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)
A Costly Mission
On April 18th, 1942, sixteen B25 bombers took off from an aircraft carrier on a mission later considered as one of the most daring of WW II. The mission was called “The Doolittle Bombing.”
Americans were recuperating from the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese who kept on boasting that they were invincible and impenetrable. Americans demanded retaliation. It was then that President Roosevelt approved an idea presented by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. The mission was simple: sixteen modified B25 bombers would take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet which was stationed on the westernmost part of the Pacific Ocean and attack Japan.
There was a problem, however: though that aircraft carrier was long enough for the planes to lift off it was not long enough for them to land. This would be a one-way mission!
They attacked Japan. One of the aircraft ran out of gas and crashed in Russia. Strong winds allowed the other fifteen to crash in a territory in China occupied by the Japanese. Sixty-nine of the eighty airmen were able to return home
What was it the Lieutenant told his pilots? What type of airmen was he looking for? No matter how he delivered the mission to them, he may have said something like this: “I have a challenging mission for you. Its success may well cost you your life. Anyone interested?”
I’m pretty sure that mission was handed to the very best of those airmen. They were probably passionate men, willing to give their lives for their country. It was their turn to put into practice what they had been trained to do, no matter the cost. They believed that protecting their country came before anything else.
For those of us who follow Jesus, there is also a high cost. In His Word, He tells us that following and serving Him will not be easy. He desires passionate hearts willing to give all for Him, just as those brave airmen had done.
This makes me think of the early missionaries who were called to serve in Africa. They packed their belongings in their own coffins because they understood that they would not be returning home. They gave their all so that the message of love could be preached to those in need of it. One of them was buried in the village he had served for thirty-five years. The villagers wrote on his tombstone, “When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.”
How willing are we to step out of our comfort zone to take on the mission of sharing the good news of salvation, knowing that it could cost us relationships and even our lives? Matthew 10:38-39 reads, Whoever does not take up his (her) cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his (her) life will lose it, and whoever loses his (her) life for my sake will find it. Jesus was the perfect example for us all: there is no mission more valuable than to give one’s life for the sake of the Kingdom.
In the busyness of our lives, may we not lose sight of our mission!
The Wisdom of this World Will Never Compare
I was not prepared! No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get it together. I was supposed to talk for 5 minutes at our district pastor’s conference. I hesitantly stepped onto stage with my mess of a note sheet. There were so many good things I wanted to say about Great Commission Women. Words of challenge and encouragement. A challenge to equip leaders. I wanted to be memorable and impactful.
This wasn’t the first year I had to speak in front of pastors, it was never this hard. Public speaking is not one of my gifts or skills. I knew I was unprepared. I was hoping God would work it out.
My talk did not go well. I didn’t make sense. All the things I wanted to say were lost in fumbling.
I was crushed. I didn’t communicate what I wanted to. And secretly I was angry that I looked like a fool.
I hate speaking in front of people because I don’t want to appear foolish. I put so much pressure on myself to get it right. I hate being incompetent or unnecessary. I like to do things I’m good at. I secretly want people to praise me and tell me how amazing I am.
But God did not make me to be praised.
He made me to be sure of him. To be confident in His power to communicate His message, regardless of the messenger.
He made me to bring Him praise.
I had lost my focus. I told myself I desired doing a good job delivering a good message. I didn’t want to admit I was seeking praise, but when it wasn’t there – When I failed – When I knew how bad I had done – I saw the reality of my heart. Instead of praising Him, I wanted praise for myself.
I got mad. I felt worthless. I questioned God – “why was I in a position where I have to do things I’m terrible at?” I felt depressed about all I was NOT.
I wanted to be clever. I wanted people to look to me for the answers.
Patiently, God reminded me that he will not share his glory. He’s reminded me that the wisdom of this world will never compare with his goodness. He whispers in my soul…
“Daughter, this is what I want for you… to leave it all behind except one thing – Christ and his sacrifice”
“I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.” 1 Cor 2:1-5
“It’s happening again,” I say to myself, as I see the uncomfortable look run across my friend’s face. I did it again. I asked a SUPER direct question in a polite conversation.
I know how this goes. Either there will be nervous laughter and we’ll change the subject, or she will feel obliged to answer. So, I apologize and say, “That’s none of my business. Sorry, I know that I tend to ask super awkward questions.” I smile as I cringe on the inside.
But she answers me, “No, I don’t mind.” Inwardly, I breathe a sigh of relief. We end up talking a while about very real and very deep things. We touch on mutual hurts and disappointments. I ask her to explain her thoughts, and she does.
Then, as I go home the embarrassment settles in. My mind jumps from one thing to the next. I wonder why I can’t just have a normal conversation. I wish that I made friends easily, like my husband. I start wishing I didn’t have to try hard to analyze people, or ask a reason for their behavior. I wish I didn’t have so many memories of offended people who try to avoid me after a conversation. In this moment, I must remember all the wonderful friends I do have and all the deep and real conversations we have.
On these days, I wish I weren’t so peculiar.
Some days, I feel peculiar at church too. I put on a smile and make small talk with lonely visitors, but I really just want to run the slides in the back corner. I sing songs, but I’m not filled with rapture. I listen and take notes, but I tend to ask the pastor questions like, “Did you really mean to say…?”, or, “What’s up with that song – it was weird?” He looks at me with a quirked face that says, “Really?!?” His patience is reassuring, but I am positive that is just because he happens to be my husband too.
Lately though, God’s voice has been one of gentle reminder. He tells me, “Remember the way I MADE YOU. I MADE YOU to dig deep. I MADE YOU to ask questions. I MADE YOU to search and study. I MADE YOU to serve behind the scenes. I MADE YOU to be aware of lonely people and stand against injustice. Let others be enraptured by music. Let others love small talk. YOU be enraptured by searching for Me because I made you unique.”
And so I am trying to remember that the way I interact with the world is the way He wants me to interact. The way I connect with Him is the way He wants me to worship Him. The way I have relationships, in all their bluntness, is the way He wants it.
This is also God’s message to you. He has made YOU unique. Maybe you feel strange. BUT God is the author of the “strange”; He made you the way you are. He made you with your personality and all your quirks. His relationship with you is as unique as you are. He is glorified when you worship Him in the way He built you to worship Him.
Often I forget that God gave me my personality and strengths and weaknesses. I’m so thankful I am surrounded by people who point me back. They remind me to be transformed to the character of Christ, not to the character of those around me. They point me to Christ, the Son of God. They point me to the Holy Spirit Who fills me and shapes me. They point me to the God Who is worthy of my peculiar worship.