worship

Trustworthy Sayings (1 Timothy 1: 8-17)

Last week we talked about the importance of a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a genuine faith that comes from sound doctrine. We also noted there are those who wander from this, who bring arguments and confusion rather than welcoming in the Kingdom of God as expressed by the presence of the church on earth. Paul continues by showing a contrast between a life that rejects the reign of Christ and a life that embraces it, and why embracing Jesus brings life.

You and I know the law is good (if used in the right way), and we also know the law was not designed for law-abiding people but for lawbreakers and criminals, the ungodly and sin-filled, the unholy and worldly, the father killers and mother killers, the murderers, the sexually immoral and homosexuals, slave dealers, liars, perjurers, and anyone else who acts against the sound doctrine (“teaching as it extends to a necessary lifestyle”)[1] laid out in the glorious, holy, and pure good news of the blessed God that has been entrusted to me. (8-11)

First, Paul establishes the standard: God’s law reveals God’s will for the world. We want our hearts to align with God’s so that we love what God loves; we want our consciences to be clear by then doing what God wants us to do. There is a ‘necessary lifestyle’ that is supposed to follow if we commit ourselves to Jesus – not because it saves us, but because it expresses our commitment to the one who has saved us.

We talked last week about how part of the problem in Timothy’s church was that the Judaizers were teaching that keeping the Law would save people. But that’s not the way the law was meant to be used. It was meant to be a schoolmaster, a teacher, showing the way that pleases God. God has revealed His will so that we know if our actions are pleasing to Him, and if what we are doing is promoting or undermining life in the Kingdom of God.

But even the best lawkeeping cannot save us, so Paul immediately moves into the necessity of the intervention of Jesus in our life.

I thank our Lord Jesus the Anointed who empowers me, because He saw me as faithful and appointed me to this ministry despite the fact that at one time I was slandering the things of God, persecuting and attacking His people. (12-13)

 The verb means to "treat or use others despitefully," "to outrage and insult" them. The full phrase says he sinned against God, himself and others – and, ironically, he did it while keeping the Law (at least as it was understood by the Pharisees). Those in the Jewish community would have seen him as the ultimate law keeper, and yet he was one of the worst. Keeping the Law is not enough, especially if it's a flawed human understanding of what God’s Law really says.

He was still merciful to me because I acted in ignorance apart from faith. But He poured His grace over me, and I was flooded in an abundance of the grace and faith and love that can only be found in Jesus the Anointed. Here’s a statement worthy of trust: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and I am the worst of them all.  (14-15)

There were a number of hymns of catechetical teaching in the early Church. This appears to be one: "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." But then Paul adds to it: “I am the worst of them all.”

He talks about his new life in other places (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20), but nothing can alter the fact that Paul was the man that did all these things and is capable of doing them again without the presence of God in his life.

You’ve heard the phrase, “That’s gonna leave a mark?” Sin leaves a mark. I will bear the scar of my shoulder surgery. No matter how healthy I get, I am the man with a repaired shoulder. It doesn’t define me, but it is a part of me. Paul bore the scars of his sin even as those scars revealed the kind of healing only God can give.

The apostle Paul never forgot his former sins and the grace of God that transformed him. The story of Paul’s conversion is repeated multiple times in the New Testament (Acts 9, 22, 26; Gal. 1 & 2; Phil. 3; 1 Tim. 1).  And as Paul himself tells it, his awareness of his sinfulness actually escalates:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:9 - “I am the least of the apostles.”
  • Ephesians 3:8, written later – “I am the very least of all saints.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:15, written later still, and after probably about 25 years of walking with God -  “I am the chief of all sinners.”

He does not say, “I was the chief of sinners.” He says, “I am the chief.”  He does not single out the sins that previously defined him. He does not say, “I am the chief of persecutors.” He is not wallowing in a past that haunts him. This is more of a general realization.

“The sign of growing perfection is the growing consciousness of imperfection.... The more you become like Christ the more you will find out your unlikeness to Him.” – Alexander Maclaren

“When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less.”  C.S. Lewis

Paul doesn't kill Christians anymore, but he is more aware than ever of his constant need for God’s mercy.  The closer people walk with God, the more they are aware of the depths of their sinful nature, which in turn drives them to a deeper appreciation of the grace of God.

