Secondary Gods

We don’t understand the whole idolatry issue very well. It is a common issue. There is a reason why commandments against idolatry were so common in Scripture. It was clearly a weak point for Israel. They always seemed to have way to much fun worshipping other gods and indulge in worshipful acts towards them. Idolatry was rampant in their culture.

We think we are better today. We love Jesus. We go to church. We attend church events. Maybe we lead a Bible study. We put lots of energy into worshipping God. How then could we struggle with idolatry. Funny thing, Israel was the same way. No seriously, Israel kept worshipping God, they just enjoyed throwing other things into the mix.

Why did Joshua have his famous “choose now whom you will serve” speech? Israel was worshipping God, but they still had these other idols hanging around. Maybe they viewed them as a safety net. Maybe it was born at of superstition. Perhaps it was just rooted around familiarity. They worshipped God though. The worship of God does not negate the risk of idolatry. This statement may be earth shattering for some.

Israel kept having this issue though. Even some of the best kings who would clean up the kingdom would still leave remnants of idolatry. Some of the biggest revivals in Israel still never quite finished the job. Elijah had to call fire to come down from heaven in an effort to tell Israel that they had to stop worshipping other gods alongside the one true God.

We may be worshipping God, but that doesn’t mean we are not committing idolatry. What else are we worshipping with our time and energy? What else are we depending on to get us through in life? What else are we going to for comfort and support?

It’s not just that God wants your worship; He wants to be the only focus of your worship. Anything less is coming up short. That is hard for us to swallow. We don’t like talking about the jealousy of God because in human terms it is often such a negative characteristic to have. Human jealousy is born out of selfishness. It is often petty and it is always undeserving. God is worthy of all of our worship though. He is worthy of our attention.

What other gods do you have in your life to worship alongside God? We can’t use the involved Christian excuse. That does not make us immune. It does not free us form needing to do some soul searching into our own lives. What do you need to have change?

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A Guy Named Brian

Yesterday was one of those rough kinds of days at work. I dealt with the kind of people you really never want to deal with. They were the kinds of people that you go way out of your way to avoid running into. People who were entitled, rude, crude, cruel, and frankly downright barbaric. It was a bad day. I was worn down, and ready to go home before the day was even half way over. I was spent.

Then I got a call from Brian. Let me tell you little bit about him. Brian is a pastor who is working on his Master of Divinity. He tells incredible corny jokes that your child in kindergarten comes home to tell you after hearing it from one of his classmates. He loves giving silly impressions of other people. Brian is the kind of guy that is full of life and just can’t help but try his hardest to spread it around. Brian is the kind of guy that is on a mission.

His mission is pretty simple whenever he calls into my office. He is determined to make his conversation with whoever he talks to become a bright and encouraging spotlight in their day. He works to bring a little joy and happiness into the life of another person. He knows people deal with the crummy stuff in life on a regular basis so he is extra purposeful to bring something different into the lives of others.

You see, Brian works very hard to bring encouragement and joy into others lives, but in the process he actually brings something much greater. Brian brings a little bit of hope. Hope that humanity can behave different when Christ takes control of their lives. Hope that not everyone in this world is entirely cruel and ugly. Proof that there are people in this world who want to make a difference in this world. Prof that there are people who genuinely want to give rather than just take.

Do you know what is funny? Brian blew al of that ugly people out of the water that day. His one conversation with me eradicated any of the negative conversations I had that day. I like to think God knew I needed Brian that day to get through the remainder of my day. He knew I needed a little bit of hope to penetrate through my dark day. Brian was willing to be used by God to accomplish that.

What’s the point to all of this? You and I have a choice. There are two kingdoms in this world working like mad to gain ground. One is the kingdom of darkness, and the other is the kingdom of God. When we interact with others we are making a choose to try and improve one kingdom over the other. When we respond with hatred and cruelty we are working for the wrong side. A little bit of joy and encouragement goes a lot further though. Your encouragement to a person could outweigh all the bad they experience that day.

