Are you carrying your god or is your God carrying you?

Remember the last time you carried something heavy? You want each step to be your last so you can set down whatever you were carrying. Or, if you were carrying it for exercise, you were thinking about how much stronger you’d be after this. Either way, I’m betting you didn’t enjoy carrying it. Even if you were holding a baby (and all the women went, “Awwww…”), that bundle of joy and drool would get heavy. We don’t like carrying things.

So why then do we so often insist on carrying our gods?

Isaiah 46 talks about the uselessness of idols, telling how people would weigh out silver and gold, then take it to the goldsmith, who would fashion a god from it. Then they’d bear that god on their shoulders back to their home or temple and set it on a base, from which it wouldn’t move.

Why worship a god that can’t even move? What good is a god whom you have to carry?

People don’t worship Babylonian gods anymore, but we make gods out of money, relationships, sex, and jobs. Money can get you out of some trouble, but only be decreasing your store of it. And it can be useless when you have certain diseases or are suffering heartbreak. Plus, making lots of it requires sacrifices of your time and potentially of your health. Also, if gods are supposed to be above us, why make a god of something you have control over?

Some people stay in damaging relationships because they’re afraid of being alone. Others give their hearts away readily only to get them broken time after time. Those in relationships often base their worth on what their partner thinks of them. While your spouse should be with you in hard times, there is only so much they can do and they can and will let you down at times. Sex and jobs likewise have high potential costs.

In all of them, there is a trade. You give up time to make money so you can buy a nice home, so time = home. Or you sleep with someone knowing there’s a chance of pregnancy, which may not be desirable just yet, or disease, so sex means a risk.

With God, there is no risk, even though there is far more to lose. 

God’s not very good at this whole fair trade thing. He gives His Son for dirt that He had given life to, dirt that He’d created with just a word and could easily create more if He wanted. He forgives us our sins against Him if we forgive others’ sins against us. He offers us the eternal paradise of Heaven for believing in Him and knowing Him. And, as if that’s not enough, He patiently works with us every day to get us to be more like Him. That may sound like something we’re giving up because it means the changing of certain habits for a lot of us, but He gives us far more in the peace of knowing and trusting Him. Yes, you may be called to give up possessions, career, and even your life, but for a surer hope than your possessions, a life calling, and eternal life, what a deal!

Our God is dynamic. Omnipotent. He carries us when we’re weak, lightening our burden rather than becoming one Himself. And you will never have to carry Him.

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Statues of God

First, I’d like to apologize for my (word-of-the-day alert) reticence. Working two jobs with 50-70 hours a week plus the occasional class cuts down on my available time significantly.

That said, a thought occurred to me on my way home that I feel led to post. 

It’s amazing to think that the same God that created the Universe created you and I and even considers us to be His greater masterpieces. We are in His image. The Universe isn’t. The elephant isn’t. A virus isn’t. Neither is a redwood or a whale. You are. 

Then God tells us to not worship images of gods. I don’t know anybody who bows down to Baal or Zeus, but there are many versions of gods out there. For a lot of people, money or status is their god. Some may do anything to get that next high. Some want relationships, and in this is an especially dangerous trap.

I love my wife more than I love anyone else. Yet if I fall into worshiping this image of God instead of God, I do both her and God a great disservice. I dishonor them both by honoring them outside of their proper order. And I do myself a great disservice because my relationship with both of them is damaged when the priority of them has gone awry. 

Leah, for all her wonderful qualities, cannot teach me how to love unconditionally. It’s simply not in her of herself to do so. Even with the love of God flowing through her, that can show me what that love looks like, but it cannot teach me to love that way. And I need to love her (and others as well) that way if I am to honor God, grow in Him, and treat them as they both deserve (as children of God) and as He desires me to treat them. 

And when I love her more than I love God, when I worship the gift instead of the Giver, then I pin my hopes of happiness on her, which means she has the power to hurt me deeply with her actions or words. It enslaves me to her because I want that happiness and I have viewed her as the source of it. Instead, we ought to be slaves to God, a God who will never, even unintentionally, do anything that is not in our best interests in the end if we love Him and serve Him.

Idol worship is not just about the ancient gods or money and fame. It can be as close as the person in bed next to you at night. Love that person, but guard against loving them too much, for when you do, you love them less than you should.

The Rest is Just Talk

My last pastor in Virginia said something quite profound:

What you do is what you believe. The rest is just talk.