But it is for this reason I was given mercy: by displaying His perfect patience in me, the very worst of all sinners, Jesus could show that patience to all who would believe in Him and gain eternal life.  (16)

Notice: the main reason Paul was given mercy was not so that he could be awesome. It was so he would have a testimony for the Kingdom of God. Christians can see in Christ's dealings with Paul the pattern which they can expect for themselves. (The word translated “who would believe” is literally “who are about to believe.”)

Any testimony that points to the saved instead of the Savior misses the point. Paul didn’t want Timothy to think about Paul; Paul wanted Timothy to think about Jesus.

God saves us not because we are awesome, but because he is awesome. We give our testimony so that others gain hope: if God is patient and loving with them, God will be patient and loving with me.  No case is too hard for God. He delights in hard cases. If Paul can be saved, you can be saved. [2]

Every testimony counts as a story of how God has shown patience and love to a sinner in desperate need of salvation. ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. While WE were sinners, Christ died for us.

We have a tendency in Christian circles to put certain kinds of testimonies on a pedestal. I know why we do that – it is meant to find a “chief of sinners” whose life gives us hope (if God can save them, He can save me). I wonder if, at times, we kind of slip down in our chairs and think, “I will never give my testimony. I am just too ordinary…my sins are not that exciting…no one will be in awe when I am done talking.”

Don’t ever think that God can’t use your life to show the glory of his patience and love. Every testimony counts as a story of how God has shown patience and love to a sinner in desperate need of salvation.

May the King eternal, immortal, and invisible—the one and only God—now be honored and glorified forever and ever. Amen. (17)

Paul’s acknowledgment of who he is does not push him into a dark corner of shame and despair. It brings out worship, as if the only way we can appreciate the beauty and grace of God’s forgiveness is by continuously seeing the ugliness of who we are without God.

The “gospel” we hear preached in our day is often a positive message that will help you achieve your full potential or feel good about yourself, succeed financially, or solve your problems.

That’s not the heart of the gospel. Biblical principles will help you in practical ways, but that’s not the good news. The Gospel is that Christ came to save sinners. If you think you’re a basically good person, you are not going to fully understand why Christ came to save you. If you think you have few faults and shortcomings, you will not understand what it means that Christ came to save you.

In Luke 7 we read a story about the connection between honest acknowledgment of who we are and deep response to Christ.  Jesus contrasts the casual and even disrespectful way that one of the Pharisees treats him and the way a local prostitute responds to him. She knew she was in desperate need of Christ and needed an ocean of forgiveness. The Pharisee thought he was tight with God and barely needed any.  What does Jesus say? “Those who are forgiven little love little. Those who have been forgiven much love much.” 

In other words, grace flows from us to the degree that we recognize the grace that has flowed into us.

Do you ever find yourself in a place where you don’t care about other people, or you lack empathy or kindness, or you feel lukewarm in your faith? If so, you may not need to work on feeling kinder or more passionate. You probably are forgetting how much you have been forgiven, how much God loves you, how much he has given you grace when you were a mess.

To remember how much we have been forgiven is the surest way to fill our hearts with gratitude. Paul says, “May the King eternal, immortal, and invisible—the one and only God—now be honored and glorified forever and ever.”

Look at the God he praises: eternal, not limited like us; immortal, not mortal like us; Spirit, not bound in flesh like us. In other words, only a God can save me – more specifically, only this God, revealed in Christ, can take the disaster of a man and make something beautiful.

I often hear the longing expressed that it’s hard to have a heart of worship.  A heart of worship cannot be taught. It cannot be forced or orchestrated. You can go to the biggest conference with the biggest band and the most emotional preacher and the coolest arts and have a great emotional response to all that’s going on around you. That’s an experience of a particular kind of worship, but I don’t think that’s the heart of worship.

