Last week we talked about engagement – about becoming interlocked like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. As we strive to become a whole church, we want to engage with God, engage with God’s people, engage with our community, and engage with our world.

So for the next few weeks we’re going to start by looking at how we can engage with God. Just think about that for a moment – Engaging with God. Being interlocked like a puzzle piece with God. Don’t forget who God is! He’s the God who created everything by just saying “Let there be…”.

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6

It’s amazing to think that the God who created the universe by just saying a few words – it’s amazing to think that THAT God, that all-powerful being wants to engage with you.

You might think, “Of all the billions of people on the earth, why does God care to engage with me?”  Well, to God, you’re not just Human #6328974515. God knows your name. He made you. He determined exactly who you would be before your were born. He created you as an eternal being for the sole purpose of spending eternity engaged with Him.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind? God. All-powerful. All knowing. Perfect. Sinless. Absolutely Holy and Righteous! And He wants to spend eternity with YOU! With ME!

What is He thinking!?  I guess He’s thinking that we are His creation. He are created in His image. And what He creates is always very good – despite what we may think about ourselves. So because God created us, He loves us like crazy and wants to spend eternity engaged with us.

That is so cool. I think I could end the sermon right here and we could all spend the week just marveling at God’s great love for us. But on the other hand, we can’t just stop there. Engagement is a two-way street. God has certainly done his part to engage with us – but it’s up to us now to engage with Him.

So how do we do that? How do we engage with God? How do we truly connect with Him? It’s hard enough to truly connect with other human beings that we can see and touch and talk face-to-face with. How do we connect with an all-powerful spiritual being that we can’t see face-to-face?

I believe that engaging with God begins as just as simply as meeting your neighbor in the grocery store.

To test that theory, I’m going to need some participation. I need two volunteers. (Have them come up.) Ok, [person 1], I want you to pretend you’re picking up a few items at the grocery store. As you’re doing that, your neighbor, [person 2], comes in to the store too. Then you guys just take it from there and we’ll watch to see how this pans out. {I presume that at some point they acknowledge each other’s existence in some way…  As they do, stop them and explain.}

Did you notice what happened there? The very first thing that happened that allowed them to connect with each other, was that they acknowledged the other’s existence. [Replay what happened] That’s the starting point. You cannot connect, you can not engage without first acknowledging each other’s existence. I know that seems really basic and common sense, but that’s our starting point.

That’s the first step in engaging with God too. First, we must acknowledge His existence. We have to acknowledge that He is real and that He is who He says He is. You will not be able to engage with someone if you do not believe they exists. That’s why it says in Romans 10:9…

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

That’s acknowledging who God is and what He has done. Engaging with God begins when we come to that point where we say, “Yes, God is real. He is who He says He is and I want to enter into a relationship with Him.”

That is the starting point of engaging with God. But that’s ONLY the starting point. We can’t stop there. That just prepares us to engage with God. True engagement with God only begins when we take the next step. And what is the next step, you ask? Well, let’s look up Romans 1:19-23….

19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.  Romans 1:19-23

It’s clear from these verses that you can know that God exists, and still be very far from engaging with Him. Knowing that God exists is the starting point, but true engagement only begins when we worship Him. Look at verse 21.

21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.  Romans 1:21-23

That sounds a lot like North Americans, doesn’t it? Knowing God exists, but refusing to worship Him.Thinking up foolish ideas of what God was like… I think this is where many, many people in our North American culture get stuck. They believe in God, but they refuse to worship Him as God. A poll done in Canada last year said that 76% of Canadians believe there is a God. That’s a lot of people who believe God exists. But how many people actually, truly worship Him?

And I wonder if this is why we have churches that are full of people who feel like they simply are not connected with God? That God doesn’t seem real in their lives? They know God exists, but for some reason, something is just missing. Well, perhaps the reason they don’t feel engaged with God, is because they do not worship Him.

Now some of you might be a little confused when I say that. If these are good, church-going people who sing the songs and hear the sermon and give their tithe every Sunday morning, how can I say they do not worship God?

Well, perhaps I need to clarify what I mean by worship. Let’s look at Luke 17:11-19.

11Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19

That Samaritan gives us a perfect example of worship. He didn’t attend a special church service. He didn’t sing along with a live contemporary worship band or even the CD in his car. What did He do? Verse 15 & 16…

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.

That’s worship. That’s engaging with God. It’s giving God the credit that is due Him. It is praising God for who He is and what He has done. In it’s very simplest form, worship is just saying, “Thanks” to God.

Do you want to connect with God? Do you want God to feel real in your life? Then start saying “thanks”. Start thanking God for who He is and what He’s done. Start worshiping Him in everything you do.

Because I think if we were to be honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit that usually, we’re pretty self-centered, ungrateful people. I know that’s my tendency… But how many good things has God given us that we simply take for granted? How many times do we focus on the negative stuff and ignore at the great stuff that God has done for us?

One of the reasons I think King David had such a close connection with God is because of His continual attitude of thankfulness to God. Just look at a few of the psalms.

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Psalm 105:1

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Psalm 118:28

Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

If we were to start thanking God for everything that He has given to us, for every blessing that He has showered upon us, God would become so real in our lives so fast – we couldn’t even imagine. We would see God at work everywhere. We would see his loving care for us everywhere. We would see His involvement in our lives everywhere.

So I challenge you this week: Begin to engage with God- start saying thanks. Start noticing all the good things that God has done and is doing in your life. Stop focusing on what you don’t have or what’s not going right. Instead, focus on the literally thousands of blessings that God has poured into your life and how He has taken care of you and brought you this far. If you do that, I am confident that God will seem more real to you this week than He ever has before!

So, on that note, I want to close with two things. First of all, as the music team comes forward for our closing song, I want you to notice on the bottom of your sermon notes sheet, there is a list of four things you can do this week and I want you to notice item #1. Make a list of 100 things to thank God for. This is not a difficult task and I would encourage every one of you to take the time to do this sometime this week. In fact, if you really want God to seem real to you this week, double that or triple that. Or even come up with 100 things every day. And then be sure to take the time to actually thank God for the things on that list.

The second thing I want to do, as an exercise of thankfulness and engagement with God, I want us to have a time of popcorn praise. This is a time of one sentence prayers of thankfulness to God. Thank-you God for your forgiveness. Thank-you God for always being with me. Things like that. In just one sentence, thank God for who is or what He’s done. Feel free to go more than once if you like, but just one sentence at a time. The idea is that it’s like popcorn, our praise to God just popping up all over the place.

So let’s bow our heads and offer up some popcorn praise to our God and then I’ll close in prayer and then have the music team lead us in one final song.