Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Size and Speed (Idolatry Pt 2)

I’ve been thinking about our American definition of success all over again. Most modern connotations of success are idolatrous. We set ourselves before it, we primp for it, we pray for it and to it, we spiritualize why we don’t – or worse – why others don’t have it or don’t deserve it, not recognizing that we have set up a standard based upon no authority at all, and deemed “it” worthy of a following. Deceived.

We Westerners, in particular, seem most enamored with the quest for success. I’m all for success if it means working hard, living purposeful, achieving certain goals, leaning to love, and having a desire do better. But I’ve been taught and I've observed that our post-modern distinction of success is really mostly described by words like: bigger, better, faster, brighter, more expensive, and top-of-the-line – all of which has to do with me having more than you! Shallow.

I gotta come out of the closet here: I’m a certified Jesus Freak! Not that I always live that unswervingly, but that’s my goal. And to be consistent with my stated allegiance I have to attempt to align my walk with my belief. Where I often fail is the whole area of “success” and the many atrocities against authenticity in my personhood that arise in my attempts to live up (or down?) to that elusive standard. Whose standard am I to follow? John Kenneth Galbraith said that “in economics, the majority is always wrong.” (I hate that truth!) Reality.

If I say I belong to Jesus, then to be true to Him and to myself, I have to follow His example. Instead of looking to Jesus as my Role Model, this seductive western mind-set of who's got the biggest SUV, is sickeningly, too much a part of me. OK, so you don’t have an SUV, and if you do, you’re going to try and convince me that you have one because it’s the safest thing for your family, or ironically, the best way to pull your new boat (which, by the way, is bigger than that guy down the street). Lest you think I must be wearing camel skin jeans and eating locusts and wild honey – I don’t have an SUV, I have a truck – but it’s my wife’s and we have a big family and we use it to haul junk to the dump… blah, blah, blah. It's just an SUV with the back end lowered just a bit! I’ve been bitten too with this idol. How do I know I have a problem? Because it makes me feel good when I’m driving it, and it looks good in our neighborhood, and it makes me feel like I’m successful because it has more torque than the dude’s truck down the block – because it tells me that I sort of got-it-going-on enough to own something cool to drive. Ashamed.

Crowds can be like Lemmings, they just following because the crowd in front of them appears to be going faster, farther, and more purposeful than the crowd they are leaving behind. I think it’s time we took another look at success and recognized that it is much more than “bigger, better, faster, brighter, more expensive, and top-of-the-line.” Tragic.

Jesus came with a message that tips over our pallid definition of success – even if it is amorphous. His definitions of success are far away from the adjectives we use to describe "size and speed" as signals of success. Observing Jesus’ life and teaching would indicate that success has more to do with being than doing. Someone said, "There’s a reason we’re called human beings instead of human doing." His definition seems to have more to do with loss in the natural and accumulation in the eternal; more to do with attitude than altitude. And according to the real Jesus, success has almost nothing to do with our material accumulation and public esteem. Why do you think Prosperity Theology only works in America, or when it’s supported by rich American preachers? False. (More next week . . .)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I Love Idols!!!

I love idols! WHAT? "Rod likes idols?" No, not my spirit-man, but my fleshy-man loves idols! That part of me that's truly dead but likes to make me still think "he’s" in charge and is still attached to the things from which I was rescued -- lust, greed, pride, self, and all the other underside complements to these idols -- things that take the place of my God. My flesh loves idols, but I hate them! 


What the hell is an idol? EXACTLY! Hell thrives on the proliferation of idols – images, altars, pillars, and sacred poles, erected to false gods. An idol is an image, whether physical, imaginary or "distractionary" (Ha! – I love making up new words!) that masquerade as deity by the attention and commitment we give to it (we call that "worship"). Idols were always a distraction to God’s people throughout history and eventually led to the division and deportation of the Hebrew nation by the discipline of God.


You have idols; I have idols -- images that promise comfort, passion, pleasure, ecstasy, intimacy, and exhilaration. Why are idols so bad anyway? Because, while they may seem like a well-deserved distraction allowing you and me to cool-off, calm down, finally sleep, or forget pain and stress for a few minutes, these idols and images lead us quickly from simple distraction to addiction and finally complete destruction! Like the Pied Piper on steroids, these idols come to us with promises they can’t keep. They taste like candy. They feel like pleasure. They promise ecstasy, but in reality they are taking control like a freaking camel spider on its prey! Idols, like methamphetamines, give you a great "first high" so you spend all your time looking for the next fix. But the next fix is less exhilarating than the first, and because of the first experience you do ANYTHING to get your hands on the next one, and the next, and the next.... None of them meets with the same feeling as the first. The destruction is underway. Soon you’re dead. And that really sucks! 


Idols are "the suckiest sucks that ever sucked!" (Thanks Homer!) The purpose of idols is to suck the energy from the spiritual life and the breath from the human soul. So while asking myself how to deal with some of my sucky idols -- recently found lurking closer than I wanted to admit -- I found that to rid myself of soul-sucking idols, I had to get down-right mean! To destroy idols, you and I have to do what God repeatedly told His people to do. He told them to destroy, break, cut-down, and thoroughly break into pieces idols and images of false gods that distracted them from worshiping the ONLY Being that deserves worship – the One True God. 


One such example is found in 2 Kings 11:18, "And all the people of the land went to the temple of Baal, and tore it down. They thoroughly broke in pieces its altars and images, and killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars." The rest of this little picture goes like this: "So all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet, for they had slain Athaliah..." (their idol-loving, hell-promoting-queen) 2 Kings 11:20. The whole idolatry thing is a really important issue to God!


I have to ask myself, and you have to ask yourself, what must be destroyed? What do you need to "chop down" from your computer, or "break" from your DVD player? What do you need to "tear-down and thoroughly break into pieces" from your habits with your time? What foods or drinks can you not even walk by in the store? Change stores! Here’s a good one: what people do you need to eliminate from your life? The Bible indicates that bad company (not the band) destroys good people (Prov. 1:10-19). What are you going to do in those hours you previously spent meeting those idols and images online? Put something good in their place. Don’t go there any more! Don’t go to your computer when you’re bored. Don’t go spend time with him or her or it anymore! Move! Leave and destroy the evidence! Throw it away! Cut the cord! Rip it out the wall! Pull down those images! Set up an automatic-deposit for you paycheck so you don’t have any cash in your hand when you leave work! Don’t even drive by the casino! When the sun goes down, go to bed! Do WHATEVER IT TAKES to destroy the things that are destroying you! 


The Bible says this: "Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts." (2 Tim 2:22, NLT)


Is this hard? NO!! It’s IMPOSSIBLE! So pray this prayer every fifteen minutes if you have to:


"God I’m sick to death of this [your idol(s) or image(s)]. Give me the courage to (rip it out, tear it down, pull it over, drive another way, don’t take cash, go to bed when the sun goes down . . . etc.)  This is impossible for me, Jesus, but not for You who lives in me right now! Stand against this [your idol(s) or image(s)] and strengthen me NOW with your power."