Monday, November 3, 2008

Idols, Harlotry, and Addiction

God has been working on me about this subject for a while. I have an “addiction” that I have tried to excuse and justify, but God is showing me that it is hindering my spiritual growth. No, I don’t smoke or drink or do any of those ‘big sins’ (as some people might call them), but I believe that ANYTHING that we chose to do and that continuously distracts us from our true purpose in life can be idolatry, harlotry, and an addiction.
Mine is making up stories about myself. I have dream castles that are as high as the moon. Anytime my brain has a break, when I’m out walking or lying in bed going to sleep, I tell myself these fairytales. Most people wouldn’t see any problem with it, but I have tried several times to stop because I believe it is very vain and silly. Each time I end up going back to them. Only recently have I been reminded that it is also a spiritual hindrance. Here are some of the verses and thoughts God has been using to show this to me.
It started when I was reading Daniel 5. That is the chapter where Belshazzar uses the temple vessels to drink wine, and God subsequently judges him (the hand writing on the wall story from Sunday school :D). As I was reading, verse 23 really jumped out at me. The first part talks about how Belshazzar had used God’s things to toast his false gods, then the last bit says: “and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.” One of the things that popped out was the play on words that could be used. The VESSELS of the temple were being used in idolatry…WE are referred to as vessels (see Romans 9 and other verses too). When we use our bodies, our time, or our talents to praise and celebrate ‘idols’ without placing God first and foremost, we also fail to honor our Creator and are just as liable to punishment as Belshazzar.
A week later I was reading in Hosea when I came across another verse which ties into all this. “They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God, for the spirit of harlotry is in their midst and they do not know the LORD.” I wrote “Idols and ‘false lovers’ can keep one from directing their deeds toward God and can keep one’s focus on something other than God. What am I ‘playing the harlot’ to in my life that is stealing my focus from God?” In light of that, Hosea 3:1-2 was comforting. Even though Israel had gone astray, God never stopped loving His people. The same is true for me. He keeps finding me and bringing me back to Himself, even when I go astray.
Just today is when it really hit me that my stories are my harlotry. Please pray for me, that I would look to God instead of to my selfish little pleasures as a source of joy and fulfillment. In closing, here are a few verses from Hosea 13 that I read today. Although they don’t have to do directly with this subject, I think they are good reminders.
4 “Yet I am the LORD your God
Ever since the land of Egypt,
And you shall know no God but Me;
For there is no savior besides Me.
9 O Israel, you are destroyed,
But your help is from Me.
10 I will be your King;
Where is any other,
That he may save you in all your cities?
14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
O Death, I will be your plagues!
O Grave, I will be your destruction!”

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Prayer of Confession

I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:
"O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our rulers, our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame. O LORD, we and our rulers and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All of us have transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
Therefore judgments have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. All this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from us. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of your people. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your people bear your Name.”

No, I didn’t really write that. I am reading through Daniel and I read that a couple of days ago. When I read it I realized that in a lot of ways it fits God’s people now. I did change some of the wording, but it is mostly the text of Daniel 9:1-19. The part in bold especially stood out to me. We have no righteousness which demands God’s forgiveness, but He is merciful. I pray that Christians in America and all over the world would awake and return to God. No, not all Christians are rebelling against God. But many Christians, especially in America, have drifted away from living in accordance with what God desires. I believe that God is trying to get our attention through national disasters and through other things, because we tend to live as though we don’t need Him. We do desperately need God, and He is trying to remind us of that. I pray that we will listen to Him.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Welcome!

Welcome to my new space in the world of the Internet! My goal for this blog is that it will be more than just a stating of what happened in my life (though there will be some of that too, and that's fine). My number one desire in life is to seek after God (at least that's what I want to be number one), and I would like this blog to reflect that aim.

In this light, the rest of my first post will be the essay that I wrote for a college application recently. The prompt question was "What does having a relationship with God mean to you?" In the process of writing that essay, Philippians 3:10 came to mind and, through an impromptu study of Philippians, came alive. Now to the essay:

To me, having a personal relationship with God is the most important goal of my life. Although there are others things that I want to do, I want that to be number one. By some definitions, I already have a relationship with God, because I have received His gift of eternal life which I did not deserve. A true relationship with God, however, is much more than that. It consists of a friendship, which would involve listening to God, talking with Him, and acting in ways which would please Him.

Hearing God comes through reading His word, but not just to do my duty. If my heart is truly seeking to know His will, I will do more than just read a few verses and go on my way, forgetting what I have just read. Earlier this month I went on a senior retreat with the homeschool group I will be graduating with. We had a youth pastor from a local church as our speaker, and his topic was hearing God’s voice. His main point was that listening to God does not only include reading the Bible, it also consists of meditating on what the Bible says, thus applying it to my daily life. I have found this advice helpful, since my Bible reading had typically been just that: reading without any real application. Last night I read through Philippians, and wrote about some of the verses. It amazed me what God showed me, especially since some of it dealt with having a relationship with God.

Although prayers is an important part of my relationship with God, I should not demand things of God, expecting Him to give me what I want when I want it. He knows what is best for me, and His plan is already in place to carry that out. God does tell me, however, to pray for what I desire, though I should do so submissively. Talking with God is not just for asking things of Him, even if it is done in the right attitude. Prayer is also a chance to express my worship, praise, and adoration to God, and to thank Him for all the ways He provides for me.

Besides communication with God, my actions are also an important part of our relationship. When I read through Philippians, God reminded me of several things having to do with how I live my life. One of the verses He used was Philippians 1:6, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.” This points out that God started the work, He is doing the work, and He will finish the work. Often times I think that I can do it, that I can help God fix me, but this is not the case. It is His work, not mine. I can’t, He can and will. Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure,” demonstrates this same idea. He both plans and executes the work. I can take no credit for what He does in me, often despite my shortcomings.

Philippians 3:10 is what got me started yesterday evening. It says “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” I think that this verse really sums up the goal of my life. As I thought about it, I noticed that it talks about resurrection power. I can not have resurrection power if I have not died to self, been conformed to Christ’s death. This is the context of the popular verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). That strength is the resurrection power of Christ.

In the end, I can see that God is not through with me yet. I often do not utilize that resurrection power that is available to me, and when I rely on my own flesh I fail. I know, however, that God will continue to work out His plan in my life, and that the process will be easier if I submit to His Spirit. God continues to instruct me, even through answering this question. He has given me His word, He listens to my prayers, and He offers His strength and power to enable me to go out and live a life pleasing to Him. In light of all this, onward we go, “that I may know Him.”