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Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


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The Road Ahead- No Other Gods Session 7

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The green, rolling hills seemed to be calling my name. After weeks of cold, wet weather, I couldn’t wait to enjoy the sunshine that had finally arrived between storms. Reaching for my phone, I texted a friend: “How about taking a hike?”

Although a walk in the hills meant cutting into the time I’d carved out to tackle some projects at home, I knew being outside was just what I needed. A few hours on the trail would make me more energized and productive than a day of sitting alone in front of a computer screen.

Imagine my delight when I returned home later and discovered Psalm 121 included in Session 7 of Kelly Minter’s No Other Gods:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,  nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

I love the imagery in this passage and how easily the path described in it parallels our faith journey with Jesus. It is one of the fifteen Psalms known as the “Songs of Ascents” (Psalms 120 through 134). The Israelites would have sung these words as the made their pilgrimages to the Three Great Feasts described in Exodus 23:14-19. Most likely, they would have envisioned themselves ascending the fifteen steps at the temple in Jerusalem (one Psalm for each step). Three times a year faithful Israelites would have journeyed over treacherous paths from far-reaching villages to worship God at the feasts. As they traveled, they passed the time singing laments and praises. The majesty of God’s creation reminded them of his power and sovereignty and spurred them on as they traveled through arduous terrain.

Over the course of studying No Other Gods, we’ve been on a challenging journey too as we’ve identified and relinquished idols. What we must keep in mind, however, is that the journey will continue long after we’ve closed our workbooks and moved on to a new study. The path of spiritual growth doesn’t have a stopping point. We won’t arrive at a destination on this side of heaven. While this thought may make you weary, take heart and consider the observations made in Psalm 121.

-We are not alone on the journey, ever. Our help comes from God. However, relying on him involves lifting our eyes up to see him and to recognize the ways he is working in and around us. Looking down or being self-focused will only hinder our growth.

-We must continually remind ourselves about God’s character and capabilities. Having direct access to the Maker of Heaven and Earth is not something to take for granted.

-We must reassure ourselves that God is never asleep at the switch. He’s never caught off guard by something unexpected, even when we are. He is always vigilant and aware, whether we are or not.

-God shelters us and watches over us. He’s with us on the journey and always has something to teach us through the different processes that unfold in our lives.

-God will never leave us. He was with us in the past, is with us in the present and will be with us in the future.

Remembering these things helps me to take a deep breath and stop trying to figure out life on my own. As much as I like things to be neat, orderly and in their places, I’m learning to trust God while things are still in process and end results aren’t clear. I’m remembering to look to him when I’m fearful or confused or anxious instead of rushing to find comfort or reassurance from an idol. I don’t know what’s on the road ahead, but I do know God is with me every step of the way.

Bebo Norman’s song “I Will Lift My Eyes” is a more contemporary version of a Psalm of Ascent. Click on the link to and make it your prayer as you listen.

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Assuming God is Good- No Other Gods Session 6

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Giggling from the backseat, my son read the completed Mad Lib aloud to his brother and friends. At the time, the boys were in elementary school—a prime age for reveling in the silliness of this classic fill-in-the-blanks activity. You probably remember doing Mad Libs of your own in younger days: one person acts as the scribe and asks the group for nouns, verbs, adjectives, and other parts of speech to write into blanks in a pre-written story the participants haven’t read. The results are usually funny—especially with boys who strive to choose the most ridiculous words they can think of.

As we get older, we continue filling in the blanks mentally, but the results are usually less fun and often reap more negative results. We get in the habit of making assumptions and filling in gaps of information with our best guesses. For many of us, these are more negative than positive. We do it all the time with other people. We also do it with God.

