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Monday, April 12, 2021

Is there an Idol in the House?

I’ve been pondering idols and idolatry. The subject might not be something you’ve considered, but idols are a regular feature in the Bible. The first of the Ten Commandments is “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.” Exodus 20:4 (NLT) In obedience to the first of the Ten Commandments, the Jewish people didn’t create statutes, paintings or make engravings. When you’ve traveled to other regions of the world, you’ve probably seen statuette “idols” in people’s homes, hotels, retail shops and on street corners. Statuette idols are an image or representation of a “god” or holy item, that is worshiped. Americans don’t usually worship statuette idols, but almost all Americans worship idols. Idols are admired, loved, celebrated and served. A person’s idol might be their identity, job, house, car, money, sex, comfort, entertainment, alcohol, or another person. “An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.” Tim Keller Jeffery Poor lists these four questions to check for idols in our lives. Where Do I Spend My Time? Where Do I Spend My Money? Where Do I Get My Joy? What’s Always on My Mind? The crazy thing about idols is they are never satisfied; idols constantly demand more and more. King Solomon made an observation about money that applies to every idol in people’s lives. “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!” Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 (NLT) Solomon’s observation can be re-written for any idol. I’ll use “bowling,” as a replacement for money. (I could just as easily use identity, job, house, sex, or entertainment). “Those who love bowling will never have enough. How meaningless to think that bowling brings true happiness! … So what good is bowling—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!” Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 (NLT) Idols prevent people from living the Greatest Commandment – “Love God with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength.” My mission in life, your mission in life, is to “Love God with ALL!” Is there an idol that you need to get rid of? Don’t wait! The longer a person worships an idol, the tighter the hold it gets on their life.

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Day the World Changed

Jesus lived the most incredible life ever. No one has impacted and revolutionized humanity like him. Years ago, English cultural commentator G. K. Chesterton said the story of Jesus is “the strangest story ever told.” The story is not only the strangest but also the most unlikely of stories. Charles Colson observed, “A borrowed manger, and a borrowed tomb framed his earthly life.” What other world revolutionary figure entered the world in such humble circumstances? Born to a woman pregnant before marriage, in a time when that was scandalous. She conceived without intimacy with a man. Unheard of! His first bed in a borrowed feeding trough. Yet, visited by Magi, from far-away lands, led to the infant by a star. He was a traveling rabbi who performed countless miracles. Many hoped he was the promised messiah, and he disappointed them. Rejected and hated by the religious establishment and executed for treason. Laid to rest in a borrowed tomb, on the third day he rose from the grave. This weekend, starting at the international dateline in Kiribati (a small island country in the Pacific) and ending 24 hours later, 3 billion people will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Even in countries where Jesus and his resurrection are not celebrated, Easter is recognized as a holiday. People worldwide, who don’t celebrate Jesus, or the resurrection recognize Easter as a holiday. No where on the planet can a person get away from the day the world changed. I hope Jesus invades your heart and life uniquely as the world celebrates the Risen Savior.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Do Everything with Love

Many of you are aware of my love of basketball and the annual March Madness. This year the “Cinderella Team” is Oral Roberts University. ORU is only the second No. 15 seed team to advance to the Sweet 16. Everything is not rosy for ORU athletics, though. Some in the media and culture recently labeled ORU homophobic and out of step with the new thinking regarding all things queer. They are calling for ORU and other schools like them to be excluded from post-season play. The school holds a traditional Biblical view of gender, marriage and sexuality that are now culturally unacceptable. ORU is not the only school feeling the pressure. Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons, Muslims and many other groups hold traditional views. Last winter I read George Orwell’s “1984.” The similarities between the description of the future and our current cultural realities continue to intrigue me. The depiction of the “Thought Police” in the superstate of Oceania and the authority to investigate and punish thinking not approved of by the state is prophetic of our current “cancel culture.” The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, the leader of the church in Ephesus, that “in the last days there will be very difficult times … people will scoff at God … they will consider nothing sacred. … They will be cruel and hate what is good.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT) The pressure to agree with the views of “cancel culture” and adopt culture’s thinking will continue to mount. Those who disagree with current thinking will experience pressure and exclusion. How to respond to this cultural thinking will require great wisdom, leading of the Holy Spirit and courage. One of the most powerful quotes from “1984,” speaks to the bravery necessary to disagree with popular thinking and values. “Your worst enemy, [Winston] reflected, was your nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate into some visible symptom.” Winston’s thoughts accurately describe the tension experienced by those who are unwilling to bend to culture’s transient thinking. Paul encouraged Jesus’ followers to “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 (NLT)

