The Horror of Idolatry

I’ve been reading Iain Duguid’s commentary on the book of Ezekiel. As you know, Ezekiel was an Old Testament prophet who was given the unenviable task of indicting the nation of Israel for its sins of idolatry. They preferred every carved image to the God who loved and saved them. And God was furious at them and he wanted them to know that.

“Idolatry is adultery because it makes me unfaithful to God and his truth. It flows from the inordinate desire for a person, plan, or sensation, a desire stronger than my love for God and my desire to obey him,” Duguid says.

That pretty much slays me.

Duguid goes on to say, “Idolatry is the desire for something other than God at the center of my life acting like my guiding star, the source of meaning in my life.”

How often I live my life, as a Christian, desiring things that God has not given me and believing if I had them I’d be a happier person. The advertising industry thrives on that lie. So does the devil with his poisonous thoughts that suggest that God is stingy, or has overlooked me, or marginalized me in his kingdom.

We are not immune from the siren calls of the world and it’s temptations. If that doesn’t get us, then it’s our flesh that clamors for more attention, and if we can be the center of the universe, all the better. But even if we can withstand the flesh, there’s the devil lurking in the background waiting to bait us with his venom.

Is it any wonder we are messes?  IMG_4730

But there’s hope for messes. Jesus died for messes. He nailed us to his cross so we could be given a clean slate in his new life.

We are the only people on earth who have died and been resurrected! Do you realize that?

It happened at the cross. When Jesus died there, we died with him. When he was buried, we were in the tomb with him. And when he was resurrected on the third day, he took us with him! What a glorious trip!

Do you believe that? You should. See Romans 6.

These truths all flow out of our union with Christ.

And how did we get there?

God put us there. See 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

So what does that do to our idolatry? First, it’s pretty horrible to be in Christ and still crave lesser gods. Second, we have forgotten our position and privilege as children of God. Third, the only way to deal with idolatry is to run to God and repent. “It’s the ultimate idol-smasher,” Duguid says.

“Lord, forgive me for the sin of lesser loves, and remind me I am not my own but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

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How to Be Happy

Why are so many people unhappy?

Why do so many people say they hate their jobs?

Why do others break off relationships, some of which have lasted a lifetime?

And why do others become slaves to alcohol and drugs?

At the bottom of their reasons is a desire to be happy.

Everybody wants to be happy. No matter who you are, where you are, or what you do.

I believe God wired us for happiness. This is not something we have invented. It’s part of our DNA as God’s image bearers.

But, as we all know, sin has marred everything, including this longing for happiness. Now we look for it in all the wrong places, especially in other people, only to be disappointed in the long run.  IMG_7161

Real happiness comes from knowing and enjoying Christ. Everything else is Hollywood. You have a choice – it’s a question of lavish feasting with him or settling for scraps the world offers.

We are born craving approval, acceptance and love and resisting the one Person who can give it to us. What fools we are. It can be ours in Christ. We don’t have to earn it, grovel for it, or hope for it. It’s ours the moment we believe.

We are wired for intimacy and we have it in Christ, as a gift. God has placed us in Christ’s kingdom and we have been drawn into the fellowship not only our Savior, but God the Father and the Holy Spirit. What can be more amazing than that? As C. S. Lewis said, it’s time to drop those mud pies in the gutter and take that holiday by the sea.

What are you doing about being happy today? Looking at your career, your marriage, your retirement, your shattered dreams, your own heart? Don’t waste your time. Look to Christ and you’ll find it there.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-Write Your Story

Once upon a time stories were for children. Now they seem to be usurped by almost everybody – big business, airlines, pharmaceutical companies, the automobile industry, everything is fair game even down to the toothpaste yuo use.

The truth is we’re wired for story. Our brains respond to them. And for some of you, you are a slave to your story. It’s the one you play in your head everyday. It can be a traumatic event, an emotional decision, a deep hurt, an unfairness, whatever it was that left a wound in your soul.

