Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #134

#134 "American Idols"
February 12, 2008
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God..." (Deuteronomy 5: 8-9a-b)
"What is your most prized possession? What is your deepest dream? Would you be willing to give it up if Jesus asked you to? If your answer is no, then your possession or your dream has taken God's place in your heart and has become an idol. Are you willing to turn over to God your most prized possession or dream?" (internet source) 
Presently, idolatry prevails over a great portion of the earth, and is practiced by about 600,000,000 people. Almost all of the heathen nations, like the Chinese, the Hindus, and the South Sea islanders, have their images, to which they bow down and worship. Now I don't know about you, but when I walk around my neighborhood I don't see many Asherah poles, sacred stones or graven images. But idolatry is not merely the external worship of false gods, but it is defined as an excessive attachment to anything that borders on adoration. It is our life's goals that revolve around something other than God. How many of us would be charged guilty on this count? It would seem to be anything that you focus on and pursue singlemindedly, while forgetting and neglecting God.
American idols aren't made of wood and stone. They are made of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. (1 John 2: 16) American idols are fashioned from the stuff we think we just can't live without, material and otherwise. They are shaped and cast by what society tells us we must have to be deemed successful and worthy.
Some American idols are quite obvious. Men and women alike are chasing the American dream that is becoming more and more elusive with each passing year. Chasing bigger houses that are now in foreclosure because the dream wasn't backed up by the good sense and Godly wisdom to know that you couldn't afford it. Fancy cars and clothes and jewels are being marketed to our young people in movies and music videos. Mo' money, mo' money, mo' money...and life will be good. My sons are bombarded with the lie that more money will buy more cars and houses and more cars and houses will buy more beautiful women. TV commercials ask, "What's in YOUR wallet?" Marriages, even Christian ones, are disintegrating and the number one reason for divorce is money problems! People are working 24/7 at the expense of their relationships chasing the idols. The idols made of wood and stone that will never satisfy. What ever happened to chasing after the One who provides for our every need? What ever happened to contentment with what we've been given from the hand of God? We are worshiping the created instead of the Creator. Idolatry at its finest.
Other American idols are of the flesh and blood variety. We worship Hollywood icons, rich moguls and those who we think are in the know and part of the in-crowd. We want to hang with the important people and let everyone know that we do. We cozy up to the pastor, the head of the company, the one with the fat bank account. But Jesus tells us that "when [we] give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and [we] will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luke 14: 13-14) Doesn't sound like a Who's Who list of American Idols does it? I believe that we will be very surprised when we get to heaven and see who's there! Someone once said, "those who are last will be first.." James put it this way, "Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of Him to Whom you belong?" (James 2: 5-7) Simply put, those poor folk may have a higher rank than you do in the Kingdom of God. Remember this? "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16: 7)
And then...some American idols are not so plain to see with the naked eye. They are our inner idols. Our dreams, our hopes, our inner longings. And we are a very unsatisfied lot. Married people want to be single. Singles want to find that special someone to marry. Figuring that any husband is better than no husband at all, women marry just about anyone who comes along and shows an interest, and they suffer for years to come. Unemployed men long for a job. Those who have a job hate the one they have. We live vicariously through our children and find our worth in their good grades, their prowess at hockey or soccer or ballet. We make our own children our idols!! And if we don't have children, we think we will never be complete or worth anything without them. We need to STOP! Again, as evidenced by what we pursue, we worship the created rather than the Creator. The gift rather than the Giver. It is God who will give us the perfect spouse. It is God who gives us the ability to produce wealth...in other words, He will bring the job to us. Children are a gift from God. Not something that we use to puff ourselves up and make us feel good about ourselves. We are to pour into them...not use them to pour into us and fill up our need to feel adequate and esteemed. We can even make our ministry our idol. Out of balance service to the Lord can be the biggest thing that interferes with our relationship with Him. We can idolize our work for Him and never spend a minute with Him. God is not so much about service. He's all about relationship. 
Deuteronomy 16: 21-22 says, "Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the Lord your God, and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the Lord your God hates."  Have you already figured out where the poles and stones are in your life? We all have them. I have them and so do you. But God says that when we worship our individual idols we "feed on ashes, a deluded heart misleads [us]". We are so deluded and misled by the enemy and by our own refusal to renew our minds that we can't even see that "this thing in my right hand is a lie." (Read Isaiah Chapter 44) It's your choice. Will you pursue the created or the Creator? Will you set your sights on the gifts or the Giver? Will you worship the Truth or continue to pursue the lie? Will you worship things made by human hands or worship the "one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and ...one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live?" (1 Corinthians 8: 6) I remember reading something about seeking first the kingdom of God and all else being given to me besides. (Matthew 6: 33)
Someone named J. McMath said this: "That for which I would give anything and accept nothing in exchange is the most important thing in my life. Whatever that is...is my God." That is so powerful...I think I'll just stop there.
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