That’s why I find the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, Isaac, so astounding. As a test, God asks Abraham to do the unthinkable and kill his cherished child as an offering on the altar. Yet never once do we see Abraham getting angry with God or assuming he’s cruel. Scripture gives us a few clues about how Abraham saw the situation. The first is in Genesis 22 as Abraham prepared to take Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him:

“He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’” (Genesis 22:5, NIV)

Despite the plans he had to sacrifice his son, he told the servants both he and Isaac would return. Why would he say that? I used to think he was just trying to act casually to cover up what he was about to do, but now I see that it may actually have been an example of his faith in God. A few minutes later Isaac asked his father where they would find an animal to sacrifice and Abraham replied:

“`God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.” (Genesis 22:8, NIV)

Again, I used to think Abraham was stalling and giving an excuse to Isaac, but now I see that he really believed what he said. At the moment Abraham raised his hand to kill his son, an angel called out to him, showing that God was, indeed, trustworthy:

“`Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’” (Genesis 22:12-14, NIV)

In Hebrews 11:17-19, we discover more insight about Abraham’s perspective on God, especially regarding the sacrifice of Isaac:

“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” (NIV)

This story is hard to grasp on many levels, but what strikes me as I read it this time is Abraham’s unwavering trust in God. Never once did he accuse God of being cruel or unfair, even though what he was asked to do would cut any parent to the core. Abraham believed God was good and trusted him to provide.

I’m humbled by Abraham’s faith as I recall the many times I’ve filled in the blanks with negative assumptions about God. How many times have I fretted over a difficult or uncertain situation instead of simply laying it at his feet, knowing he is trustworthy? When have I demanded to know why God allowed pain in my life instead of trusting that he would use it for his perfect purposes? If I’m honest, there are many times I’ve struggled to believe the promise of Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)

Instead of filling in the blanks with positive assumptions about how God will work in the unknown, I tend to fret and worry he won’t come through. For many of us, we assume God is either not paying attention or not going to act in time, so we turn to idols. We want God to work for good according to our purposes instead of his. So we look for comfort, security and control in other things instead of trusting him and waiting for him patiently. We “fill in the blanks” with idols when God doesn’t do what we want, when we want, how we want. All the while, we’re forgetting what Abraham remembered, even in his darkest hour. God is good. God is for us. God loves us. He has plans for us. He knows us. He knows what we need. He keeps his promises. His timing is perfect.

For me, the best way to remember this is to fill my mind with truth about God. I’ve found listening to good music with sound theology is a great method for doing this. So often, I find myself mentally playing a song that reminds me who God is and keeps me from filling in the blanks with negative thoughts. I’m always drawn back to my good, good Father. Click on the link to marinate in truth about God by listening to Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father.”

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The Idol of People-Pleasing- No Other Gods Session 4

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Opening my No Other Gods workbook, the title of Session 4 caught my eye: “The Problem with Idols: People Gods.” As I read through Kelly MInter’s lesson and learned about the ways we make people into idols, the faces of different individuals I’ve idolized over the years popped into my mind. But as I dug deeper into the study, I realized that for me, the problem wasn’t so much about specific people, but about my constant need to please people in general.

For years I’ve jokingly referred to myself as a “recovering people-pleaser.” You may recognize the term “recovering” from Twelve Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s because just like someone who struggles with addiction, I have to take one day at a time fighting the urge to be a pleaser. I go through phases where I’m strong and confident and it’s less of an issue and other seasons when I’m racked with guilt anytime I think I’ve failed someone. Ironically, this post is an edited version of one I wrote a while back. It’s humbling to realize this is an ongoing issue I need to relinquish to God time and time again. People pleasers have been around for generations but just so we’re clear, here’s my definition (based on personal experience):

 A people pleaser is constantly aware of the wants and needs of those around her. She feels overly responsible for others. She bases her sense of well being on the happiness of others in her presence. She rarely asserts her own desires for fear she will displease others. She often has no opinion because she wants to do whatever makes those in her presence most happy or comfortable. She has trouble receiving kind gestures from others because she constantly feels bad and assumes she is being an inconvenience or an annoyance.

The root of people pleasing is a fear of what others think and a desire for approval based on outward actions. Ultimately, it boils down to insecurity and idolatry, not courtesy, kindness or love.

Self- Evaluation:

Does the definition make you squirm? Rather than feeling hurt or offended, how about taking some time to evaluate your people-pleasing tendencies? Consider the following:

-How often do you say, “I feel bad” or “I feel guilty” when you don’t meet an expectation you think someone else has for you?