We see hear in Paul’s letter to Timothy where the heart of worship begins: a recognition the wretched, broken life that we bring to the table – followed by an awareness of an indescribably powerful and holy God who loves us anyway, who offers us enough grace and forgiveness to cover any amount of sin and damage we have accumulated. That’s when the overflow of our hearts becomes the worship of our lives as we humbly take the grace we have been offered and pass it on to those around us.

That’s a statement about life in the Kingdom of God that is worthy of our faith and trust.

Questions to Consider

  1. I suspect we tend to gravitate toward either seeing ourselves as either “chief of sinners” or “saints in Christ.” How do we balance these two realities in a spiritually healthy way?
  2. Is Paul suggesting we need a past full of really obvious, significant sin in order to understand God’s grace? What is a part of your life that can show others the tremendous depth and power of God’s forgiveness?
  3. Check out the entire story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7. Do you see a connection in your own life between your expressions of empathy and grace for others and how aware you are of your need for forgiveness?

 

“Unless you have been down into the depths of your own heart, and seen the evil that is there, you will not care for the redeeming Christ, nor will you grasp Him as a do those who know that there is nothing between them and ruin except God’s strong hand… Unless we feel the common evil, and estimate by the intensity of its working in ourselves how sad are its ravages in others, our kindness to others will be as half-hearted as our love to God…. Those who know the plague in their own heart, and how Christ has redeemed them, will go, with the pity of Christ in their heart, to help to redeem others.”
- Alexander Macleran

We may say, “I am a thief,” or, “I am a liar,” meaning that I have committed these sins, they weigh upon my shoulders, they are the splinters of my self-hewn cross... We say so in shame. But we do not thereby express an ultimate or God-ordained identity. Quite the contrary. We mean, “This is what I am in a disordered sense, because of what I have done, and because of the evil that I am still fearfully tempted to do.”  Or we might put it this way: “This is the fashion in which the image of God has been deformed in me, so that I am not myself, and my face, my very identity, is sludged up with sin.” - Hutchens and Esolen, “Identity Thievery,” Touchstone

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[1] http://biblehub.com/greek/1319.htm

[2] A side note about testimonies: Paul is writing this to Timothy, who knew Paul’s story. Paul is trying to show Timothy the proper kind of humility he needs to have. I think Timothy is supposed to take up this mantra: “I, Timothy, am the chief of sinners. If anyone is in desperate need of God’s grace, it’s me.” Yet Timothy did none of the obviously bad things Paul did.

 

To Live Is Christ (Philippians 1:19 – 26)

I will continue to rejoice because I know that through your encouragement and prayers and through the help of the Spirit of Jesus the Anointed, I will soon be released from this dark place. I don’t expect that dishonor and shame will plague me in any way, but I do hope that I will continue to be able to speak freely and courageously about Jesus, and that now and forever the Anointed One will be glorified and placed above all else through this body of mine—whether I live or die. For my life is about the Anointed and Him alone. And my death, when that comes, will mean great gain for me. So, if it’s His will that I go on serving here, my work will be fruitful for the message. I honestly wouldn’t know how or what to choose; I would be hard-pressed to decide. I lean toward leaving this world to be with the Anointed One because I can only think that would be much better. To stay in this body of flesh—even with all its pains and weaknesses—would best serve your needs. Now that I think of it, I am sure of this: I would prefer to remain to share in the progress and joy of your growing belief. When I return to you, we will celebrate Jesus the Anointed even more. (Philippians 1: 19-26, The Voice)  

Paul is using a metaphor featuring the commander of a vessel in a foreign port who feels a strong desire to set sail and go home; this desire is balance by his belief that he needs to stay longer in the port in order to fulfill the mission. Paul was not ‘at home’; he wishes to return (to his heavenly home), but he has not received his final orders, so he waits faithfully and productively. The NIV says the same thing with the classic usage we often hear: 

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me." ( 21-26, NIV)

There are two words for "life" in the Greek: bios, from which we get our word ‘biology’ (or "the affairs of everyday life" - 2 Timothy 2:4) and zoe, which is the essence of life. It's the fuel on which our life runs. What gets us up in the morning? What motivates us? What brings us satisfaction and comfort? What inspires us and gives us hope? These ideas are all captured in this concept of life.