So what do you want to do? Do you want to be like Brian, or like the countless and nameless others?

Joy on the Cross.

“You just need to learn how to be more joyful”. Such a common statement most of us have heard when we express our frustration, sadness, and discouragement over a difficult situation in our lives. James tells us to count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds. Count it all joy. Believers are commanded to respond to trials and suffering with joy.

This would mean Christ had to respond to trials and suffering with joy. He had to face the cross with an element of joy. That sounds strange doesn’t it? We read the Scriptures, and the last thing we would describe of Jesus as he prepared to die on a cross was joyful. Is it possible that our definition of joy is off? Is it possible that joy can still make way for expressing emotions of grief and sadness?

We make this mistake to often. There are many in Christianity that tell us there are some emotions we are meant to shut off. Any sadness must be overridden with happy thoughts. I don’t like that. I don’t think it’s Biblical. Certainly we do not want to live in despair and grief, but I think it is natural and acceptable to acknowledge those feelings of grief and sadness. Christ showed those emotions in the garden. Was he joyful in that moment? Was he count it all joy in that moment? I believe He was.

It is our understanding of joy that is the problem. I would argue Jesus was filled with joy on the way to the cross. I believe he was filled with joy during that period of grief in the garden. I believe this because of how we see Jesus handle the whole situation. He does focus his vision on the moment of grief. he does not focus his vision on the trial and suffering itself. he focuses on what lies beyond that. he sets his eyes on the result of the trial and suffering.

That’s what James is really getting at when he tells us to count it all joy when we face trials. He tells us to count it all joy because of the beneficial results of that trial. I don’t know about you, but this changes my perspective on the whole being joyful issue. Joy doesn’t mean putting on the fake smile. It does not mean we ignore any of those “bad” emotions. It does mean we don’t live in them. it does mean we focus on what lies ahead rather than on our present circumstances.

We focus a lot on that singular event of the cross. It is a good thing. It is a powerful moment in the history of humankind. I think Christ focused more heavily on what came after the cross though. He focused on that resurrection. He focused on what the death and resurrection meant for His creation. He focused on how He was going to be able to rewrite the history of creation. He was able to be joyful because of that. He was able to weep over his present circumstance, but be joyful about what would live beyond it. Joyful does not mean acknowledging the pain you are in during your suffering. it means we remember that it doesn’t end hear. The story keeps going. The final chapter in the story is the best one. Suffering and trials culminate towards getting us to that final chapter. It is in our future that we can find joy in the present.

Understanding Your Wife

I listened to a Christian add on the radio the other day where the basic premise was the sometimes in marriage your husband isn’t going to understand you, and you just need to be able to learn how to live with that. This naturally jumped out to me because it was simply wrong. Yes there will be times of misunderstanding, but it’s never something we are supposed to just get over and deal with.

Men have been trying to understand women since the beginning. Sitcoms regularly joke about men’s inability to understanding women. Boy who develop interest in girls for the first tie often ask the question of understanding early. We are obsessed with understanding women. If we can just understand women then mysteries of the universe will be solved.

Good luck guys, because understanding women cannot be done. Understanding a woman? Now that just might be possible. Confused? Pay attention to what I just wrote. There is a difference between understanding women, and understand an individual woman. It is impossible to understand women because no to women are the same. Scripture does not call for men to understand women. Scripture calls for a husband to understand his wife.

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7

How do we understand our wives tough? What does it mean to really understand them? It starts by living life with them. We learn abut people when we go through life together. We see how they react to situations and circumstances. It means being with them. Husbands can’t understand their wives if they never spend time with them.

I love my wife. I strive to understand her more and more. I always try and understand why she thinks the way she does. I ask questions about her childhood to better understand who she is as a person. Here is the thing, I don’t just do this because I have to, I do it because I like being able to understand her better. Understanding my wife strengthens our marriage. It strengthens my relationship with God. It heightens my praying experience by knowing her so well to know how best to pray for her needs.