Before going any further, think about why you feel bad or guilty. Is it because you are worried about what someone will think of you? Is it because you see a need you are unable to meet? Is it because you are choosing to do nothing when you should be doing something? Try to determine the root cause and then either do something about it or stop feeling guilty (which isn’t biblical anyway). When we serve and help others, it needs to be out of love, not guilt.

-How often do you say “I should” or “I had to”?

This can be a sign that your motivation is external rather than internal. Sometimes there are things you genuinely “should” do, such as helping someone in an emergency or meeting a need that is appropriate for you to fill. Sometimes we do things because the Bible says we should. They are the right things to do. Other times, however, people pleasers feel they must do certain things in order to meet someone else’s expectations. You don’t “have” to do something just because you’ve always done it or because someone thinks you would be good at it (especially if it’s a volunteer commitment.)

No Joy in Serving

One thing is sure, when you say, “yes” because you feel guilty about letting someone down, there will be little joy in your act of kindness. The thrill of saying, “yes” to please another person fades quickly if that is your only motivation. If there is no joy behind your choice to serve, bitterness results. Plus, the person being served doesn’t feel especially loved if your actions are motivated purely by guilt or duty.

Pleasers Confuse Others

People pleasers are confusing or frustrating to be around because you never know what they really want. It becomes a guessing game to figure out if their words and actions are genuine or simply said and done to please you. It is also unclear if they are being honest, which can lead to trust issues and elevated anxiety for others. Ultimately, it is difficult to have an authentic, loving relationship with a people-pleaser.

Pleasing Can Lead to Sin

Sometimes when our attention is focused on pleasing others, we make compromises that go against what we know is right. When we are willing to sacrifice our values and standards because we don’t want to offend or displease others, we are making them into idols.

No- Win Situation

It’s no secret that people are fickle. Trying to please them is a losing battle because they change their minds regularly. It is impossible to please multiple people simultaneously when they have differing opinions. Trying to do it is like attempting to submerge a bunch of Ping-Pong balls in a bucket. There is no way to hold all of them under water at the same time, no matter how hard you try!  (I attempted it just to make sure).IMG_7830

Please God, Bless People

The apostle Paul sums this up simply– our goal needs to be pleasing Christ, not others: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10, NIV) Make it your goal to please God. Doing this will honor Him and ultimately bless others.

Music and Books to Encourage You

Sometimes people pleasers struggle with feelings of inadequacy. We try hard to measure up through earning favor with others and we live in fear of disapproval. Yet when we remember how deeply loved we are by God, it frees us to love others without expecting them to meet our endless needs. If you want to learn more, scroll down for some suggested books that can help you get some healthy perspective on people-pleasing. Be sure to click on the link and be encouraged by Hawk Nelson’s song “Live Like You’re Loved.” Then go out and live like you believe it’s true.

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When Pain Exposes Your Idols: No Other Gods Session 2

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(Second in a series of posts inspired by Kelly Minter’s Bible Study entitled No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern-Day Idols)

Whenever I’m leading a group through a Bible study, I make it a priority to work through the book on my own before they begin. Back in the spring I studied Kelly Minter’s No Other Gods in preparation for this fall. The day I was reading Week 2, Day 3, I was sitting at my desk attempting to position my arm so that I could write. A huge splint bent at a ninety-degree angle was making it awkward to put pen to paper. It was just four days after breaking my elbow and wrist and I was reading about how God uses pain to identify our idols. Using the life of Hannah from 1 Samuel, the lesson gently emphasized that God occasionally brings pain into our lives for a reason. The last question on that day of study asked me to consider how Hannah’s life was enriched by God’s closing of her womb. Trying to connect her painful experience to mine, I scrawled a list of the things God was teaching me through having a broken arm (my comparison is not intended to diminish the deep pain of infertility). That list helped me to clarify the ways he was working and inspired me to write a few blog posts about what I was learning. (You can find those five posts from May and June of 2016 in the archives to the right.)

Now, seven months later, I was reviewing the lesson again to stay in sync with the women in my group. Turning the page in my book, I discovered a yellow Post-it note with the bullet-pointed list in my messy handwriting from back in the spring. It was the one I’d written a few days after breaking my arm. Ironically, I found it on the same day my doctor’s office had delivered a new device that will hopefully aid in healing my arm once and for all (at the moment, it still doesn’t extend fully).

