Tag Archives: idolatry

The Benefits of Worshiping a Nameless, Invisible God

In 2009, Pocket God was released for Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch, and now iPad. Since then, it’s been one of their top-selling video game applications. Here’s the game description found on iTunes:

What kind of god would you be? Benevolent or vengeful? Play Pocket God and discover the answer within yourself. On a remote island, you are the all-powerful god that rules over the primitive islanders. You can bring new life, and then take it away just as quickly.

Deep down, all of us would like to try our hand at being God—or at least creating a god in our own image. We want a god we can see, a god we can feel, a god we can name. Worshiping a nameless, invisible God doesn’t seem so sexy…but is that what we really want? Really?

Please join us as we discuss this in our daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Ezekiel 33:1-34:31
Hebrews 13:1-25
Psalm 115:1-18
Proverbs 27:21-22

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Hebrews 13:1-25. “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (verses 1-2). Years ago, Kelley and I asked an artist to paint this Scripture passage on the walls surrounding our kitchen. By entertaining strangers, we may at times be entertaining angels. But doing so, we’re always serving Jesus.

In verses 11-13, the writer explains to his readers that the carcasses of sin offerings were burned outside Jerusalem. In the same way, Jesus suffered on the cross on Golgotha, which was located outside the gate of the holy city. Then the writer says, “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.”

What does this mean?

In my experience, local churches treat their building and worshipping community as a fortress from the outside world. But the writer of Hebrews is calling us to venture outside of our safe and secure comfort zones to represent Jesus to a dying world.

Eugene Peterson in The Message paraphrased it the last phrase like this: “So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is.”

Proverbs 27:21. “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.” Notice that a crucible is compared to praise. A crucible is a container that holds gold or silver and placed over the fire to bring the impurities to the surface. Although not nearly as painful, praise works in the same way. I’m learning to offer a sincere “thank you” when people compliment me. Anything more does nothing but feed the beast.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?”

Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.

But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.

Psalm 115:2-4

The Israelites were seen as peculiar by the surrounding nations because they worshiped a nameless, invisible God. The name God used for himself was Yahweh (or Jehovah), which means “I Am”  in Hebrew. But while the surrounding nations worshiped gods they could touch and whom they could call by name, the Israelites’ God was neither.

So what are the benefits of worshiping a nameless, invisible God?

Idols are confined to one location. What you see is what you get. Sure, you can take Pocket God with you, but because he lives in a finite world, he cannot read your thoughts or the intent of your heart.

God isn’t limited by time or space. He exists everywhere at the same time, and he knows our thoughts and the intent of our hearts. The God of the Bible is personal.

Idols can be controlled. By knowing the name of their idol, people in ancient times believed they could control it. But also, anyone could pick up an idol, throw it, or manipulate it to give them what they want by chanting incantations and offering it sacrifices.

God exists beyond our control. We don’t even know his name and because he doesn’t dwell in an object, we can’t control or manipulate him. The God of the Bible is greater than us.

Idols exist for the benefit of their worshipers. People carved an idol into an image of their choosing according to their wants or desires. The idol’s identity was determined by the whims of its owner. The same applies to your Pocket God. Ultimately, he exists for you.

We exist for God. God created us in his image and we exist for him. Our identity, value, and worth come from him.

Idols can be discarded. As the needs or personal taste of the owner changes, you can delete your Pocket God from your iPhone, and exchange it for a new, more exciting god.

God is eternal. Because he owns us and isn’t limited by time or space, he cannot be discarded not deleted. Trends and tastes may change over time, but our God is faithful, eternal, consistent—a rock that cannot be moved. When we turn our backs on him, he still remains near to us.

The psalmist in Psalm 15 assesses the difference between an everyday idol and their God, and then cries out to the reader:

O house of Israel, trust in the Lord— he is their help and shield.

O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord— he is their help and shield.

You who fear him, trust in the Lord— he is their help and shield.

Psalm 115:9–11

The temptation is to place our trust in a god of our own choosing. We want to believe in a god who reflects our tastes, desires and values. But a god like that resembles an idol more than the God of the Bible.

What are the benefits of worshiping a nameless, invisible God? We knows us and nothing on earth can limit him.

