Thursday, April 18, 2013

Which "god" do you worship?

Acts 17:23  "For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you."

Paul was in Athens, the center of culture and knowledge in the Greek world.  He observed many different idols and objects of worship that had been erected throughout Athens.  Then he came upon the altar referenced above. 

I think of this altar as the "catch all altar".  Its inscription says to me that the Greeks wanted to make sure they had covered all of their spiritual bases.  There was some level of humility shown in that they erected an altar dedicated to the god or gods that they might be unaware of.  Rather than run a risk of offending one of these unknown gods, or possibly in an effort to be tolerant of whatever god someone in Athens may choose to worship that had not been acknowledged elsewhere, they erected the "catch all altar".  The inscription could have just as easily read, "TO ANY OTHER GODS WE MAY HAVE MISSED."

As Christians, we proclaim the existence of a single god.  But do we live similarly to the Greeks, worshiping many gods and idols, then showing up at church on Sunday mornings to cover that base just in case the others haven't fully worked for us?

Our society has erected just as many idols and objects of worship as what Paul observed in Athens.  Money, possessions, power, control, celebrity, education- these are all idols that many of us, through our actions and conduct, bow down and worship.  What we really worship, though, is ourselves.  These idols are simply what we have created to pursue our own definition of happiness and fulfillment apart from God.  Then we cover our bases and fill in any gaps that may exist by giving God a little attention on Sunday morning.  To the extent that our own approaches and pursuits of personal happiness and fulfillment aren't sufficient, we want to make sure we haven't offended God so that we may call on Him if and when we need Him.

We were created to know and worship God.  Our lives and our priorities sometimes suggest that we are acquainted with Him in name only, and maintain a very shallow and impersonal relationship with Him at best.  We have allowed other idols and our own pursuits to crowd God out of our lives.  What would life look like if we pursued God in the same way, and instead allowed Him to crowd out all of the meaningless idols we currently worship?

Stated more clearly, what would life look like if we worshiped God and not ourselves?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Obeying the command you've been given

Acts 8:26-27  "Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'Go south to the road - the desert road - that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.'  So he started out..."

This passage is amazing to me as an example of hearing from and responding to the Holy Spirit.  Philip heard nothing more than "go here", and he picked up and went.  No more detail, no explanation of why he was being asked to go there nor questioning what he would find.  He simply heard the command of the Holy Spirit and immediately responded in obedience.

I feel confident that my own response would have been different.  I imagine I would have unleashed a carpet bombing of clarifying questions or just waited around for a more fully-developed plan to be revealed to me.  "Why am I being asked to go there?"  What do I do when I get there?"  Why me?"  "What about the plans and responsibilities I have here?"  "When will I be back?"  "Did I hear the Holy Spirit correctly?" 

By the time I finished asking questions, the moment would have passed and the Holy Spirit would probably have given up on me.  In Philip's case, he would have missed a divine appointment that resulted in the Ethiopian eunuch coming to faith in Christ.

I pray that I may trust the Spirit enough to follow its promptings.  Let me take the step that has been asked of me, and allow God to reveal the next step in His perfect timing.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our value to God

2 Corinthians 4:7  "Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us."

We are worth nothing and worth everything all at the same time.  Paul describes us as clay jars which hold a treasure.  In that day, very expensive perfume was contained in clay or alabaster jars.  The jar had no value relative to what it held inside.  There would not be a second thought given to breaking the jar open if the valuable contents were needed or wanted.

Paul's point is to remind us that the credit for Christ living inside of us does not lie in our effort or anything else about which we may boast.  This is not to say, though, that we have no value.  On the contrary, we have immense value.  The One True God of Heaven and Earth sent His One and Only Son to live among us, die an undeserved death and pay a debt we had no chance of repaying ourselves.  To say that God chose to do this for people who have no value seems to insult the intelligence of God.  If we had no value, why would He have done that? 

Our personal value appears to be nothing in relation to the glory of God.  But make no mistake- we are immensely valuable.  God's sacrifice to save us is proof.