Reading the list convicted me that some of the lessons I thought I’d learned needed to be repeated. I should probably explain this a bit more. My new therapy requires me to put my arm in a heavy elbow splint and to sit for thirty minutes three times a day. The device must remain on a hard surface and I have to be in a seated position. Since it’s my right arm, I can’t write, type or do anything particularly productive. Suffice it to say, I’ve been lamenting having ninety minutes of “wasted” time daily for the foreseeable future. My husband, on the other hand, thinks it’s awesome.  Apparently, my constant drive to be productive makes it difficult for my family to relax around me.

The more I thought about this, the more I felt convicted that although productivity is a good thing, it has become something of an idol in my life. The drive to complete tasks and tend to responsibilities can be relentless. And wrapped up in that is an underlying assumption that being constantly productive makes me a worthwhile person. There is a sense of power, identity and control that comes from knowing I’m accomplishing things constantly.

Reading Hannah’s prayer after the birth of her miraculous first child, I was struck by the contrasts in her description of God’s activities:

“The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.

The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts…

For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world.

He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken.” (1 Samuel 2:6-7, 8b,9, NIV)

This is not the description of a haphazard or capricious God, but of a God who knows exactly what to give people in different seasons of their lives. He knows who needs more and who needs less; who needs to be humbled and who needs to be exalted. And he creates circumstances accordingly.

The last line of this passage is the one that strikes me hardest: “It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken.” The power, identity and control that I get from being productive can make me feel strong. But this verse reminds me if my productivity is opposing God’s plans for me, I will be broken. For me, there are times when this has been literal. When I’m working so hard to do things “for” God without drawing on his strength and wisdom, I’m actually producing nothing of lasting value. Only when I draw near to him first and let his strength fill me and his wisdom guide me will I make any impact for his kingdom. And when he needs to remind me of this, he allows painful circumstances in my life, like a broken arm that refuses to heal fully without ninety minutes of doing nothing “productive” every day.

God is much more interested in a heart that is fully surrendered to him than a mind intent on being productive—even when the goal has spiritual implications (like writing a blog, preparing a Bible study or leading a ministry). Author Donna Partow says it this way: “God is not interested in the most efficient or effective way of accomplishing his work in this world…What he is profoundly interested in is you. And me…He is profoundly interested in molding and shaping us—conforming us to the image of his Son. He is profoundly interested in preparing us for the coming Kingdom, when we will reign as joint heirs with his Son.”

Josh Wilson’s song “Fall Apart” celebrates the way pain draws us near to the heart of God. Click on the link and be encouraged as you listen:

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Idols Erode a Firm Foundation

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My mountain bike skidded to a stop, kicking up a billow of dust on the trail behind me.  Something had caught my eye as I’d ridden down the hill and I wanted to investigate.  The trail I’d been riding had a steep incline on its left side and perched on it was a large, old tree with its branches spread wide. The rain of many winters had taken its toll and had carried off much of the soil foundation.   Large gnarled roots sat exposed to the elements revealing evidence of significant soil erosion.  I guessed the whole tree would eventually slide down onto the trail if nothing were done to correct the problem.

Looking at the tree that day, I couldn’t help but think of the story of Gideon.  Sadly, the end of Gideon’s tale is nowhere near as inspiring as the beginning.  The firm foundation of Gideon’s faith slowly eroded over time as he allowed an idol to creep in and take center stage in his life.  The story winds down with the Israelites quickly forgetting that it was God who led them to victory over the Midianites, not Gideon.  Here is the first part of the story from Judges 8.

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”  23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.”

While Gideon may sound humble here for refusing the position of King, what he did next shows he was a wee bit off base.  Chapter 8 continues  24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels,[a] not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

While it’s not the uplifting ending I’d hoped for, it is a jolting wake up call for those of us trying to apply the story to our lives.  Gideon and the Israelites wanted a tangible symbol of their victory.  The ephod was meant to be a vest worn by the high priest and used to relay God’s guidance and instruction to the people.  It wasn’t meant for use outside of these purposes.  What was intended as a tool to draw people closer to God had become an idol instead. 

