Worthy of Our Idolatry
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6 ESV
Often when we read this passage from the Ten Commandments, which God gave to Moses to give to the Israelites and ultimately to us, we tend to dismiss that we could have an idol or idols in our lives. We quickly think of pictures of people praying to statues or images of gods asking for healing and prosperity. We then look around our house, work and environments and see no sculptures or images of people or things that we are praying to or putting our hope in.
But wait…God’s definition of an idol is so much more than something like a statue that someone prays to. God sees idols as any person or thing that we put great love, reverences or adoration in. To say it another way, here’s a few questions to ask yourself as to whether you have an idol in your life.
- Is something causing you to disobey God?
- Does something give you greater joy than your relationship with Christ?
- What do you think about the most?
- What do you talk about the most with other people?
- What do you most enjoy spending time on?
How you answered these questions might help you point to the idols in your lives. I have to admit that as I answer these questions myself, today, I have idols in my life that need to take a backseat to my relationship with Christ.
Ask these idol-uncovering questions to yourself every 3 months and see how they might grow your relationship with the only one worthy of our idolatry, Christ our creator.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 ESV
I don’t know about you, but for me sometimes, listening is hard work, especially when I am listening to something that doesn’t interest me. It’s easy in our culture, with the vast variety of technology and entertainment options, to pick and choose. Online social networks allow us to get just enough information from friends and family without having to invest a lot of time. Of course, this approach doesn’t work so well when we want to communicate with real people such as our spouse, family, co-workers and neighbors!
One of the best ways to show that you truly care about and love someone is to listen to them. When you are invited into a conversation, you are invited into that person’s life for a short while. You may not be crazy about the conversation, or you may not feel you have time, but stop and take time to invest and listen. You have the opportunity to be an example of God’s love and let his light shine through you by just listening.
I challenge you, and me, to make time to listen to others when they want to talk. God asks us to represent Him to others by loving one another. God always takes time to listen when we are ready to talk to Him! Listening is another way to show God’s love.
The Joy of Kingdom Investing
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
When we know the worth of something we joyfully pay the price.
I’m always a little skeptical of sale items. As a thrifty shopper, I rarely buy things full price; but, sales lead me to believe something is wrong with the product, and that the store is trying to move it out.
I’m grateful that the kingdom of heaven isn’t a clearance item.
The eternal life offered to us in Jesus is a treasure of great worth.
Some of us are bargain hunters like the merchant searching for fine pearls. Some of us are oblivious wanderers like the man walking in the field. However, all of us know when we see an item of great value.
The abundant life offered in Christ is both the hidden treasure and the valuable pearl.
It cost God a great deal to manufacture, and it costs us everything to purchase.
The joy displayed in the first parable reminds me that buying something of great worth is satisfying. Purchasing a quality product feels good. The joy experienced in Kingdom investing isn’t a “buyer’s high” that will fade with time. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and, as He abides in us, that fruit is ever-increasing.
When was the last time you made a Kingdom investment?
Are you bargain hunting when it comes to the kingdom or are you willing to pay full price?
Is there anything in your life that needs to go so that more joy can abide?
“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you…” Col 3:5 (NLT)
I put off cleaning out my vegetable garden beds this spring and finally began the process last week. I was surprised to find that there are some volunteer tomato plants coming back. This was a mixed blessing because the plan was to mow down the weeds in the garden, but since I noticed the plants coming up among the weeds, I knew I would need to work to pull the weeds by hand in order to keep the valued tomato plants.
Weeding always tends to remind me of the nature of sin and the work it takes to put it to death, as our verse today instructs. Sometimes weeds are obviously not plants and it is easy to identify them. Other times, you have to look more carefully to see it for what it is since it has gotten entangled with the plants you don’t want to rip out. This is similar to how some sins are obvious to us, and some are lurking in our hearts and don’t become obvious until the “big ones” have been dealt with first. Also, the longer a weed has been allowed to hang out in the fertile soil of a garden, the bigger it gets and the harder it is to pull out from the root and be rid of for good.