“For to me to live is Christ,” said Paul, and it seems to carry the idea that the fullness of life is in knowing Christ and making him known. Considering his audience in Phillipi, this might have been a difficult concept. There were at least five popular ways to finish that sentence:

  • The soldier: "For me to live is glory and fame."
  • The jailer: “For me to live is order and discipline.”
  • The slave girl: "For me to live is freedom from being controlled and abused.”
  • The merchants (such as Lydia): "For me to live is riches and comfort."
  • The Judaizers (which we will see later): “For me to live is obedience to the Law.”

These things had motivated them for so long. Never mind that it left them empty and grasping (because living for these things always does). Never mind that it failed to save, or that it was never enough. It’s what they had been raised to believe living was all about.

It’s as difficult a concept today as it was then. No one leaves that sentence blank. Everyone finishes it with something. For me, to live – for me to really feel like I matter, that I am somebody, that today was a good and meaningful day – is ________________.”

We aren’t Philippians, but what might we say? To live is fun, food, sex, kids, a spouse, entertainment, money, college, career, winning, reputation, health, control (or self-control), or pleasure?

What might we as Christians be tempted to say? To live is not to sin, or to be right, or to let our successful religious works be seen by others, or to never be uncomfortable, or to be free of the hardship and trials of life? In order to clarify your thoughts about this, ask yourself these six questions:

  • What am I most concerned about?
  • Would ruin my life if I failed at it or lost it?
  • What do I pursue to comfort me?
  • What is the focus of my hopes and dreams?
  • What makes me feel worthy? (What is the first thing I want people to know about me?)
  • What unanswered prayer might make me think about turning away from God? (this list is from Justin Buzzard, preachingtoday.com)

We are made to worship – to live for something. We all give more glory, weight and importance to something vs. everything else. The issue isn't if we are going to worship; it's what or who we're going to worship. And if we fill in this blank with anything other than ‘Christ,’ we have substituted an idol - “anything that gets more glory, more weight, more importance in our eyes than God does." (Darrin Patrick’s definition). And as Tim Keller likes to point out, the trouble with idols is that when they shake, you shake. We need something in which to put our hope that does not shake.

“For me, to live is Christ” is both Paul’s testimony and his reminder of where true life is found. It’s why Paul does not fear humiliation, persecution and death. Nothing shook him because his hope did not shake. His external circumstances changed, but not his internal focus.

That’s the good life. Paul’s showing them and encouraging them to, as David wrote, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) Then Paul shows them how to refocus. He spells out specifically (at least in this situation) what he means when he says” to live is Christ.” It’s not going to be a vague “Do better!” or an internal flexing of faith muscle. It’s much more precise – and perhaps harder - than the other options, but certainly better.

“To live is Christ” means serving Jesus through fruitful labor (v.22) for the growth and joy of others in their life with Christ (v.25).

If for me to live is Christ - if my only concern is fruitful labor for Christ for the growth and joy of others in their life with Christ – what might I expect to follow? How would this influence my view of life? 

  • There is nothing I could lose on this earth that would ruin my life. If I live so that Christ is glorified and others are built up in Christ, my reputation is insignificant. I don’t have to be noticed, appreciated, or applauded. There will always be someone to slander your reputation. If Christ increases, it just won’t matter how much I decrease. I am freed from the need to constantly build myself up impress others. My joy will come from seeing Jesus worshipped.
  • I would always recognize that the comforts of this life are fleeting at best, so I could enjoy them without depending on them (Mark 8:36). If my goal is ‘fruitful labor’ in the Kingdom, how concerned will I be about money and things (except for the purpose of furthering the kingdom of God)? I am freed from the anxiety of provision, or the jealousy of others who have more and better things. My joy will never come from my circumstances, but from my opportunities within those circumstances.
  • My dreams or hopes would always be about more fully loving God or serving others on God’s behalf (1 John 4:7; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:10; Ephesians 4:2). If my specific plans didn’t work out my ultimate plan would always be in place;
  • My self-worth would be grounded in the reality that I bear God’s image (Genesis 1:27); that His love is profound and eternal (John 3), and that in salvation I have been adopted into His family (Galatians 3:26);
  • There would be no unanswered prayer that would set me back because I would trust the unshakable character of God (Malachi 3:6);
  • If live to serve Jesus by serving others, my need for comfort or control become entirely secondary to the comfort and needs of others. My joy will come from being able to participate in the natural service of others even as God does a supernatural work within them.
  • I could stop running myself into the ground trying to be good enough or worthy enough and instead run the race of discipleship in which the joy of the Lord is my strength (Psalm 28:7; Nehemiah 8:10).