It seems easy to recognize their folly, doesn’t it?  Priscilla Shirer draws some modern comparisons that don’t let us dismiss this story as quickly as we’d like.  The week 6 Lesson of Gideon:  Your Weakness, God’s Strength is full of examples of subtle idols that may have crept into our lives in the twenty first century. As I read her examples, many more flooded to my mind.  Several are ones that have been snares in my own life.  I’ve chosen a few that might make you squirm a bit.  Rest assured, I have no specific person in mind for any of these.  If you feel the discomfort of conviction as you read, ask God to show you how He’s calling you to respond rather than feeling offended or annoyed.

Scenario 1:  Laura loves people and enjoys socializing.  Whether she is staying late after Bible Study, attending a dinner party with her husband or enjoying a hike with girlfriends, she always makes time for other people.  Sometimes she has a hard time being “present” with people because she’s worried she’s missing out on another conversation going on nearby. Laura gets so busy spending time with others that she often has overlaps in her schedule that require her to leave early or arrive late. Weekends become especially hectic as she squeezes in several social events each evening sandwiched between full days running her kids around to their activities.  One Friday night, her kids finally decide they need a break and they beg for a family movie night at home.  Laura can’t stand the thought of foregoing the neighborhood get together down the street.  Her “fear of missing out” causes her to be fidgety and distracted instead of enjoying a peaceful night at home.

Scenario 2:  Bob and Sue have a great, new pastor at church and they’re so excited to invite their friends to hear him preach. The Bible has come alive for them in a new way since he joined the staff.  They look forward to the Sundays when he speaks.  One Saturday they have an especially late night and when they wake up the next day, they’re too tired to make it to church.  They find out later that a different pastor was preaching and are relieved they didn’t miss their “favorite.”  Over time, they begin checking in advance to see who will be preaching. They make less of an effort to attend church when he’s not speaking.  Two years later when the pastor announces he’s taking a new position at a different church, Bob and Sue seriously consider following him, despite the fact that the new church is over an hour away.

Scenario 3:  Jason works hard and feels blessed to be his family’s provider.  He sees himself as a steward of all God has given him and does his best to take care of things and to make them last- whether that is his car, his clothes or his house.  He spends a lot of time on the weekends working in the yard or taking care of maintenance on the house.  He adores his kids, but sometimes feels frustrated when they track mud inside or leave sports equipment in his car.  There is nothing that feels better to him than having a place for everything and everything in its place.  He often feels inadequate when he spends time with friends who have larger homes in more manicured neighborhoods than his.  He works hard to make the house look nice and to feel comfortable.  He can’t figure out why his kids never want to be at home or to invite friends over.

Scenario 4:  After having her third child, Amy resolves it’s time to get serious about taking care of her body.  She joins a gym, meets with a nutritionist and begins a weekly regimen of exercise and healthy eating.  After a few months, she feels great both physically and mentally.  Amy has more energy and focus, not to mention a slimmer, more toned physique.   She’s quietly pleased when friends comment on how great she looks.  When it’s time to sign up for her women’s Bible study, Amy hesitates, fearing that a morning away from the gym may interfere too much in her fitness regimen.  She decides to sit out the study and do it by herself on her own time—that way it she won’t miss her favorite class at the gym.

Scenario 5:  June and John are a recently retired couple with 4 adult kids living all over the United States.  They love to travel and pride themselves on never missing a significant event in the lives of any of their 8 grandchildren.  When they’re not with family, they enjoy visiting exotic new places and traveling with friends.  Lately, June and John haven’t been motivated to go to church when they’re in town. Most Sundays they have a hard time finding old friends and barely recognize most of the people sitting around them.  The bulletin is full of classes and activities, but most will cut into their desire to keep their schedule open, free and spontaneous, so they don’t want to commit.  They lament their lost sense of community and feel that their church has become too big and impersonal.

