'Pleasures seldom awken people to their need for God; pain often does. So Jesus is more concerned to warn us about the dangers of prosperity than the dangers of poverty' [John Piper]

The Hidden Castle

in Worship of God

As the sun was slowly setting to the west behind a forest covered mountain, a group of village boys were starting to head home after an afternoon playing beside the river.

“Hey”, one of the boys called out as he looked over towards the setting sun “do you think there is a castle somewhere in that forest?”

“Nah, Jamie” came the quick response from one of his companions. “that’s just an old wives’ tale to keep us out of the forest. Its much easier for our folks to talk about mean and nasty soldiers lurking in the forest when they give them somewhere scary to live. Maybe there was a castle there once, but its probably just ruins now. You wouldn’t be able to find it if you tried”.

Amidst the general chorus of agreement, Jamie looked at one boy standing quietly, almost sheepishly to one side.

“Hey Jack, your dad believes the castle exists doesn’t he?” Jamie asked.

You could almost hear Jack’s sigh, then he answered “Yeah, he does. Apparently he found some book that describes the castle. He sometimes gets the book out and reads bits of it. He says he wants to go and explore it sometime.”

“So he hasn’t actually been to the castle yet?”

“No”

“Has he tried to look for it?”

“Not sure, but I don’t think so. He seems happy just believing that it exists”

“That seems a bit weird hey? If he thinks there is such a great castle out there, why doesn’t he try and find it?”.

“Don’t know. He’s often really busy talking to people about the castle though. He says because there are too many things to do here he doesn’t have time to go and explore”.

Another boy had been listening to this conversation from a distance. His family had only moved into the area recently, so he still didn’t really feel part of the group. But now he felt obligated to speak up.

“My dad’s been to the castle”.

The silence was deafening. A few of the boys had to look twice to realise who this new kid was, and then to get over their surprise that this new upstart had dared to speak without being invited. But once they realised what he had said, they needed to know more.

“Are you for real?”

“Yeah,” Sam replied “that was why we moved here in the first place. My dad wanted to spend more time in the castle, exploring it and finding out more about it”.

“So when is he going to going to take us to this castle?”

“Don’t know. He’s asked a few people to come with him, but so far no one has taken him up on the offer.”

“Why not? I’d love to go”

“Well, its not so easy getting there. Apparently the jungle around the castle is so dense it takes a few days just to reach it. There are many parts when the track is so narrow you need to go alone”

“Oh”. You could almost hear their interest falling away.

Sam smiled. “It seems the more people find out about the effort involved, the less inclined they are to make the journey. They usually say they are too busy, or just too tired to go on such a journey. They don’t want to give up what they’re doing here. But Dad doesn’t see if that way. Although he’s given up heaps to explore this castle, he talks about how little he has paid for getting so much. When Dad talks about the castle his eyes just light up. I can’t wait to go there myself.”

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One of the biggest traps as we walk along this journey is becoming content with the belief that God exists, rather than maintaining our sole purpose of knowing God. In the same way that Jack’s dad was comfortable believing that the castle was out there somewhere, it is very easy to replace our belief in God with a belief in our belief in God. That is, our security is based more on our belief than in knowing the nature and character of God.

God tells us that we were created to worship God, for His glory.

“… everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:7)

“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)

Yet we can only worship God in a worthy manner if we first strive to know God, to know God’s character. To explore “the castle” so to speak. Unless we do so, then it is likely that our worship is based on a god of our own imagination, rather than the true God of the Bible.

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This is what happened with Cain, one of the sons of Adam and Eve (from the Garden of Eden). In the book of Genesis (see Genesis 4:1-16) we read that Cain and his brother Abel had been told to worship God in a specific manner. Abel did, and his worship was accepted by God. Cain however decided He would present another type of worship, one based on his own choosing, rather than seeking to understand what God required. Cain took it on himself to assume what would please God, and in so doing he disregarded the nature or the character of God. How did God view this attitude? He rejected Cain’s worship. So Cain got angry, he killed Abel, and then was banished into the wilderness by God.

Clearly this is something that God takes seriously.

As we walk this journey of life and seek to worship God, we need to seek to know God’s character. To spend time with God. To know who God is.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

Does the priority of seeking God in our own lives reflect that of David, when he wrote

“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.” (Psalm 27:4)

David clearly was not talking about a bricks and mortar temple, since God is invisible. This is about the yearning of his heart – because later in the same psalm David says

“My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek.” (Psalm 27:8).

The more we know about God and the more we experience God then the more God reveals himself to us. As this revelation increases, then our yearning increases, and the greater our devotion to God and pursuit of God becomes.

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This journey is not about going into solitary confinement and shutting out the world as we seek to pursue God. This is not about entering a monastery and living by ourselves.

You see, the more we pursue God, the more we become devoted to Him and get lost in wonder about who God is, the more we are going to do the things that God values. To love justice, to show mercy, to care for the poor, the orphans, the homeless, the lonely.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

The irony of it all is that we can do many of these things that God values, but still miss out on the joy of knowing God.

Yet if we first pursue intimacy with God, and yearn to know and experience God more fully, above anything else in our lives, then we cannot help but do these things that are pleasing to God.

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Going back to the opening story, this journey we are being invited on is not about increasing our belief that the “castle” exists. This journey is about making it a priority to explore the “castle”, to spend time with God and increase our understanding of who God is. Then the more time we spend exploring the “castle”, the greater our yearning to help those in need around us will become.




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