The Crossbridge Ladies Bible Study has been going through The Patriarchs by Beth Moore, and it's been a life-changing experience. I've never had a study of the Old Testament become so alive and relevant. And it's amazing how the women during this time have so much to teach me as well.
One of the lessons last week really convicted me. It covered the section in Genesis 35 where Jacob comes back to the spiritual marker where he had his first encounter with God through a dream (Gen. 28). He says, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven." He names the spot "Bethel" meaning, "house of God."
But when Jacob returns to this place years later, he decides it needs a new name. Jacob has known the power of a name. All his life he's been Jacob, meaning "deceiver, cheater". And when God says, "You will no longer be Jacob. Your name will be Israel, because you have struggled with God," he breathes freely for perhaps the first time. His shameful title has been replaced.
Jacob has now wrestled with God himself. He's watched God protect his family in the encounter with his brother, Esau. Over a two-decade span of time, (I'm quoting my bible study here) the abiding presence of God "who has been with me wherever I have gone" gradually shifted Jacob's focus from the things of God - blessings, protection, land - to God Himself. The original name, Bethel, meaning "house of God" is now El Bethel, meaning "God of the house of God."
And this is the part in the lesson that had me squirming -
"...how easily our focus on all the involvements and activities of church can exceed our focus on God Himself. If we're not careful, we can come to love great worship music, small group Bible study, and the whole community of church more than we love God. One of the most obscure traps the Devil sets for the deeply spiritual is to tempt us to love loving God more than we actually love God. Certainly nothing is wrong with enjoying the life surrounding our pursuit of God, but our growth is gravely stunted until our focus shifts decisively from our Bethel to our El Bethel. Without the El, Bethel is just an empty house. "
I remember one night last year, I was driving home from Selah - a Crossbridge worship event . God's presence had been so real and I felt like my heart was flooding over with joy and contentment. But my thoughts were more "Bethel" directed -- I was praising God for giving us the gift of a church where this could happen, where we felt He had brought us. And clearly He spoke to my spirit the words,
"Don't love Crossbridge more than you love Me."
I immediately realized my sin. My praise was going to God, but it wasn't praise about Him. He was delighted to give us the gift of a church body to become a part of, but He was not delighted with my worship of it. I pray I've learned my lesson.
O Lord, you are all I want to worship. May I never love anything or anyone more than I love you, no matter what. May I never forget your holy jealousy and how worthy you are of ALL my praise.