking in the ovens of Heaven!
He is not the God of crumbs and lack.
He is waiting just to dispense unending loaves of His life-giving presence, but our problem was described long ago by James the apostle, “you have not, because you ask not” (James 4:2).
Yet the psalmist David sings through the tunnel of them that “his seed” never go “begging for bread” (see Ps 37:25).
We need the light of the glory of God bright enough to be seen from a distance.
In other words, it is time for the glory of God, the lamp of God, to break out of the Church “bushel” to illuminate our communities!
No matter what you need or feel you lack in your life – what you really need is Him.
And the way to get Him is to get hungry. If we can get hungry, then He can make us holy.
Once you experience God in His glory, you can’t turn away from Him or forget His touch.
One reason people flow out the back doors of our churches as fast as they come in through the front door is because they have more of a “man encounter” with our programs than a “God encounter” with the unforgettable majesty and power of the Almighty God.
God is everywhere, but He doesn’t turn His face and His favor everywhere.
That is why He tells us to seek His face – to seek intimacy with Him!
This is what God desires, and His face should be our highest focus.
We need God’s anointing in our lives.
The purpose of the anointing is to help us make the transition from flesh to glory.
For in His presence, we are without a vocation.
Have you ever thought that there’s no need for us to preach if God shows up in His glory?
The people are already convinced of His holiness simply by His presence.
Simultaneously, they are convicted of their unholiness and their need to repent and live holy before Him.
They are aware of His worthiness to receive praise and worship, and they are seized by a driving desire to dive deeper and lead others into His presence!
Just as Isaiah received the hot coals on his lips, we receive the hot bread of His presence and are forever changed. When more of our flesh dies, more of our spirit lives.
The end result of this quest is that all that remains is God’s glory, not man’s anointed gifts, ministry, opinions, or abilities.
In God’s manifest presence, you and I will need to do very little, yet great and mighty things will happen.
If we allow God to replace our programs with His manifest presence, then whenever people walk through the door of our local church building or when they mingle with us at the local church building or when the mingle with us at a store, they will be convicted of sin and could rush to get right with God without a word being spoken.
We must move into agreement with what God wants to do.
God is not coming to people who merely seek His benefits, instead, He’s coming to people who seek His face.
We must understand that there is a connection between His glory and our death.
God wants to break open the heavens over our villages, towns, and cities so that people who are without God will know that He is Lord and that He loves them.
This is the true purpose of God’s visitation among men.
The Aaronic priests knew something about God that we need to rediscover today.
They knew that God is holy and mankind is not.
Only dead men can see God’s face. It is God’s mercy that keeps Him away from us.
God would rather have moments with a few who really love Him than for everybody to come and be entertained.
Yet we are hosting a party for God in which we trade presents with each other while totally ignoring him!
There is something about that element of death to self that is special.
If I decrease, then He can increase. Less of me means more of Him.
We need to forget who’s around you and abandon the “normal protocol.”
God is in the business of re-defining what we call “church.”
He’s looking for people who are hot after His heart.
He wants a Church of Davids who are after His own heart (not just His hand)
Don’t resist the Holy Spirit when the hand of God tries to mold your heart.
We need to repent for designing services that men like, instead of yielding to what God likes.
Like most men and women, we have wanted “life” in our services when God was after “death” in our gatherings!
It is “death” through repentance and brokenness that ushers in the presence of God and causes you to draw near to the Lord and yet live.
Revival must begin in your local church before it can reach into your community.
If you are hungry for revival, then know this: fire doesn’t fall on empty altars.
There has to be a sacrifice on the altar for the fire to fall.
If you want the fire of God, you must become the fuel of God.
Jesus sacrificed Himself to win our salvation, but He has called each and every person who wants to follow Him to do what?
To lay down their lives and take up their cross and follow Him.
Satan’s most successful trick is to get us to race to false finish lines.
He works tirelessly to get us to stop short and say, “We made it!”
He delights when he sees us fall or pull over to the wayside only to notice at the last moment that the finish line is still ahead (see Phil 3:13-14).
God always starts with the leadership, and Moses had already stepped into that thick darkness once before on the mountaintop.
There is something in us that makes us afraid of the commitment that comes with real intimacy with God.
For one thing, intimacy with God requires purity.
He’s saying it everywhere: “Intimacy.” And out of that intimacy will come revival.
The babe of revival is hewn from the granite rock of commitment to the Bridegroom.
Babies always birthed from intimacy. It’s time to “draw near.”
God is calling … you into personal intimacy with Him.
If you dare to answer His call, then it is going to redefine everything you’ve ever done.
Your decision today will determine whether you go forward or backward in your walk with Christ.
Intimacy with God requires a certain level of brokenness because purity comes from brokenness.
The highest level of worship comes from brokenness, and there are no shortcuts or formulas to help you “reach the top.”
No one can do it for you; that is something only you can do. But if you do, God will stop just to spend time with you.
If you want to know why some churches have revival, or why some people have intimacy when multitudes do not; the answer is that these are people of brokenness.
The breaking of your heart arrests the ears and eyes of God, and it begins when your love for Him supersedes our fear of what others may think.
You can’t seek His face and save your “face.” The “end” of your glory, the dismantling, if you please, is the beginning of His glory.”
We need to seek brokenness and repentance, and say by our actions as well as our works, “God, we want You.”
Sometimes it means your most treasured things may have to be broken to release the fragrance God remembers.
Your brokenness is a sweet-smelling savor to God.
We need to learn how to handle the holy things of God with great tenderness and sensitivity.
