Pushing Deeper

Do you ever stop and just fathom how extraordinarily big God is? Just look at the complexity of our own solar system. Scientists have estimated that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies beyond our own milky way. And encased in each of those galaxies are 200 to 400 billion stars. Or simply look at a creation on earth. Did you know that the average caterpillar has 248 muscles in its head alone?  Did you know that the human eyeball has approximately 40,000 nerves?

What about the uniquely designed defense mechanisms of Gods creation. Most people are surprised to know that a sand dollar is actually a living creature in the sea. If a fish comes near it wanting to take a nibble, it emits a yellow liquid that is repelling to whoever pondered making it dinner. Or how about the mystery of how in extremely cold temperatures, the tops of bodies of water will freeze, but below the ice, water will not freeze and sea life is unaffected.

Or what about how plant life feed off of carbon dioxide, a substance that is toxic to human. Yet plants give off oxygen, the very thing that is needed for life on earth. I’m also amazed at how plants defy gravity and pull water upward into their stem to gain nourishment.

If we open our eyes….if we are still and just take in creation….if we just take a moment to stand in awe of God, we can see him everywhere and in everything. Do you ever look at your smart phone and marvel at how brilliant someone must have been to create such a device? A smart phone is nothing compared to a sunset. Or a blade of grass. Or the human body.

To say that God is big would probably be the biggest understatement ever made. God is infinitely larger than we could ever imagine. Yet at times, we find ourselves complacent in our faith. We feel like we are involved in church, we are doing a quiet time, we are reading our bibles for fifteen point two minutes each day, and praying with the kids before bed time. And all these things are good. But it can be easy to stop there, believing that’s all that is meant by seeking God.

But if for example, all of the knowledge in my little brain could be contained in a small cup of water, then Gods knowledge by comparison would be more expansive than all the drops of water in the oceans. How can I ever think I have finally figured God out? If we were to live a billion years we would never even come close to comprehending all the ways of God!  And this is not a frustrating thing! Its exciting!  To think that there is so much more to our God than the routine church worship service! Yet so many of us are satisfied with just the basic Sunday school knowledge!

So how do we get to know God on this deeper than surface level? Well lets start with our worship. So many churches claim to worship God on Sundays, but they internally argue over music styles, flower arrangement placements, temperature in the sanctuary, and lighting. And after the service, we gossip about what Suzie Q was wearing in the front row of the choir. Many churches have a form or worship that God spoke sternly about in Isaiah 66. He called this worship style, “self-serving worship.”

“God’s Message: “Heaven’s my throne, earth is my footstool. What sort of house could you build for me? What holiday spot reserve for me? I made all this! I own all this!” God’s Decree.”But there is something I’m looking for:  a person simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say.

“Your acts of worship are acts of sin: Your sacrificial slaughter of the ox is no different from murdering the neighbor;

Your offerings for worship,  no different from dumping pig’s blood on the altar; Your presentation of memorial gifts, no different from honoring a no-god idol. You choose self-serving worship,  you delight in self-centered worship—disgusting!

Well, I choose to expose your nonsense and let you realize your worst fears, Because when I invited you, you ignored me;  when I spoke to you, you brushed me off. You did the very things I exposed as evil, you chose what I hate.” Isaiah 66: 1-4. (The Message Bible Interpretation).

God is describing to Isaiah acts of worship that have become just routine things. They have become so routine, that the things done in worship are more of a ritual than true worship to God. Notice that God calls these routine acts of worship sinful. Look down to the last part of that verse. God says he will expose the nonsense.

These worshippers thought they were doing all the right things. They probably had the sanctuary decorated just perfectly, the newest sound system in place, and more programs to plug into than any church in the areas. Their appearance was fine tuned. But notice what God said at the opening of the verse. He showed just how big he is!! He said the earth is a mere footstool and all of Heaven his throne. God asks them, “What sort of house could you possibly build for me?” In other words, your ways of trying to impress me by dressing up the church and boasting of different programs is not what Im looking for. If your focus is here, its all sinful.

