Thursday, September 24, 2009

What's your idol?

And no, this post is not about American Idol. This post is related to the "What's your excuse?" post.

God wanted to make sure we knew about not putting anything before Him; He stated it quite clearly in the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 20:3-5 (NLT)
3 “You must not have any other god but me.
4 “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. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods."

No beating around the bush there, huh? (Pardon the pun.)

In Biblical times, idols were statues or poles made of gold, stone or wood. Idols were symbols of a pagan religion, or in the case of Aaron and the golden calf, something to take the place of God - well, same difference, really. The Israelites committed spiritual adultery by worshiping these idols instead of the Lord, or in some cases, worshiping idols at the same time they were worshiping the Lord. (See Judges 17:3-4 and 2 Chronicles 33:7.) Isaiah has much to say about those who worshiped idols and what would happen to those who do in Isaiah 40, 44, and 45. In the New Testament, Paul preached to the Gentiles, who worshiped idols and false gods. Paul writes that idol worshipers will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Jesus Himself reinforced His Father's commandment by saying, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33, KJV)

Today, however, people do not worship idols made of wood or stone. A modern day definition of an idol would be anything that we put ahead of God or anything we consider more important than God. Our idols can take many forms: someone who is obsessed with making as much money as possible; someone who spends all of his or her free time online on social networking sites, message boards, gaming, and/or pornography; someone who sits mindlessly in front of a television set all day and night; or someone who is obsessed with their children's lives to the point that they have no time for anything else. If you think hard enough, you can probably think of other idols that draw our attention away from God.

The Lord convicted me of an idol that I put ahead of Him. I'm a big St. Louis Cardinals fan, but a few years back, I was spending too much time following the team online, in the newspapers and magazines, etc. I became upset when the team lost a game or when my favorite players were traded. I was depressed when it wasn't baseball season. You get the picture, I'm sure. This year, the Cards are doing very well and they appear to be headed for the playoffs, and although I'm happy about that, I'm not obsessed with the team like I used to be. I am trying to spend more time in prayer and reflection.

If you are not putting God first in your life, look at yourself to see if there is an idol taking up your time, attention, and/or emotions. When (not if) you find your idol, repent before God and vow that you will put Him first in your life.

That's all for tonight. Stay tuned for my next post!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The three hardest words

What are the three hardest words to say? It's not "I love you." Those three words are easy to say (and sometimes cheap). They can be said in the heat of passion, or by a young girl with her first crush. "I love you" rolls off the tongue of a mother or father speaking to their child.

But the three hardest words are "I forgive you." We are wronged in so many ways, whether from a divorce, bad business deals, betrayals, bad manners, etc. We get angry when someone does us wrong, and we carry that anger with us.

But that anger can consume us. We can become obsessed with the hurt and the pain. The bitterness from our anger can ruin longstanding relationships and ruin our health. It can even separate us from God, because He will not forgive us unless we forgive others first. In Matthew 6:15 (NLT), Jesus states: "But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins."

But what if you're the one who has done wrong and you need forgiveness? Ask the Lord for courage and guidance. Go to the person you have wronged and apologize for your wrongdoing. Then (hopefully) you will hear those wonderful words: "I forgive you," and your relationship will be restored. If that person chooses not to forgive you, then put the situation in the Lord's hands and pray for that person, that they be released from their anger and bitterness and that your relationship will be restored.

Jesus paid the ultimate price so that we can be forgiven - He paid with His life. His death and resurrection show that we can be right with God and be forgiven for our sins. If Jesus gave His life for our forgiveness, surely we can make the effort to tell someone we forgive them and restore our relationship with that person. Don't delay! Tomorrow may be too late.