"These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.”
What a pleasure and privilege it has been to visit Israel for the first time. To learn so much history and see so many places where Christ impacted, changed, and died for humanity. But when I ask myself the question "What is the purpose of my trip?" I need to be careful. Careful of what, you might ask? Careful of not changing or morphing into the image or likeness of Christ. If my trip to Israel is to simply learn history or to gain metaphoric nuggets of knowledge, that doesn't catalyze true change in my heart, then I dare say that it would be like a tree left unplanted next to the streams of life. I would be so close but yet so far away.
When visiting the assumed birth place of Christ (Church of the Nativity), I came face to face with humanity so lost in tradition, rituals, and places. It seemed the heart of God was absent from the hearts of those so eager to experience a sensationalist feeling of false holiness. Christians were arguing and fighting (even to the point of shoving one another) in the lines, to see a place that represents a part of Christ's history here on earth.
Another historical site (The Church of the Holy Sepulchre) is cared for by multiple Christian churches throughout the world. The Churches are in such dis-unity concerning the care and governing of this site, that they have given the keys of this site to the Muslims to open and close each day.
Before I go any further, let's make clear that this isn't a dig on those I encountered in Jerusalem. This is a heart check for myself. In my life, am I so different? Have I not found myself in senseless conflict with others? Have I found myself worshipping the things in or of the Church rather than the creator?
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.” Romans 1:25 HCSB
Will I shake my head in disgust of those that are so far off base, or will I recognize that I am not so different?
No matter who we are as Christians we all have the propensity to drift from the pursuit of God's heart to mundane practices and traditions that deceive us into thinking that these practices are what makes us holy.
For example, as staff member of a Church, do I check a box each Sunday I show up to "work" instead of coming into the House of God with a true desire to worship Yahweh? It doesn't matter what "business" we have made of God's church, whether it is new processes, procedures, or even developing ideas or books like 10 Habits to Grow a Church. If it becomes the focus and turns us into worshippers of places, pictures, artifacts or business practices in the modern Church, we have lost sight of the heart of God. We begin to honor Him with our lips but our hearts are far from Him.
If I am courageous I will ask myself a few questions. You're welcome to join in if you wish...
- Do I wake up each day with a desire to know and have a heart after God?
- Am I willing to adjust areas of my life that are diluting a pure desire to worship Him rather than the things around His name?
- Will I be willing to be vulnerable and share with others close to me, areas in my life that have replaced God with boxes that I am checking because it is what I am supposed to do?
Lord, please draw my heart back to you and let my lips speak truly from a heart that is passionate about You.