Worship Must Resist Idolatry
This year’s Alliance Women theme, “Belong”, is about inviting us to come just as we are to the table that Jesus has set for us. When we accept Jesus’ gracious invitation, we find the sense of belonging we all yearn for. Oh, how beautiful it is to take our place at Jesus’ table! There, we can relinquish all that keeps us from worship and a close relationship with the one true God.
However, our focus can easily turn away from His table. If you’re like me, you may have found yourself walking towards Him, only to become easily distracted. Other things that seem to offer safety and comfort may earn my trust, but then they misguide me and ultimately drive me away from Jesus. When other priorities become of more value and importance to us than God, we are placing them above Him, thus making them our idols.
We all have idols. Growing up in a country where Catholicism is predominant, I thought that idolatry meant only the worship and veneration of statues. But idolatry involves more than that. Any time we offer our adoration and attention that belongs to God to other things, we are guilty of idolatry. The real danger is not in worshipping a specific object, but in anything that keeps us away from having a genuine relationship with our Lord Jesus, fully surrendered to Him.
Too often, despite my desire to worship God, I struggle with letting go of things that bring me pleasure. I may say that I love God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind (Matthew 22:37), but not all of me is surrendered in worship to the One who deserves it all. These things I cling to are what have taken over pieces of my heart. They have become my idols.
For some, an idol could be a general need for control, or specific things that make us feel accepted, such as busyness, family, or work. When these things take precedence, there isn’t room or time for God to be the center of our lives. We are unable to submit our hearts and souls completely to the One that can truly and genuinely satisfy. Our worship may be incomplete because Jesus is Lord in only certain areas of our lives.
In his book Beautiful Resistance, Jon Tyson states that “God is not interested in our behavior. He wants our hearts.” We should earnestly search for a relationship deeply rooted in Scripture and true confession, inviting Jesus to come and free us from the idols that have taken His place. Total submission, relinquishing all areas in our lives that keep us from offering Him true worship, allows God to search in the deepest and darkest corners of our hearts. With full assurance of His grace, we can, in return, fix our eyes on Jesus alone, discovering His beauty and fully experiencing His unfailing love for us.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24, KJV)
Are We There Yet?
On Sunday, April 12, 2020, I was at home resting on my sofa. Earlier that day I had celebrated my risen Savior from that same sofa. It was odd, but I was relieved; the season of Lent was over. And I was ready to enter “ordinary time”—a season marked on the Christian calendar. To my dismay, I discovered that ordinary time was still 50 days away! The season of Easter continues through Pentecost. I felt like I was in the back seat of my parents’ car, whining, “Are we there yet?” I wanted to arrive at my preferred destination—normalcy—but it was not yet time.
One week later, my understanding deepened. I heard my Father answer, “No, we are not THERE yet, but we are HERE, and I am here.” My focus immediately shifted from a future destination to my present reality and from a place to a Person.
“Be where you are” is advice I often hear spoken in our distracted and hurried culture. We are consistently encouraged to be fully present. Now that my normal routine is interrupted and so much of the future is uncertain, I admit my need to refocus. Restlessness, impatience, wanderlust, and—let’s be honest—complaining need to be noticed, confessed, and cleared from my soul. Now is a good time to ask, “What have I overlooked or ignored that needs my attention?” The “here and now” is a good time to repair a broken relationship or finish an incomplete project.
When I hear, “And I am here,” my paradigm changes. I am not held hostage, waiting to reach a destination. Instead, I see myself on pilgrimage with the God who has promised, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). While sheltering at home, I am not in a holding pattern. A deeper work is taking place. With the Psalmist, I pray, “Search me, O 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” (Ps. 139:23–34). This is my opportunity to be made new.
Here We Are
Here we are. Today. On the other side of Easter. The transforming Resurrection power of the gospel is available—today. For me. For you. For all. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb. 4:7). Let’s make the most of the opportunities God has for us in the present.
How Important Am I?
Finding meaning in a time of self-isolation
Doctors, nurses, governors, and mayors—important people must keep working. They have skills, knowledge, and job responsibilities that protect us. It is clear that they need to remain in their positions.
But what about the rest of us? Many of us also provide valuable services and care for people. But how “essential” are we? And if we aren’t essential right now, were we ever essential? Will we be essential again?
Have you wondered, as I have, “Do I matter?”
What if I stay home, stop doing what I have been doing, and the world discovers I am not needed? What if my customers, my clients, my constituents, decide they can get along just fine without my services?
I have become convinced that the single most important thing I can do for those around me right now is to limit my movements, but it’s still hard to feel like there’s nothing I can do.
Psalm 139:14 says: “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
We matter because God created us. The focus is on what He has done, not what we do.
Who we are, what we were created by God to be, and how we live out our unique calling in the world matters. We are important to God, and He has placed us in the world. Without ever doing a single thing, we have value. We are created in His image, He loves us, and Christ died for us before we ever did anything.
So, because I am perfectly loved by Him, I can love the people I know—my students, my co-laborers, my friends. And I can love the people I don’t know. I can love them by staying home. And I will seek creative ways to love them tangibly, too. There are things I can do, and, with God’s help, I will do what He calls me to do.
Most of all, though, I will lean into God. I will lean on Him for my meaning and my direction. I will run to Him for comfort, strength, and courage.
I invite you to join me—from your home, of course!