Instead of replaying it over and over again, replace it with a better story.

Sounds crazy?

It’s not.

What better story, you ask?  IMG_1415

The one that has you in Christ’s story. It’s the one that starts like this:

Once upon a time God created a perfect world and handed it over to his children, Adam and Eve to take care of it, but then they disobeyed him and plunged themselves and everybody after them into sin. When God saw the mess they had made, he realized only he could fix it. So he sent his perfect Son to earth in the form of a perfect man to live and do what Adam and Eve and the rest of us failed to do. Jesus lived to please God and then died on the cross to pay the price for your sins. His perfect life and record is now yours as a gift from God to you. All you need is faith in Christ to get it. The moment you receive that gift you step into Christ’s story.

What is true of you now?

You have a new Father who loves you. He is unlike any earthly father you’ve ever known.

You have a Savior who fixed your biggest problem – your sin that kept you from God.

You have a new identity – you are a child of God with all its privileges, including an inheritance.

You have a new family – your brothers and sisters in Christ.

You have a new future – living in the new heavens and the new earth for an eternity.

You have new support – the church.

You have a calling – the Holy Spirit has given you spiritual gifts to serve God with.

So what are you waiting for?

Dump the old story today and start telling yourself the new one!

Talk to me.

So Hard

“The hardest thing in the world is to take Christ alone for salvation and then to return to Christ alone every day of the Christian life.” – Tony Reinke

Our human nature wants to manipulate our salvation. It goes something like this: Christ did the hard part (dying on the cross) so now we’ll take it from here.

Everyone of us desires glory. We were build for it, and one day we’ll experience it, but not here. And yet, every time we use self-salvation strategies to keep God liking us and thinking we’re terrific, we end up in self-worship and self-glory.

We hate, absolutely hate, admitting we can do nothing apart from Christ. We pay lip service to that truth.  photo (36)

We long to be something apart from him.

Have you noticed how burdened we feel most days with the many pressures and layers of life?

We’re addicted to living that way. We don’t understand any other kind of life.

But what would happen if we truly knew ourselves from God’s vantage point and realized we are nothing? And then be glad that Jesus is all we ever need or want?

What would our lives look like with that mindset?

“When our self-evaluation is emptied, Christ’s glory weighs heavier in our lives.” – John Newton

We need to be people like those who go to AA meetings. We need to say to ourselves in the mirror every morning, “My name is Bub, and I’m a sinner addicted to myself.”

I think we need to confess that everyday to the Lord.

He might even say to us, “Now you’re getting it. I’m here to help.”

What do you think?

 

 

 

An Awesome Name

Did you know God is the only one who names himself?

El means power. Elohim. Pushing back the chaos and establishing order. You see this on display in the creation of the world. God can push back the chaos in your life. Nothing is beyond his power.

Yahweh is used 5,000 times in the bible. It’s his most important name.

Think Passover. The parting of the Red Sea. The drowning of the Egyptians.

He is a face-to-face promise-keeping God. The burning bush. Moses on the mountain. Jacob wrestling with the angel. IMG_8004

God wants us to think of him as the trustworthy God.

He’s not Mr. God, formal and aloof in a black suit behind a desk.

He’s known as Yahweh Jireh. The Lord sees and provides. The ram in the thicket. Manna in the wilderness. Jesus on the cross.

Yahweh Rapha. The Lord heals you. He turns your Marah into sweet water. Jesus heals you body and soul.

Yahweh Nissi means God is your banner. You cannot be defeated. God went to war for Israel. He stands shoulder to shoulder with you today.

Yahweh Sabaoth. He is the host of heaven. He brings the armies. He defends you.

God has now visited you in Jesus. It’s permanent. He didn’t slip out of his body like a garment when he returned to heaven. He stays a man forever and lives there. He remains a man who sympathizes with you and prays for you.