Women, you may look at this verse and find offense to Peter’s statement of you being the weaker sex. Don’t be blinded by that statement to miss the bigger picture here. You should expect to have a husband who strives to understand you as an individual. Someone who is attune to how you think. Someone who know your heart as well as any human being could.

Men, you are meant to strive to understand your wife. It will be a lifelong pursuit. You will always find yourself understanding her more and more. It will be a lifelong goal. It will mean striving to set thing rights when their is tension between the two of you. It means you will need to take the first steps in making up form an argument. You will set the pace husbands. You have been dictated to understand your wives. It requires time and dedication. Will you strive to understand your wife?

Praying At

I take prayer seriously. Probably not even as serious as I should. Prayer is an important part in cultivating our relationship with God. It can be done communal, but it is also a deeply personal experience. This is why it saddens me when we cheapen prayer. We do it in plenty of ways. Sometimes we focus to much on using the “right words” rather than just communicating with God. We can care more about what others around us think rather than our own creator.

There is one bad habit of prayer that has become very heavy on my heart. It is the “praying at” style of prayer. It is the kind of prayer where you are raying at someone else rather than raying to God. It’s a bogus form that defeats the purpose of prayer. It has two major devastating effects. One is on the relation of the person you are praying at, and the other is on the relation with God.

Have you ever been prayed at? It’s not a very pleasant experience. Often the desired result of raying at is to make the victim feel guilty. It is saying that you feel the need to take over the conviction job of the Holy Spirit and add a few extra jabs to make sure that you hit close to home. This is bad for many reasons. First, you are trying to take over the job of the Holy Spirit. You are essentially saying that Gods conviction is not enough on this person. Let us be very clear, God does not need our help in conviction. Sometimes he compels us to confront someone on their sin, but God is the one who brings about true conviction.

Another danger is you might well be wrong. You might be dumping needless guilt through prayer for a bad reason. This happens because we once again have felt the need to take on God’s job in deciding what an individual needs to feel conviction about. Praying at is not lead by the hoy Spirit. it is lead by our own opinions and desires.

It breaks down the trust with the person you are praying at. It does not take a rocket scientist to know when they are being prayed at. I’m not talking abut the kind of prayer for someone where you ask for God to gives them strength and courage. I’m not talking about the prayer where you ask God to help someone be able to listen to His voice. I’m talking about the kind of prayer that demands the person follow strict standards developed by you in order for them to feel like they are listening to God himself. It’s the kind of prayer that when you take say all of the flowery speech says, “Dear God, help this person to realize that everything I am telling them is really coming from you.” You may truly have words of wisdom for the person. Those words may very well be form God, but you have now removed the opportunity of choice and personal discernment for the individual You have just told them that failure to agree with what you s a fallible human being say is direct disobedience to God.

There is one extra aspect to the personal relationship I wish to bring up. It is bout the type of prayer that intends to bring guilt to a person. That’s just wrong. When Christ gave examples on praying it was always so entirely focused on God. It was never used to bring about our own agenda. It was never used to test whether or not someone is being truthful. It was always meant to be a personal link in your relationship with God.

This brings as to the biggest problem with praying at prayer. We spit on God. We take an incredible gift of prayer and abuse it. We use prayer to pray at others, and in the process we ignore God. Doesn’t that just sound disrespectful? Whenever we use prayer for our own agenda on others we are disrespecting God. The irony of this is we often use it because we believe others have been disobedient to God by our own personal standards.

In honesty, this post is jumbled up. It really could be multiple posts. I felt the need to write on it because it has been on my mind now for months. I have been guilty of the praying at method. I never just realized how messed up it was until I found myself being the person being prayed at and saw it from an outside perspective as other feel victim to its practices. Since then I find it has become such a common practice that we often forget how damaging it really is. We think we are helping God along in His work. We have taken a gift form God and used it for a purpose it was never intended for. In the process we destroy the relationship with those we pray at. Is that really worth the potential reward?