Scenario 6:  Francesca’s days are full and busy balancing a part time job, a baby and a toddler.  There’s nothing she enjoys more than having a few minutes at the end of the day to unwind and enjoy a glass of wine with her husband when he gets home from work.  At first, it’s a treat they look forward to on Fridays as a celebration for the end of the week.  Over time, they begin cracking open a bottle mid-week when the day has been especially crazy.   Evenings just seem easier to manage after a cold glass of Chardonnay.  One week, Francesca’s husband is away on business and she finds herself counting the minutes until she puts the kids to bed.  That evening as she enjoys a glass of wine on the couch, a friend calls to check in.  Francesca jokes with her, “Do you know what’s the most expensive thing about having kids?”  “What?” Her friend asks, innocently.  “All the wine!” She laughs into the phone. She is surprised when her friend is silent on the other end of the line.

Scenario 7:  Mike has a huge servant’s heart.  There is nothing that brings him greater joy than meeting the needs of others.  Over the years he’s served in a variety of capacities at church and in the community—serving as an elder, working on a long-term missions project in the inner-city, heading up outreach for Men’s Ministries, teaching 5th grade Sunday School and more.  Lately, Mike has become so busy serving that he feels exhausted and lacks some of his usual joy.  Getting out of bed for worship on a Sunday mornings is daunting after serving all day at the inner-city mission every Saturday.  Waking up early to spend time with God daily or attending the Men’s Bible study once a week seem like luxuries he can’t afford.

Scenario 8:  Kari loves her kids and wants to see them develop their potential.  Whether it’s out on the soccer field, in the dance studio, in an after school class or at piano lessons, she’s determined to give them every opportunity available.  Afternoons are crazy as she drives carpools, helps with homework and takes care of the household.  With three active kids, she rarely has time for the things she says she values like spending time with friends and studying the Bible.  Weekends are full of activities for the whole family and when they aren’t up early for a sports game, the family loves nothing more than sleeping late on Sundays.  Kari is proud of her kids and all that they’ve accomplished, but sometimes she worries that they don’t care much about attending youth group or other church activities.  She finds solace by deciding they’ll have more time for that later, when they’re older.  Besides, they’re so busy with all of the activities, they don’t have time to get into trouble or run with the “wrong crowd” anyway.

Scenario 9:  Josh loves sports- whether it’s watching, playing or coaching.   His car radio is pre-set for every sports talk show he can find.  He loves to watch Sports Center at night and spends his breakfast poring over the sports pages.  He knows practically every statistic from every major sporting event in a given season.  He arranges weekends around his Saturday golf game and Sunday football games on TV.  He’s willing to go to church with his wife most of the time.  He even agrees to go to a special men’s event at church when a well-known sports figure is speaking.  During the talk, the speaker quotes a verse from Joshua,  “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you maybe careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”  Josh can think of a lot of things he meditates on during the week, but none of them involve the stuff the speaker is talking about.  He’s disappointed the guy didn’t focus on his sports career more in his speech.

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Idols give us a false sense of security, comfort or self-worth.  Often the things that become idols in our lives start out being something good.  There is nothing wrong with exercising, socializing, traveling or volunteering.  However, when they govern our decision-making processes or have authority in our lives that is higher than God, they can become idols.

If you see a glimmer of yourself in one or more of these scenarios, please consider praying about it and asking God what changes He might be calling you to make.  Remember, the goal here is to prevent ourselves from ending up like Gideon, who created an idol that had enough ties to his Jewish faith that he felt justified having it.  Erosion happens slowly over time, like the tree in the picture.

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If you see a glimmer of someone you love in one of the scenarios above, let me caution you against appointing yourself as a personal holy spirit for that person.  Rather than having him/ her read the scenario, commit to praying for the person and the possible idol you see in his/ her life.  Wait to see if God gives you an opportunity to have an honest conversation when the time is right.

Personally, I’d like to end the study of Gideon on a high note.  I want to be cognizant of the potential idols in my life and to recognize that my weakness is a platform for God’s strength.   Here are a few ideas on how to keep the potential idols in our lives at bay:

-Make it a priority to spend time with God in prayer every day

-Read the Bible daily

-Be intentional about studying the Bible with others

-Be aware of our weak points and ask for accountability and prayer support

-Pray David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23-4 regularly and be open to what God reveals:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.