Which means we can trust him.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In what ways do you carry a Pocket God with you?
  3. Where does your Pocket God fall short?
  4. To what extent can you trust the God of the Bible?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Your One And Only

Greek mythology tells us about a young man named Narcissus. Shortly after his birth, his mother realized her young son was exceptionally beautiful and was advised by a prophet that Narcissus would live to a ripe old age “if he never realized how beautiful he was.”

Throughout his life, his mother kept Narcissus from seeing himself in the mirror. By the time he reached 15 years of age, every girl in town was in love with him—but all the attention resulted in a very cruel, self-absorbed boy.

One day while hunting in the woods, he approached a pool of water. Thirsty from his long, hot day in the woods, he bent over to get a drink. And as he leaned over, he saw his reflection.

Immediately, he became transfixed with his beauty. What stared back at him from the water was so mesmerizing, so magnificent, that he couldn’t pull himself away.

So enamored he became with himself that he couldn’t eat or drink and he eventually died of thirst and starvation. Because of his utter and complete self-absorption, Greek mythology tells us his soul was sent to the “darkest hell.”

And where he died, the narcissus flower grew—to serve as a reminder of the boy who fell in love with himself. Greek mythology tells us that Narcissus still keeps gazing on his image in the waters of the river Styx.

Following Narcissus’ example, many of us struggle becoming self-absorbed. You could say we’ve made idols of ourselves…which is the subject of today’s daily conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Deuteronomy 4:1-49
Luke 6:39-7:10
Psalm 68:1-18
Proverbs 11:28

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Deuteronomy 4. The book of Deuteronomy entails the covenant God established with his people. In the first three chapters, God established the basis of their relationship. Chapter 4 consists of the prologue. In verse 1 we read, “Follow [God’s commands] so that you may live.” God doesn’t grant us salvation because we follow his ways, but following his ways do bring us life.

God sought to perpetuate the faith for generations to come. In verse 10 God tells his people, “Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” The primary location where our faith is perpetuated is not in church but at home. This brings a degree of responsibility on every parent (me included!). This keeps parents honest, because our children can compare what we say with what we do.

Verses 44-49 comprise the introduction to the covenant God entered into with Israel.

Luke 6:46-49. What’s the rock in Jesus’ parable? Many people refer to this parable and say Jesus is the rock—and while he is our rock, he isn’t talking about himself in this parable. The rock is obedience to his word. Jesus said the one who “hears my words and puts them into practice…is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.” Obedience isn’t sexy. It rarely serves as the point of movies that break the box office. We gravitate to stories about the “rebel without a cause.” But in God’s economy, obedience is important. Doing what we know is right.

Psalm 68. Notice the object of God’s concern in this psalm: the fatherless, the widow, the poor. If you count yourself as one of these, be encouraged because God has special concern for you. If you don’t, pay attention to these people. If you’re interested in joining God in his work, then help them, too.

Proverbs 11:28. “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” Following the theme of our study in Deuteronomy, trusting in riches is a form of idolatry. Sometimes I dream about what it would be like to win the Lotto and never have another care in the world. But that wouldn’t be the case because rich people have struggles, too. Most importantly, I think I would struggle with trusting in my riches rather than God. Maybe God knows it’s best for me not to be rich.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

The single most important aspect of the Jewish faith that set Israel apart from the other nations was that it allowed no image to be made of God. God didn’t want us worshiping his creation…he wanted us worshiping him. Unfortunately, we still struggle with this temptation today. We look to creation—relationships, activity, stuff, ourselves—to fill the hole in our heart. Looking to anything or anyone but God for our identity and fulfillment is idolatry.

Worshipping a God who we cannot see requires faith. Hebrews 11:1,6 tell us “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.” All too often, we place our faith in something or someone we can see, knowing full well that the object of our faith will do little or nothing to fill the hole or meet our need. But it’s easier to place our faith in what we can see over what we cannot see.

My point is this: God wants to be the only one in whom we seek purpose, provision, fulfillment…everything. He doesn’t want to be the best version among a pantheon of gods. He wants to be our one and only.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What or who is your idol of choice? Why does it appeal to you? How can you live in such a way that he is your “one and only”?
  3. Why do the stories in our society gravitate toward rebels?
  4. What do today’s readings tell you about God?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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