To live is Christ. Serve God and serve others. If this is our attitude, everything else falls into place. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, once said, “I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up by asking God to do His work though me.”

That’s the idea. To live is knowing Christ and making him known. It is the only path to Christian maturity, hope and joy.

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[1] http://kevinpierpont.com/to-live-is-christ-philippians-121/

The Death of the gods

 
      We all worship a god.  By “god” I mean the things to which we give our lives as  we search for hope, meaning, and peace. It’s another way to talk about the things we have leaned on for support, the things that we expect to hold us up. The Bible is full of stories which involve gods with statues; the modern gods do not necessarily have statues, but the gods are still there nonetheless. Using stories from the Bible, history, and pop culture, I want to look at what happens when the gods die.

Story #1: Elisha and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18: 25-29)

   Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

Sometimes, when the gods die, people give in to  self-destruction.  They were so sure that the god they had chosen would hear and respond, they assumed the problem must be their own, not that the god cannot do what they asked. In this case, they hurt themselves to show their sincerity.

This doesn’t always feel like destruction or desperation even though it is.  This happens when:

people know that their lifestyle is eating away at them, but they assume it’s because they just haven’t learned how to really indulge correctly, so they just kick it up a notch. They are empty, but they continue to pursue the next high, the next binge, the next big shopping spree.
people know they should stop viewing porn because it is damaging their mind, attitudes and relationships, but they have to believe that if they just use it right it will all be fine.  But the gods of lust cannot bring them fulfillment, so they continue to spiral downward as they seek greater and more disturbing thrills.  

The “god” can't' be the problem.  So we frantically try harder and harder to “get their attention,” and that story never ends well. This was recently highlighted in the tragic death of Amy Whinehouse, a young lady with such musical promise who spiraled out of control as she offered herself on the altar of drug addiction. One newspaper wrote, after her disastrous attempt at a comeback:

“The question is: how much longer can Amy Winehouse go on like this before she kills herself? And how can the people around her allow such a public car crash to happen...? Winehouse is the architect of her own misery. However, the sight of her flailing around self-destructively while the world looks on, munching crisps, is wretched.”

Or this update from a mission outreach on a beach during Spring Break:

Yesterday was the beginning of the period of the trip when the spring breakers begin to get frustrated and disillusioned with what has been going on. There have been several rapes. There have been at least 3 deaths. People are roasted and cooked from the sun and are recovering from hangovers or drug highs. The disappointment starts to set in because these things, appealing as they are, leave us empty and do not satisfy.   – Austin Gravely

Story #2: The Ark in the Temple of Dagon (1 Samuel 5)

After the Philistines had captured the ark of God…they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon.  When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place.  But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.
When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god…” So they moved the ark of the God of Israel.

     Sometimes, when the gods die, people give in to denial. In this case, even though it was obvious that the Philistine god was being owned by the Israelite God, it did not bring about a change.  The worshippers  just avoided the implications.

     I was recently reading Stephen King’s Full Dark No Stars. The last short story in the collection features a man who refuses to believe his wife is dead, keeping her in his apartment and pretending she is alive until the neighbors finally figure it out.  The story did not end well; it was “full dark” after all.

     In the same way, people can become so attached to a false god that no matter how much evidence is compiled that the things they are hoping will make their lives count are failing them they continue on, blinders up, memories scrubbed, stumbling forward hoping that doing the same things for the same reason will not fail them yet again. This happens when:

People keep trying get-rich-quick schemes time after time, losing money every time, but are still convinced that’s the secret to success –so they try yet another one, in spite of the fact that is has never worked, and they are doing nothing different.
People want to believe a free, open sex life is the way to happiness.  That ignores all the studies and real-world examples that show how we can undermine our own best intentions:  we think we are solving depression, anxiety, and loneliness when we are actually contributing to them.

