Idols In Disguise…

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As usual, this 21 day fast has rendered some amazing self-reflection and correction in me.  Throughout this period, I read a book by John Bevere, Killing Kryptonite.  God has used John’s message to flat out correct some of my personal theology.  Primarily, as John intended in the book, killing the idols in my life. An idol is truly anything that we give our attention to or allow to steal our attention from God…ALL of God and ALL of His characteristics.  Like so many of us, I like to focus on the characteristics of God that suit me and make me feel the best about myself.  That my friends, is a false Gospel, an incomplete Gospel, and quit honestly not the Gospel at all…that is heresy on my part.

John brings up a story which caused me to see something in my own life.  Exodus 32 is a story we all know pretty well…it is the story of the golden calf.  The Israelites had just been miraculously rescued by God from the Egyptians.  God had taken care of His people by providing divine direction through the wilderness, feeding them with heavenly manna and miraculously providing quail, because the people wanted meat. As Moses was on Mt Sinai encountering God and being given the Ten Commandments, the people were down below trying to fit God into their personal-sized box; one they could comprehend with their own limited minds.  Aaron and the people took all their gold jewelry and formed the golden calf.  In Exodus 32:4 Aaron says, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”.  The word “god” is actually Yahweh. They were not necessarily creating an image to wholly replace God with a golden calf, they were simply fashioning an image of God…the golden calf…something they could see with their own eyes.  They were trying to focus on a single characteristic of God, His image.  They lost their faith and created an idol.

And did you know that God’s grace could become an idol?  I have allowed over the years, mostly because of mainstream teaching and my own desire to not “offend” anyone, to accept God’s grace in favor of true repentance.  It is much easier to talk of God’s grace, rather than about the fact we should turn from our wicked ways and live a holy life.  Paul says,

“So that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 5:21 – 6:2)

 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

I will be honest, as I was reading God’s word, a holy fear struck my heart.  I had allowed God’s message of grace to overshadow all his other characteristics.  I have allowed my thought process to be that I would simply allow the Holy Spirit to speak to that person and deal with their sin.  While there is not anything inherently wrong with that, I was making the assumption that only the Holy Spirit can speak truth, when in fact God gave us His Word to speak.  The Holy Spirit speaks to people through the WHOLE WORD of GOD, not just the message of grace.  When all I do is speak of God’s grace and not repentance of sin, I risk seeing someone who I thought was my brother or sister turned away at the seat of judgement.  That hurts me even typing those words…

Here is my problem…my brain likes to focus on one thing at a time, it gets stuck in the this OR that mode.  But when we are talking about the character of God, you cannot focus on only this or that.  It is not either grace or repentance, it is both.  It is both turning from our sin and accepting the grace of God.  It is speaking the TRUTH of the Word of God, as Paul was doing to the Corinthian church, in a compassionate way.  Do you think Paul was speaking those words in a demeaning way, talking down to them, speaking in a hateful manner, telling them they were going to burn?  Absolutely not, Philippians 3:18 says, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ”.  Paul called people to repent, but he wept for them at the same time.  He loved them so much that his conscience would not allow him to only speak of God’s grace; it mandated him to talk about repentance of sin.

God is changing me in some pretty crazy ways, challenging a lot of what I believe, but leveraging the compassion and love for His people that he built into my DNA.  My challenge to you is do not run from that which makes you uncomfortable.  Back to what I said in the last blog post, do not allow a short-sighted perspective to cause you to forget that we are dealing with eternity.  When we choose to not talk about the whole Gospel message, we are risking someone’s eternity.  Love dictates that we push through discomfort to deliver truth with a compassionate heart just as Jesus did.

Blessings while you seek out the whole character of God!

Scott

Remembering God’s Promises

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When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. Then I said,

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.

“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’

“The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”

In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer. (Nehemiah 1:4-11, NLT)

Nehemiah was a younger man who was employed by King Artaxerxes of Persia.  Based on what we knew about Nehemiah, he was well trained in God’s Law; this comes out clearly in his amazing prayers throughout the book of Nehemiah.  Nehemiah had just received news the wall of Jerusalem was not rebuilt yet, leaving the city and God’s temple exposed to people with bad intentions.  His response to this news…he wept, mourned for his people, fasted, and prayed.  He prayed and he took action, both in his prayers and in his physical form…he went to work.  Yes, prayer involves work!