Gratefully, Jesus conquered sin. But if you haven’t noticed, even though we are totally righteous through our faith in him, we still wrestle with our sin nature (Rom 7). The Holy Spirit helps us “see the weeds” and repent as we cooperate with him (Gal 5). He is still doing the heart work, but we get to participate. We are valuable enough to him to put in the work.
Last week we began the first of four prescriptive statements about real Biblical community. It must be centered on the Word of God. There is nothing more vibrant and active than learning and living the Word of God within our relationships.
As we continue, I encourage you to read through Acts 2:42-47 again. Take note of all the ways the first church interacted with each other; in particular the actions that produced a common-union. There is something unique about this community that sets it apart from those around it.
Within my first month of employment at Baylor University back in the early 2000′s, I broke one of my fingers to the extent that it required surgery. The plan was to lay low for the few days of recommended recovery. To my surprise, my boss and his wife invited me into their home. For three days they took care of me like I was their own son. That level of generosity and love was “ridiculous.” They cared for my needs without an ounce of expectation and it produced a common-union between us. That same type of ridiculous love happened routinely within the first church.
Descriptive phrases like: ”. . . . Had all things in common . . . and they were selling their possessions. . . . and distributing the proceeds to all . . . with glad and generous hearts. . ,” all point to this common-union. What set them apart from every other community was their unconditional devotion and love for each other. This union was not political, where redistribution is mandated or coerced, it was spiritual, where people live outside of themselves and love out of an abundant and generous heart. For more insight, I suggest reading John 13:34-35, Romans 12:9-13, Deuteronomy 15:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, and 1 Peter 3:8.
One of our four major values in small groups is to “Give of ourselves in various ways.” The first church modeled this well; real Biblical community is centered on loving each other well. May we be seen as a community that loves in a “ridiculous” way.
Living to Die
“And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” 1 John 4:17 NLT
There are many things to be afraid of, whether it be snakes, heights, flying, or public speaking. Being afraid is instinctive in all of us and has kept many people safe through the years. The answer to the question, “What are you most afraid of?” has varied throughout time. The top ten list of fears has changed, but the fear of death has remained. Today, the fear of death is more about the fear of dying in a traumatic way such as cyber-terrorism, terrorist attacks, or bio-warfare.
As a Christian, I’m bewildered about death. My perspective is that if Christians do anything right, it should be death, dying, and mourning. I’ve had my funeral service planned for years. As I hear a song or scripture, I’ll make an edit to my service and add something else. I refuse to be afraid of death. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 describes it like this, “We want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.”
Are you living to die?
Are you living with the hope that Jesus will make all things new someday?
Do not be afraid.
God of Our Life
“You shall have no other gods before me” Exodus 20:3
As a Christ follower I can read Exodus 20:3 and know that it’s one of the ten commandments passed down from God to Moses, from Moses to the people and thus to us. I can then think, “yeah, I believe in God and that He’s the only God that is worshipped in my life” but is He?
When God lead with this command to Moses he wanted to remind his people (and us) that there is nothing in our lives that should compete for your heart or that should compete for what we pursue.
If you have a heartbeat you’re pursuing something right now. Whether it’s a diploma, the next move on the corporate ladder, getting your kids out the door on time for school or tomorrow’s round of golf with your retirement buddies you’re pursuing something.
There’s two words from Exodus 20:3 that just come to life for me and those are the words “before me”. These two words are very powerful and set the tone for the entire verse. See the one and only true God of the universe is a god that wants your life to be fully devoted to Him. He’s a jealous God and He should be. After all, He created you and me and because of that, He has every right. God commands us to have nothing in our lives that runs in competition to Him being what leads us or goes before us.
Pursuit of a full life is something God gives us all no matter what we’re pursuing but how are you pursuing it? If God’s before you, and you are in step with Him and asking Him how you might continue to pursue the life He has given you in a way that brings Him glory, then you’re living a life that has no other gods before Him.
Are you before you or is God? Who’s leading the pursuit of the life God has given you.