Monday, March 22, 2021

Take Responsibility

King Solomon noted an attitude that continues to control some people’s lives today. We can find the attitude in every age group, gender, nationality, political leanings, economic status, or educational experience. The attitude flourishes in proud hearts, unbelieving hearts, combative hearts, hearts that don’t take responsibility. “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the LORD.” Proverbs 19:3 (NLT) “People's own foolishness ruins their lives, but in their minds they blame the LORD.” Proverbs 19:3 (NCV) “People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does GOD always get blamed?” Proverbs 19:3 (MSG) King Solomon’s statement makes some people angry. The truth puts squarely on them responsibility for life’s consequence. Not all pitfalls, curveballs, struggles and suffering are self-induced. We’ve all experienced undeserved pain in life. But we’ve also all experienced self-inflicted pain through poor financial decisions, relational decisions, and misplaced priorities. We’ve failed to end certain habits and start other habits. Often, those who acknowledge their self-inflicted struggles are slowest to become angry at God and others. Those who will not recognize their responsibility are quick to become angry at God and others. Those who will not take responsibility for their lives plant a seed of bondage. While those who take responsibility for their life releases emotional freedom. Healthy Action Steps: Take responsibility for your life. Don’t blame God for your struggles. Release emotional freedom!

Monday, March 15, 2021

The BIGNESS of God

I have been thinking about the BIGNESS of God this week. When a person’s view of God is accurate, it impacts every other area of a person’s life. If I view God incorrectly, I cannot help but perceive my importance and the importance of others inaccurately. 3,000 years ago, King David wrote about his view of God. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalms 8:3-4 (NIV) David was pondering the universe, galaxies, stars, and the moon, and he realized how insignificant people are. My paraphrase of the question David posed to God: “You are so big and what you’ve created is so vast, why would you ever think about us?” When I understand how big God is, it puts me in my place. He’s big, I’m little, and I’m the same size as everyone else. I’m no bigger than anyone else, I’m no better than anyone else, and I’m driven to see others appropriately. I’m driven to be “mindful” of others and “care” for them. If God is GREAT BIG and is mindful of others and cares for others, surely those made in His image should do the same. “Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” Exodus 15:11 (NIV) Is it any wonder the Scriptures describe Moses as “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else?” Moses’ view of the grandeur of God seeded humility in his life. I want a clearer view of the awesomeness of God! God, Help me see you clearly. Amen

Monday, March 8, 2021

Wisdom

Years ago, a family in the church gave me a needlework wall-hanging with the following Abraham Lincoln quote embroidered on it: “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” Abraham Lincoln In recent months, I have found myself overwhelmed by the sentiment that Lincoln expressed. I find myself in dire need of wisdom. My own thinking is insufficient to respond to life’s challenges. The world is shifting so fast, life is approaching, what feels like “warp speed.” Ideas, philosophies, truth, error, conflict, confusion, regulations, mandates and challenges are flying in all directions and in no particular order. Things come so fast; I feel like I’m swatting at a swarm of flies! People have regularly referred to “new” circumstances and challenges as “unprecedented.” We are living in another one of those times when almost everything about life is different. Jesus told his disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NIrV) Followers of Jesus have always needed wisdom. I desperately need wisdom to respond and not react. I need wisdom to respond or not, depending on the situation. As a follower of Jesus, I am to respond the way Jesus would. I need wisdom to know when to speak, when to listen, when to change and when to stand firm. It will take every bit of wisdom that God provides for His followers to “love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength” and to “love your neighbors.” “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.” James 1:5-6 (NLT) If you are like me, the request for wisdom is constant. I’m leaning on the promise of God that He will provide it.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Eternity

As I’ve studied this week, wonder and excitement has infused my heart about what lays ahead for God’s children. The Apostle Paul encouraged the new church in Corinth about eternity. He wrote to them: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT) People have written dozens of books over the last decade about near-death experiences and visions of heaven. I don’t doubt their experiences and visions. I think that the experiences and visions fall short of what eternity will be like. Paul said: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined!” He describes his own visit to heaven this way “I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.” 2 Corinthians 12:4 (NLT) The Apostle John, in his writing Revelation, described eternity. “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’” Revelation 21:3-5 (NLT) The wisdom of God and the power of God has prepared, for everyone who entrusts their past, present and future into Jesus’ care and control, ETERNITY THAT IS BEYOND YOUR WILDEST, WILDEST, MOST EXTRAVEGANT, OUTLANDISH IMAGINATION YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS WHAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR HIS CHILDREN! Can I beg you, entrust your past, present and future into Jesus’ care and control! Don’t miss out on what God has planned for those who love Him.