Celebrate his name today!

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing to Say

I’ve been reading the Old Testament, book by book, and then it came time for Job.

I groaned.

I didn’t want to read it.

Some of my friends and relatives were suffering and I didn’t want to hear about one more.

But I knew I’d regret it. It had been a long while since I’d read the book, so I took a deep breath, held my nose, and plunged in.

Here are some insights from my reading:

I was surprised at the many verses I recognized that come from Job.

“For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.” 3:24 It echoes Psalm 22.

“Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” 4:17 The psalmist in 119: 9 asks the identical question.

“For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” 5:6 The psalms are full of the woes of man in sin, and so are the Proverbs.

I was also shocked at some of the wisdom that came from Job’s friends. Things like, “I too, was pinched off from a piece of clay.” 33: 6 It reminded me of when God made Adam.

“Where is my Maker who gives songs in the night?” 35:10 That’s from Job in his suffering and confusion. It’s reminiscent of Zephaniah in 3:17 when he tells Israel, as they face judgment, that God will restore and rejoice over them with loud singing.

Towards the end of the book, God finally addresses Job. What astonished me was how God described himself to Job. He could have shamed him into realizing his frailty in comparison to God’s power or verbally whipped him with his wisdom. Instead he asked him questions like, “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?” or “Who has let the wild donkey go free?” or “Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?”

These are rhetorical questions and Job knows it.

God continues to the end of the book to describe the creatures he has made, just as he did man, and no one can take credit but him.

By the time God finishes, Job is speechless.

And I was given a shot in the arm. I came away realizing since God is the creator and caretaker of everything the eye can see, he certainly will take care of me and my loved ones. It’s laughable to think he’d forget me and my prayers.

The only reason I’m still around today is God’s faithfulness to me. I earned none of it. I fail him more than I care to admit. And everything I am and have he gave me as a gift because of his Son.

I’m left speechless, too.

So really my life needs to be a showcase of gratitude.

Talk to me.

Re-Booting Is Not Just for Tech Devices

Everything needs a re-boot every once in a while. I had to do that with my smart phone. It got so hot I could grill a lamb burger on it, so I shut it down, and gave it a rest. It had traveled internationally with me and the time change may have confused it coming home. Like me. I returned home from a month of travel and got sick. I slept for three days.

I’m always surprised when I can’t keep going with infinite energy. I forget my inside age (17) doesn’t match my outside age (39 and holding).  I forget that everything, including me, is on a wind-down. The re-tooling of heaven and earth, including us, happens when Jesus comes back with his tool belt around his waist and sets up shop once and for all. painting24

In the meantime, we live with the tension of our sighs and the reality around us. We put one foot in front of the other, keeping our eyes on Jesus, who went before us and showed us the way. It’s not easy. It wasn’t easy for him either. It cost him his life but he knew that. Nothing took him by surprise, whereas it does for us. He had one advantage though – he was both human and divine so when he willingly took up this assignment he did it with eyes open. It was his devotion to his Father that propelled him.

“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’” – Psalm 40:7-8 ESV

He decided it was worth his time to leave home, come to earth as a human being in order to restore sick and dying people to their birthright, that of glorifying God and enjoying him forever. And this he did, with a full heart.

“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” – John 17:4 ESV

Did you know you were meant to find your purpose in God? He’s the one you miss and long for. Everything in life is broken, fragmented and in disrepair. That means life isn’t going to work out. Your dreams will be shattered. Because what your heart yearns for is God and he’s the only one who can make your life good.

That’s why we need Jesus. His life was perfect. He knew no sin. He lived for God. He loved God the way you were meant to. And on top of that, he died on the cross to pay the penalty for your not loving God, for going your own way and resisting him. When you believe what Jesus has done, God exchanges your failed record for Jesus’s perfect record. It is yours as a gift, and you take it with gratitude and awe.

How’s that for a re-boot?

Talk to me.