In the Bible, a world without gods was unheard of.  The rise of atheism as a serious philosophical option is relatively recent in world history, but it didn’t take long to get an idea of what happened when God died.

Story #3: The Parable of the Madman (this is only an excerpt)

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!"
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? 

Neitzsche went on to write about a third way people handle the death of the gods – they think they are God, and they being to treat others as if nobody else matters.  It was all about power in a world without God. The atrocities that occurred in the early Soviet Union and in Hitler’s Germany have often been connected with Neitzsche’s idea of the “superman” who lived beyond good and evil.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: "If I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." 
On the wall next to the gas ovens of Auschwitz, are the words of Adolph Hitler, “I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality … we will train young people before whom the world will tremble. Young people capable of violence – imperious, relentless and cruel.” Adolf Hitler
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Do you worship other gods?

  • People and Relationships?
  • Money and Financial Success?
  • Popularity and Fame?
  • Sex and Love?
  • Adrenaline and Excitement?
  • Your Physical Appearance and Health?
  • Your Brain and Intelligence?
  • Your Spouse and/ or your Kids?
  • Politics and Government?

     These are the gods of America, and if you follow them, if you put your weight on them, they will always let you down.  Without Christ, you will find yourself responding it the three ways we have looked at.

  • Do you find that you are counting on something to make you feel better, or be better, or just give your life some sense of meaning…and it’s not happening, so you are trying harder and harder and harder like the prophets of Baal?
  • Do you move into or continue in destructive relationships because you are convinced that if you just try more diligently the god of sex will give you meaning and peace and love?
  • Do you move into increasingly destructive addictions because that high, that pleasure, that escape, MUST make your life work if you just keep trying more and more?
  • Do you sacrifice your families on the altars of the gods of work because that next raise will make things right?
  • Do you control your spouse, and whenever they are not just like you want them to be you force them to comply because if you can get them just where you want them everything will be okay? Do you control your kids, micromanaging their lives because any deviation from your plan is a personal insult to you and an embarrassment to your family name?

     If this is you, and you realize it, this is one of God’s ways of getting your attention. He wants you to see that your other god has let you down, and has left you exhausted, bleeding, frantic and alone.  He wants you to know that he will bring you healing, hope, and life. God wants you to see that only He gives the grace, boldness and strength to see ourselves honestly and find the salvation and health that Christ can bring.

Money and Worship

"It is not persecution of the church in China that I fear. The church has always been able to weather persecution. My fear is love of money in the church."  - anonymous Chinese pastor

   “Your checkbook is a theological statement.“ - Billy Graham

The Occupy movement is getting a lot of press right now.  Their stated purpose is to bring economic inequality  and big bank/government/ Wall Street corruption to light. The official website notes:
“We refuse to be the 1%’s captive citizenry. We stand together to show that the 99% are creating a better world.”
     There is some irony here. Anyone making over $40,000 a year in America is part of the world’s 1%. The average protestor in NYC  makes between $50,000 and $100,000 a year.  The protestors are the world’s economic elite.  In other words, the Occupy movement involves the rich of the world complaining about the even richer.
     There is more irony. The movement protesting greed has shown itself to be very greedy of other people’s resources – restaurants, parks, and stores have been damaged and exploited.  Los Angeles is spending millions of dollars to repair the damage of those who protested exploitation by exploiting things that weren’t theirs.   In New York, the occupy kitchens changed their menu because they were tired of feeding the homeless.  So a group of “the poor” that had no problem helping themselves to the property of “the rich” grows resentful when other people help themselves to their property…
     I say all this not to say that the protesters are all bad people or that their complaints about corruption are wrong.  I give this example to point out that money exposes us.  It shows what we worship.
     Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, 
"You can't follow two gods at once. When you love one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. That’s why you can't serve God and Money both."