There are some important components to Nehemiah’s prayer:  he praised God; there was thanksgiving; he repented not only for himself, but for his people; he presented specific requests to God; and he displayed commitment to God by reminding God of His Word.  A couple of the characteristics in Nehemiah’s prayers have grabbed hold of my heart and has caused a significant work in me:  repentance and commitment.  It is my hope that God will speak to your heart and some of these characteristics will become part of your being, part of the thread God uses to weave you into His child, made in His image.

First, for most of us a primary portion of our prayers is repentance.  The closer in relationship I get to my Father, the more I find myself in a state of repentance.  You cannot get closer to the Father, without an increase of awareness of your own brokenness.  Personal repentance is both freeing and allows God to show mercy and bring healing.  Nehemiah takes repentance far beyond personal repentance…he accepts the sin of his people and repents on their behalf (Jesus did this in a very final way, John 3:16-17).  Nehemiah, broken on their behalf and saddened by the fact that God’s city is left exposed to the corruption of the world, repents for his entire people prior to repenting of his own sin. He confesses “we have sinned”, then follows up with “Yes, even my own family and I have sinned.”  Nehemiah took on the sin of all his people. He hurt for them, he was broken for them, he was pleading with the God of heaven to forgive his people…God’s people.

So, the question becomes how often do we have a conversation with somebody about how wicked this world is?  Can you believe what Harvey Weinstein did?  Did you read the president’s tweet?  I cannot believe what Planned Parenthood does.  We need to boycott company “A”.  The list goes on. Nehemiah did not do that, he simply fell on his face in front of a holy God and cried out in repentance for his people.  What would this world look like if every follower of Jesus fell on their face in repentance of our people…His people?  What would it look like if instead of gossiping, we simply prayed with one voice for those people or that organization.  I have a personal responsibility, we have a personal responsibility to lead through prayer and repentance, just as Nehemiah did.  And, if we do, I promise you God will honor His people, just as he did for Nehemiah.

Secondly, Nehemiah always gave God the glory for what he accomplished, but many times Nehemiah would remind God of His word, His promises.  Nehemiah stated, “remember what you told your servant Moses…”  Do you think God really needs a reminder about what He said or has accomplished in the past?  Of course not, but this displays Nehemiah’s commitment to God’s word and His deeds throughout time.  Nehemiah’s prayer was a proclamation to God about His goodness to His people, especially when they were repentant and following His laws. (As a side note, His laws had a significant purpose.  Not to regulate and rule over the people, but to provide the people with safety, security, and joy). You will see throughout Nehemiah’s prayers, he reminds God of His Word, and what he himself has done for the Lord.

How often do you remind God of His word in your prayers?  How often do you remind God of the things you have accomplished for him?  God has challenged me in this area lately; to know His Word well enough to speak it in my conversation with Him and also, to not be afraid to remind God of the sacrifices I have made for Him even though my sacrifice is imperfect.  These things are never done in an attitude of pride or an attempt to manipulate, but simply in a humble conversation with our Father.  Furthermore, when I speak these things out loud, they are a reminder to my flesh of what God has accomplished in me and through me, with the goal of aligning myself with His will.  We are created to accomplish His good works (Eph 2:10), and if you are like me, you need a reminder often.  Reminding God of His Word displays commitment to His truth and further cements those very truths in your own mind.

Over the next few days, pray God’s Word as the Holy Spirit guides you, remind Him of His goodness, His mercy, His patience, and ask Him to forgive His people.  Our world is simply a result of people walking away from God’s goodness.  We are disillusioned to believe God’s goodness is oppressive, when the reality is our own sin is oppressive. God’s goodness, His forgiveness, brings freedom!  Let’s pray for freedom in our cities, our state, our country, and our world.  And, just as Nehemiah did, pray and take action where the Lord leads you.

Blessings in the New Year!

Scott