Hearing God speak through His creation is a spiritual ‘near-church experience.’ Or at least that is what I have been told by many. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“Play-a-lot, how good to see you!” Pastor Love-the-Lord warmly greets the church member in the sporting goods aisle of Wal-Mart.
“Pastor, Hi” the startled man replies. “Yes, good to see you. Been a long while. How is the church?”
“Fine. And you? How are you? We miss seeing you in services. The men in our Monday group were asking about you just last week.”
Play-a-lot picks up a fishing rod and thoughtfully gave it a practice cast. He then speaks slowly, deliberately, and almost reverently, “Oh, I’ve not been playing around. I’ve been enjoying God everywhere I go. I spend time with him while golfing and fishing. You know, it’s a real spiritual experience. On Sunday, that hot sun was beating down my back and I knew the ‘big guy upstairs’ was watching out for me ‘cause I shot my best game ever. And then the past weekend, as I reeled in a big bass on Cheat Lake, well, I’m pretty darn sure, my god put it there just for me. You know, it was like God was rewarding me for enjoying his creation. You should have seen the size of that beauty.
Play-a-lot casts that rod as if to expect a miracle catch right there in the aisle. With more excitement in his voice he continues, “ You know, I’m sure I’m closer to God when I’m outside. I’m not the only one. Self-absorbed and I were just saying that it would be wise for us to buy season tickets for the spring training games. Yeah, we found that going on Sunday mornings shows good stewardship.”
“Well, you see for two reasons. The tickets are cheaper and we can do two things at once: enjoy the game while we worship our god. You know Pastor, after a long hard week of work we need to have some fun. If I don’t play on the weekends then I’m really grumpy on Monday and I’m too tired on weeknights to do any of that church stuff. Besides, Self-absorbed is right. Who wants to go to church with all those hypocrites when we’re supposed to be in the world? Isn’t that what the Good Book teaches?”
Since most Americans have a choice between attending church services or going to their favorite recreational activity, they choose to play. This explains the small percentage of churchgoers in each community. We are a culture that loves to be entertained like the ancient Greek and Roman societies. The archeological excavations of their cities reveal amphitheaters, coliseums, and magnificent government buildings were most prominent. Compare these cities to Jerusalem and you find the complete opposite. Ancient Jerusalem had no sports facilities. The Temple of God held center stage. All of life revolved around the worship of God. God established this in the time of Moses and the Tabernacle. For the Hebrew people, worship was to be foremost in their lives.
The true worshiper, then and now, desires to be in His house of worship. The Hebrew people sang the Songs of Ascent as they made their way to worship their God. Psalm 122 begins with these words: I rejoice with those who said to me, “let us go to the house of the LORD.” David’s song in Psalm 27 reveals his passionate heart of worship in the church, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”
God does speak through His creation, but if you are a true worshipper, you will desire more. You can never be satisfied with the inaudible revelations of creation. Your heart will burn within you to be in His Presence, to gaze upon His beauty, and to seek Him in His house. Delighting in the warmth of the sun on our faces is a dim shadow to basking in the glory of His presence.
Jesus said, “My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all nations.” (Mark 11:17) My friend Greg Frizzell defines prayer as a glorious relationship encounter with the Lord God Himself. Therefore, church is the place where corporately the children of God and unbelievers can come together to encounter God. It is a place and time on this earth where heaven and earth touch. No wonder David sang that he wanted to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life. A true believer would never want to be anyplace else but gazing upon the beauty of the LORD.
It will take us a few weeks to explore all the ways in which God speaks in and through His church. Some of you may be agreeing with me and can say with all assurance that you hear the voice of God when meeting together with other believers. Others are scratching your heads wondering why you can’t remember the last time you heard God’s voice in any church assembly. Maybe a few will admit you feel more like Play-a-lot and Self-absorbed who would rather be anywhere else but church. I have been all three at some time in my life. It’s not about where you’ve been or even where you are right now. It’s a matter of where you want to be.
A good prayer exercise for today would be to sit before the LORD and answer these questions:
Do I really want to hear God? Why?
Where do I want to be in my walk with the LORD?
Form your answers into a prayer. Then praise Him for what He is about to do in your life in answer to your prayer. Remember, to hear God’s voice you need to express your need for Him, expect Him to speak and seek to know Him with all your heart. I can’t wait until next week!