Somewhere along our path to where we are, we learned that talk is cheap. We may hold our own word as unbreakable, but we’ve learned, usually painfully, that others do not hold to such ideals. And if we were to look at our own lives without bias or fear of uncovering a litany of shameful deeds, we would learn that our words don’t mean as much as we would like to think. We say we love God, then we hold a grudge against someone or we judge others. We walk past the homeless, rather than loving them in any way we can. We pray for mercy, but are unmerciful, even to ourselves. We pray for patience and greater faith, then cry out to God when trials meant to grow our faith and patience come our way.

We want to worship God, but I don’t think we know what that worship means. If worship is empty words and songs sung off-key on Sunday morning, then God is glorified in every church in America. If worship is gathering together with Christians once a week, shaking the hands of those you already know, then waiting impatiently for the sermon to end so you can go to lunch, then He is glorified. If worship is talking about the message and how to apply it, but never really getting around to applying it, then God is indeed worshiped.

But what if worship is something more?

What if worship is not just aligning our words and some token actions with what God would have of us, but aligning our everyday actions as well? What if we are meant to forgive others from the bottom of our hearts instead of just saying the words and avoiding that person going forward? What if we are meant to love those who are drug users, homeless, prostitutes, alcoholics, or those who have gotten abortions? What if we are to actually love people without judging their hearts, without trying to change them to be more like us and instead loving them and letting God change their hearts? What if we are meant to behave as Christ tells us to?

And beyond even that, what if we are to do these things, not as a means to please God or make friends or feel like we’re good Christians, but because we actually love God and so love others through Him?

On Friday, there was a family sitting outside Wal-Mart asking for food. Leah and I went in by the other entrance and only saw this family on the way out. I was torn as to whether to find a way to turn around and help them and, regrettably, I continued home under the excuse that we had to be somewhere shortly. Leah went back and gave them some food, but my heart was not completely in it. It was worried about how we could afford to do this and how we’d get where we were going on time and…on so much else that only showed that I believed I was more important than serving Him.

There are many things I need to change in my life. When I think I’m getting better, I tend to ignore how much room for improvement remains. When I draw closer to Him, I see even more in my life that He has to work on in my heart.

And it starts with what I believe.

What do you really believe? Don’t look at what you think you believe or what you say to others. Look at what you do. Ignore the excuses you use. And ask yourself just one question: Am I worshiping God, or do I just say I do?

Seeking Rest

I recently began reading The Confessions of St. Augustine, and I’m already thinking you’ll be seeing a lot more posts inspired by him. His passion alone, even without his considerable rhetoric, is inspiring. Just reading what he wrote, it’s hard to not have the thought of, “This guy gets it.”

One quote in particular that jumped out at me was this:

Thou (God) hast prompted him (mankind), that he should delight to praise Thee, for Thou hast made us for Thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in Thee.

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to praise God sometimes, especially when I’m worried or upset about something. I have less peace when my heart isn’t trusting in Him. With less peace comes less of a desire to praise and, cyclically, with less praise comes less peace because I forget the magnitude of God.

Oddly, even knowing this, I still have a tendency to worry about certain things, particularly money. I tend to take my focus off of God and put it where it has no business being, which is really anywhere but Him.

If you’re like me in this, I’d like to encourage you to try something with me: take at least 5 minutes every day this week and just praise God. No requests, no confessions, no crying out to Him about how you feel – just praise for His power and goodness.

It’s said that home is where the heart is. God created our hearts, now He wants to be their eternal home.

A Joyful Noise

In Esther 4, Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, hears of the decree from King Ahasuerus that all the Jews will be killed on a certain day. Mourning, he covers himself in sackcloth and goes to the king’s gate, where he weeps bitterly. By law, he could not go past the gate clothed in sackcloth.

Fortunately for us, God has no such law. He welcomes us, even when we’re weeping bitterly. That being said, Psalms 98:4 tells us to make a joyful noise to the Lord. Many times in the Psalms we’re told to praise Him. David, Solomon, and other kings praised God after great victories or at dedications and feasts. The angels circle God’s throne continually singing praise to Him. And when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, some of the Pharisees tried to silence those who were praising Him. Jesus responded that if they were silent, the rocks would cry out His praise.

Praise of God is an integral part of Christianity for two very important reasons: Continue reading