There You Shall Go – Deuteronomy 12

“But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. Deuteronomy 12:5 NKJV

The people who lived in Canaan prior to the Israelites worshiped their gods on mountains, hill tops, or below shady trees.  These worship services involved images, idols and immoral practices that were repulsive to the Lord God.  He did not want His people copying any of their practices for His worship.  In fact, He wanted every one of the worship elements they used to be destroyed.

So, where were they to go to worship the Lord?  We can ask the same question of ourselves today.

For us, there is also some amount of seeking involved.  We need to want to worship God enough to go looking for it.  And, in my experience, it involves a certain amount of trial and error.  God has a plan for us, but He wants us to actively seek Him out for it.  The journey brings both of us joy as we work together to find our proper place of worship.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Matthew 7:7-8 ESV

So, praying for God’s guidance, we seek the place or places He chooses for us to worship Him.  Worship includes both Sunday church participation and works of service for Him throughout the week. 

Church worship location choices start with churches that have a strong foundation based upon the word of God.  Built upon this are a mix of 1) our own preferred worship styles and 2) opportunities for spiritual growth and encouragement through fellowship.  We are guided in our choice by the leading of the Holy Spirit.  As we invest ourselves in a spiritual community, if the Spirit is building up both ourselves and those around us, this is a good indication that we are in the right place.  Once we determine where He wants us to be, there we shall go.

Worship communities are made up of imperfect people.  Churches are somewhat like spiritual hospitals where people go to get better.  As we worship, we will often experience the presence of God to fill our hearts with joy.  But every encounter with others in the church will not go perfectly, and there will be challenging moments.  God knows this and wants us to persevere with brotherly love, overcoming our own pride and shortcomings.

One pastor told of a typical pattern for new church goers.  (This growth process may also apply to other close gatherings of people. Or it may look entirely different for you).

First, there is a honeymoon period.  In year one, everything is going well, and every weekend is a positive experience. 

Then, according to this pastor, comes year number two.  Cracks begin to develop, flaws and imperfections are found, and disagreements arise.  This is a critical time when many people choose to leave a church to go look for greener pastures.  Then this starts the same cycle over somewhere else.

If, with God’s grace, we can stick around until year three, a miracle often happens.  Things fall into place, differences are resolved, and the loving, supportive nature of the church family really begins to shine. We begin to accept the imperfections in ourselves and others, and to enjoy the presence of God within each one of us, helping us through the challenges each day brings.

What about works of service?  There are many needs around us, more than any one person can volunteer for.  But God does want us to live out our faith with works of service, as He leads.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10 ESV

Like our search for the right church, our search for the place God wants us to serve involves prayer and some trial and error.  There is joy in the journey together.

A pastor’s wife named Rosemary Gallatin once summarized how we can identify the works that God wants us to continue doing:

“When God opens a door for you, it will be wide and clear.  He does not play guessing games, there will be no doubt.  1) It will follow the word of God, 2) you will be energized by it and 3) you will love doing it.”

I believe Rosemary’s summary has worked well in my life.  I have stepped out and tried multiple things following the word of God and the things we know that God wants us to do.  Some of these activities have lasted for decades, others for only a year or so.  As the Holy Spirit led, I continued some.  When He didn’t, I let them go and saved my energy for the ones He clearly did support. 

There have also been seasons.  Sometimes we can go for five to ten years in one place, when doors start closing and it becomes clear that God wants us somewhere else.  The journey of life is one of continuous prayer and seeking the will of God.  And when we find it, there we shall go.

Reflection

How do you find the will of God? 

Have you found a place of worship to grow spiritually and to serve others in?

What type of service work do you do for God?  Does it energize you?  Does it lift you up from dark feelings, negativity or depression when you step out and serve others with God’s help?

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