We must remember that “the good” can quickly become the worst enemy of “the best.”
If you want God’s best, then you will have to sacrifice what you think is good and acceptable.
The bottom line is this: If you are really hungry to see Daddy come on the scene, then you have to understand that you must stop seeking His benefits and quite asking for Him to do this and that.
You can be busy being a disciple and doing the work, but miss the worship!
What He wants is your worship. Jesus told the woman at the well “…true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him” (Jn 4:23).
Do you really think God needs us to do things for Him?
Isn’t He the Creator who stepped out on the balcony of Heaven and scooped out the seven seas with the palm of His hands?
Wasn’t it God who pinched the earth to make the mountains?
Then obviously He doesn’t need you to “do” anything.
God wants us to take our ego apart and lay it aside.
It doesn’t matter who we are, what we feel, or how important we think we are.
God wants us, but first we must dismantle our own “glory.”
Why? Because the burial of man’s glory is often the birth of God’s glory.
In today’s society, we like things to come quickly, easily, and cheaply – like a microwave personal revival.
But God know that such things never produce godly character in us (see Mt 16:24-26).
The more we die to ourselves, the closer God gets.
The greatest blessing doesn’t come from God’s hand; it comes from His face in intimate relationship.
You find the true source of all power when you finally see Him and know Him in His glory.
While all flesh dies in His glory, all that is of the Spirit lives forever in His glory.
That part of your being really wants to live can live forever, but something about your flesh has to die.
Your flesh holds back the glory of God.
The God of Moses is willing to reveal Himself to you today, but it is not going to be a “cheap” blessing.
You’re going to have to lay down and die, and the more you die, the closer He can come.
You need to forget about the opinions and expectations of those around you.
You need to lay aside every idea of what the ”normal religious protocol” may be.
God has only one protocol for the flesh: death. God is out to redefine the Church.
He is sending His fire to burn away everything that isn’t from him anyway, so you have nothing to lose but your flesh.
God isn’t looking for religious people; He’s looking for people who are hot after His heart.
God doesn’t need your religious service; He wants your worship.
The only worship He can accept is worship that comes from humility.
So if you want to see Him, you will have to dismantle your glory and bathe His feet in your tears – no matter what you find there.
However, our churches are filled with “career prodigals” who love their Father’s things more than their Father.
We come to the family dinner table not to ask for more of the Father, but to beg and persuade Him to give us all the things in His house that He promised are rightfully ours.
We open the Bible and lick our lips and say, “I want all the gifts, I want the best portion, the full blessing; I want all that belongs to me.”
Ironically, it was the father’s blessing that actually “financed” the prodigal son’s trip away from the Father’s face!
And it was the son’s new revelation of his poverty of heart that propelled him back into his Father’s arms.
Sometimes we use the very blessings that God gives us to finance our journey away from the centrality of Christ.
It’s very important that we return back to ground zero, to the ultimate eternal goal of abiding with the Father in intimate communion.
We have lost the art of adoring the Lord.
Our worship gets so cluttered with endless strings of shallow and insincere words that all we do most of the time is “take up space” or “put in prayer time” with a passionless monologue that even God must ignore.
Too often we come to Him at the end of our day and “worship” Him with pre-manufactured mechanics and memorized words.
Then, in our pride and selfishness, we jump up and run off to continue our frustrated rat-race lives.
Will we stop long enough and drink from the spring of living water to learn that the experience of God’s glory and presence is life-changing.
Living in God’s presence should be the most habit-forming experience in our lives.
And the only side effect of this habit is death to the flesh, and a deep love for not only God, but a heart of love and compassion for our fellow man.
The purpose of His manifest presence is to “set the captives free,” to fulfill Luke 4:18.
The true purpose of God’s presence manifesting in our lives is evangelism.
It is time for God’s people to get desperately hungry after Him, because the fires of revival must first ignite the Church before flames can spread to the streets.
It is tiresome to try to accomplish God’s works with the hands of man.
What we need for nationwide revival is one thing and one thing only: We need to have God show up.
We need to weep and cry out to Jesus Christ, “Spare the people.”
There is no shortcut to revival or the coming of His presence.
God’s glory only comes when repentance and brokenness drive you to your knees, because His presence requires purity.
Only dead men see God’s face.
We will all be surprised at the number of people who will repent and turn when they see the Church repenting!
Once again, it all goes back to our most serious problem – we don’t have the bread of His presence.
He is beckoning to you to "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." (see Rev 4:1)
The Lord wants to develop a new level of intimacy with His people.
He doesn’t want us to memorize Bible trivia; He wants us to know Him.
It’s one thing to know about Him; it’s quite another to know Him.
God is calling you to a new level of intimacy.
If you dare to answer His call, the Lord will reveal a fresh part of His character.
He will pull you so close that you will be breathing the very rarefied air of Heaven.
The only way to the place David called “the secret place” is through the door of focused worship, when you lay aside very distraction and focus your body, soul, and spirit upon God.
When His presence becomes so strong that you are oblivious to everyone and everything else around you, then healing can come in an encounter with God from which you will never “recover.”
God desires our adoration and worship.
God has spoken to us in His word: “I have set before you an open door” (see Rev 3:7-13).
This is one of those seasons when God seems to be throwing open the door of Heaven and saying, “Come in to a new place of intimacy and communion with Me.”
If you want to see the face of God, then just follow Mary to the feet of Jesus.
Pull out your alabaster box of precious sacrificial praise and worship.
You’ve been holding your treasure back for too long, but there is One here who is worthy of all.
Don’t hold anything back!