But God does say what pleases him. A person who is humble, and responsive to His commands. Someone who is less interested in playing church and more interested in stamping his word on their heart, and living life to obey His commands. Not just his commands of avoiding sin….but his commands to be his followers, his soldiers, his true disciples. Its as if God was saying, “I dont care how the pulpit is arranged or any other surface worship that looks good on the outside, but is lacking your heart.” God was saying, “I dont want your empty acts of worship…..I want you. I want your heart.”

So what did these ritualistic worshippers of God do wrong? They did all the right things outwardly. They sung the right hymns, worked regularly in the nursery, volunteered to work church fundraisers, tithed generously, and even sung solo’s in the choir. In the last part of the verse above, God reveals their folly. He said when God invited them in, when God spoke to them his commands, they brushed him off. These people were satisfied in their deeds of worship more so than in the word of God.

After reading this verse, I had to stop and ask myself….”Is this who I’ve become?” It’s not enough to claim to love God. I had to ask myself, “Am I in love with his word?” God has spoken to all of us through scripture. Yet how many of us know more than twenty or so verses by heart? How many of us have to deliberately carve  out twenty minutes a day, or pencil in a time slot  to spend time with God that we have universally labeled, “a quiet time.” Are you in awe of Gods word? Or have we all grown numb to his calling?

“Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” Nehemiah 8:5.

Did you catch that? All Ezra did was open the word of God. And immediately , all the people stood up and lifted their hands in praise! Now this sounds like something that would happen today during the singing of a stirring hymn or at the close of an altar call.  But imagine if the pastor of your church simply stepped into the pulpit, opened this bible, and everyone began praising God! Not stirred by the words of a song or melody of an organ, but simply by the opening of the word of God to us! What would our churches look like if we loved the word of God more than the words of mans preaching!

All it took was the opening of the bible to ignite hearts with praise and worship. Now days when the pastor opens the bible we set our stop watches to make sure he doesn’t preach too long.

“Your word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11.

We are called to not only love God, but love his word! To not view church or reading our Bible in the context of thinking, “How much time is this going to take”, and instead, loving his word so much that we begin to see what we can cut short in our days so that we may have more time with him!!

-God commands us to go and make disciples. But in our society, we’re more interested in making a dollar. 

-Gods word commands us to go to all the nations preaching the gospel. But we’re much more interested in going to the baseball game or new release at the theaters.

-God commands over and over of the importance in ministering to the poor and widows of our world. But we’re much more comfortable ministering to those who don’t stretch us too far out of our comfort zone.

-God calls for us to love his word. But we’re much more likely to read and even love Entertainment magazines or put adulterous books like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ on the best seller list.

We claim to be worshipful of God on Sunday mornings, despite the fact that we love our ways and habits much more than His. In many cases, we only know what we are taught about God because we never take time to seek him on our own. Are you a little bit like me in questioning yourself? Can we really call routine acts of worship the best we have to give our Heavenly father? As big as God is, don’t you think there is more of us we could give to him seeing as he gave his life for us?

I recently listen to a podcast of David Platt preaching. For his sermon, he simply opened up the book of Romans and went through the whole book of Romans verbatum…..without reading from his Bible! He had memorized the entire book of Romans. But he didn’t just memorize it, he let it penetrate his heart. He quoted the whole book, never missing a verse, which such passion. It was as if those were his words in a sermon he had prepared.

He closed with challenging his congregation to be more in Gods word. Not just reading, but taking it to heart. Not just seeing, but developing a hunger to want to know his word. David said that many people in his congregation would no doubt claim that they were not good at memorizing scripture. But he went on to say that if he offered a thousand dollars for each verse memorized, he would see many people doing their best to memorize scripture.

“The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Psalm 119:72.

The Psalmist says that Gods word is more precious than thousands of pieces of Gold and silver. Is Gods word more precious to you than money? Is Gods more precious to you than your worship preferences? Is your life an obsessive, all-consuming, mission on seeking out ways you can make disciples, feed the poor, give more of yourself and gain less of the worldly things? Or are you comfortable with your “church” routines? Jesus calls us to a life of self-denial. A life of sacrifice.

It’s good to question ourselves. Because it pushes us into the deeper things of God. If we are comfortable or routine….odds are we are lacking a life of sacrifice. Because sacrifice is never comfortable. Sacrifice is never routine. God never intended us to be comfortable. Because out of comfort grows complacency. And there is no room for complacency within the mission of the King.

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