football as an idol

Category : barbarian, choice, faith, living a life of faith, taking action

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I love football.  That’s pretty obvious if you’ve spent any time rummaging around R3 or ever glance at my twitter feed.  It’s in pretty much every conversation I have from August to February.  Yet I’ve noticed a problem – I can be obsessed.  I love football so much that a loss by the Steelers can derail my entire week.  I can be in a bad mood just because of one bad play.

And you know what?  I hate it.  I hate that football has that much impact on me.  It’s just a game.  But in my heart I know I often treat it as more than just a game.  Sometimes I tell myself, “don’t get so worked up”  However I can’t escape the fact that if football doesn’t have much of an impact on me, it’s not really worth watching, is it?

So I am caught in this love-hate relationship with the greatest game ever devised.

Here’s the thing though, the closer I get to God, the more I dislike these things in my life.  I don’t want anything to impact my mood except God.  I want him to be the center of who I am, not whether the Steelers win or lose.

Over the last year or two I’ve made great progress with having football as an idol.  I’ve learned to let a lot of frustration go and just enjoy the game for what it is – a game.  But at the same time, in the moment I have yet to fully control that emotion.  Now I don’t believe that God cares if I get excited about football or not.  But I do believe he cares about the way I project my relationship with him.  I can hardly call myself a Christian if I go off on someone because the Steelers lose.  That’s not exactly Christ-like behavior.

To me, football is an idol.  And that’s something I need to wrestle with each week.

Idols are dangerous.  They seep into our lives.  Stealing much of the joy in life with promises of a “better” or more “exciting” life.  Those are lies though because they seem so believable.  But they are lies none the less.  Only God provides true freedom and true  life.  Everything else is just a shallow imitation.

Even football.

worshiping the high places

Category : God, bible, faith, sin, taking action

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Like us, ancient Israel struggled with finding their way into a relationship with God.   Many Israelites desperately wanted to have God in their life.  After all, he was the one who freed them from slavery, fed them in the desert, and protected them from their enemies.  But they couldn’t escape the prevailing culture of their day.

(Some things don’t change very much, do they?)

They found themselves surrounded by foreign gods and religious practices.  Instead of rejecting that, they saw those traditions as another way to connect to God.  They started to think, “well if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em.”

And so Israel began to worship at “high places.”

Now “high places” were religious shrines built (primarily) by other religions.  They were a place where people who didn’t believe in God worshiped.  But somewhere along the way Israel got involved with worshiping at the high places.  While there were exceptions (such as Manasseh who instituted child sacrifice) most Israeli’s were trying to do “the right thing” even if they didn’t know what that was.

That’s the irony.  Most Jews didn’t really understand why worshiping at the high places was such a problem.  They wanted to be closer to God.  After all, they were “good people”, what did it matter if they worshiped God at a temple or a high place?

Just like the Golden Calf incident, Israel didn’t mean to offend God.  They just didn’t want to wait.  They wanted a relationship with God, just not on his terms, but on theirs.   So they tried to encourage action by building a golden calf.  This same mentality led them to use the high places.

The sad fact is, in both cases, Israel missed the fundamental nature of who God is.  They wanted a relationship with God, but were willing to settle for much, much less.

How could God not be outraged?  To him, high places are an insult and blasphemy.  They were declarations that Israel didn’t trust him.  That they didn’t believe in him.  That they were sure they knew how to do it “better.”

Reading about their struggles, it’s easy to point the finger and say, “they should have known better!”  But do we live as if we know better?  Or do we build our own high places?  Do we build monuments that he finds offensive?

When we see a need do we act out of love?  Or do we act because we want to be seen as special?  Are our churches just another high place?  Built not to honor God, but to amuse our sense of pride, to entertain us, to make us feel cool and hip?  Or are our churches empty, stuck in tradition (with us unwilling to change), because we’ve convinced ourselves that God cares more about tradition than people?

Many of us are not going to like the answers to those questions.

We criticize Christians for failing to live a Christ-like life.  In many cases that criticism is justified.  But how many times are we like the Israelites – trying to do what we think is right, but missing the mark by a mile?  Maybe the reason we don’t look different from non-believers is not because we want to fit in, but because we don’t know what we’re supposed to look like?

In their book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, Rob Bell and Don Golden say, “In Jesus’ day, people could read, study, and discuss the Scriptures their entire lives and still miss its central message.”

Is it any different today?

We all have built alters on high places thinking we are honoring God.  Instead we offend him.  The bigger our high places get, the more distant God becomes.  And slowly, over time, we just can’t see past the alter.

But there is hope.  God always encouraged Israel to tear down their high places.  He still wanted to be in relationship with them.  He still wants to be in relationship with you.

You still have time to tear down your high places.

when we make our own gods

1

Category : God, bible, worship

       

Few things aggravate me more than wasting time.  I combine trips so I don’t have to drive the same street more than once.  I get furious when I’m stuck behind slow moving traffic.  I’m even a big fan of foods that are “instant.”   

But the irony is I fill my life with wasteful things.

So often I am content making decisions based on desire, fear, or convenience.  I all too often walk around assuming that the things I set up in my life as important actually are.  But as they say, not everything is created equal:

Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
       over it he prepares his meal,
       he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
       He also warms himself and says,
       “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”

From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
       he bows down to it and worships.
       He prays to it and says,
       “Save me; you are my god.” (Isaiah 44:16-17)

This is exactly how I am tempted to live my life.  I have been so eager to set up gods out of work, friends, influence, or perfection that it never even occurred to me that I was wasting my time.  But I was.  All of the things I think of as important are worthless if I miss the big picture – having God at the center of my life.

How can anything we create be a god?  Saying “this is god” doesn’t make it true.  Because if it did, what a small god it would be.