Author James Bryan Smith (The Good and Beautiful God) tells the story of a conversation he once had with author and philosopher Dallas Willard (The Divine Conspiracy). After noticing that on two occasions, a couple of weeks apart, Dallas had preached two different messages with the same title, Jim asked him about it.
“Dallas, I noticed that you preached a message with the same title twice, but the content was very different both times”, Jim said. “Why was that?”
Dallas replied, “You gotta serve what you’re cooking.”
There are several things I like about Dallas’ answer. But what I am continually drawn to is his realization that what God was doing in him would have the most value for those who were listening to him preach.
Since returning from sabbatical, I’ve thought a lot about this many times when trying to determine what our next preaching series would be or even what a particular sermon should say, given what’s been “cooking” in my life and relationship with God. There are often many things I or we could say, but what is the thing or theme that God is stirring or “cooking” in me that needs to be shared. The best thing I can bring to you, in other words, is what God is doing in my life. So, I often ask the question, “What’s cooking in me?” before deciding what to preach or where to go next.
For the past several months, what’s been cooking in me is Psalm 27:4. If you haven’t already, I invite you to commit it to memory.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
I’ve known this verse for years, though not necessarily by memory. And, over the last few months, it just keeps coming up—in my reading, in my devotional life, in listening to other speakers and teachers.
The most surprising place it popped up was when I heard a teaching by pastor and author Rich Villodas (The Deeply Formed Life, Good and Beautiful and Kind). After the session, Kim and I went up to talk with him and asked him to sign a copy of his most recent book. Just beneath his autograph, in the front cover of the book, he wrote, “Psalm 27:4”.
The thing that continues to surprise me about this one, brief verse is its simplicity and clarity. King David, the psalm’s author, stops in the middle of a poem about trusting in God and not fearing attacks by “the wicked”, “my enemies”, or “an army”, and eloquently states the “one thing” he wants most of all: to dwell in God’s house all the days of his life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to seek him in his temple.
That’s it. That’s the one thing he wants most of all.
In the New Year, I want to unpack the power and beauty of this single verse and then use it as a guide from mid-January up until Easter, allowing each key verb to guide us to other places in Scripture where they are more fully explored: to dwell, to gaze, and to seek.
We will do so using passages from all over both the Old and New Testaments.
I have two invitations for you.
First, please plan to join us in-person or online and fully engage in this series and these passages prayerfully and intentionally, along with me.
Second, as we do so, we will not be sending out our daily scripture emails for a season. Rather, as Kate Cogswell mentioned in last week’s article, we want you to dwell in the gospels. Kate provided you with several options to do that in last week’s article, and I offer the same ones to you again this week, at the bottom of this article. You may use any of these resources or find your own.
I do urge you to come up with a plan, though. Doing so will help you to be more intentional about the journey.
As we prepare for a new year together, I look forward to discovering all that God has for us as we consider what it means to dwell, gaze, and seek, and as we immerse ourselves more intentionally and deeply in the life and teachings of Jesus.
Here are some options to consider:
- Read 3 chapters of the gospels each day. (30-Day Gospel Reading plan)
- Listen to 3 chapters of scripture read to you daily by Annie F Downs (Let’s Read the Gospels podcast)
- Sign up to receive the ECC Daily Scripture emails and read them.
- Daily Audio Bible: Want to make this journey in community? You can participate individually or join a men's or women's DAB group for community. Sign up to join a men's or women's group here.
- Bible App reading plans:
- Bible Project: The Gospels in 90 Days
- The Gospel of Mark in 100 Days
- Or go here and search for the plan that is right for you