My idol factory

Growing up I never took seriously the Bible’s warnings against idolatry as I thought there were not that relevant. Maybe in Thailand where bus drivers take their hands off the wheel to say a silent prayer at every Buddha shrine they drive past! Very few of us have private shrines in our homes to other gods. How wrong I was. Idolatry is, according to Roman 1, the underlying sin of our age as people have “worshipped and served created things rather than the creator”. Our hearts are idol factories.
 
 
Ten Commandments
Have no other Gods before me, is the first commandment. The Bible is not politically correct and the competition commission would certainly not be happy. But God demands that we treasure him alone for he is the only God. This means turning from rebellion towards God and trusting in Jesus.
 

Have no idols, the second command, clarifies the first. To have other gods before God is idolatry. An idol can be ANYTHING that takes the place of God in your life. ANYTHING that demands your devotion and where you seek your security and significance. ANYTHING you treasure instead of God.

 

It could be the sex idol. You know you’re serving this god when you demand sex – when you want it, how you want it and you’re angry when you don’t get it. You’re even willing to hire an escort, watch porno or swing with someone else’s wife.

The work idol demands that we spend all our daylight hours in the office and only see our children on weekends

The money idol demands that your happiness is caught up with the JSE.

The leisure idol allows you to worship Jesus at church only when the weather on Sundays is too windy to go the beach or not wet enough to stay in bed.

The worship of the acceptance idol calls for your Facebook status to be changed every hour and it is also because of the worship of this idol that girlfriends allow boyfriends to take naked photos of them.
Of course there are also religious idols like my right-doctrine idol or my moral-record idol, and even my ministry-achievement idol.

The media calls you to worship these and other idols by “worship-calling”, known also as advertising.

So, do you worship Jesus alone, or some other idol? Do you strive to keep the first two commandments?

Are you a (irritating) compulsive grumbler?

Have you been to a braaivleis (South African BBQ) recently? Did you come home depressed because of the compulsive grumblers? I did. Too much corruption in the government! Too much unemployment! Too much crime! The petrol price. The schools. The youth. The weather! You name the subject, it gets grumbled about. Perhaps even more seriously, we grumble privately to ourselves: Life is so unfair. My salary is too low. If only God would… Grumble, grumble, grumble. Grumbling should be declared our national hobby! What astounds me is that Christians are often the biggest grumblers.

Continue reading Are you a (irritating) compulsive grumbler?

Claiming your miracle

I’m constantly surprised by the number of miracles crusades, healing services and even (I’m not lying!) raising the dead ceremonies in Cape Town in the name of Jesus. The basic premise underlying the theology of the organisers of these events is that signs, wonders and miracles should be common place in the Christian’s life. In fact, if they are not happening, you should doubt whether you are a real, bona fide Christian.

Suffer the Child: Jesus’ disarming of Satan

Judith Spencer, tells in her book (Suffer the child) of little Jenny who was born to a mother who was member of Satanic cult. As a pre-schooler she was initiated into this group and remembers how she read from a bible that cursed God and praised Satan. She watched people have sex on the devil’s alter and witnessed torture and sacrifice of dogs, cats, chickens, squirrels and goats. She experienced blood drawn from her genitals and skin scraped over her body for use in satanic communion rituals. The title of book is from a phrase that Jenny often heard the priest use, “Suffer the little children to come to me, for such is the kingdom of hell.” Two psychotherapists have been treating Jenny, as she created over 400 personalities as a method of psychic survival.

Top Billing a.k.a. getting your priorities straight

I think the programme that I dislike most on TV is Top Billing. Top Billing idolizes luxury, extravagance, opulence and excess. So we strive for bigger mansions, more exclusive interior designers, softer carpets and heated towel railings. Before you ask (I know you will): I live in a comfortable house worth over a million rand and have just painted half of it inside so it looks nice.

What I am blogging for is perspective. Sure God gives us every good thing to enjoy and as Christians do deny or reject God’s good gifts would be dumb. But somehow I think that we as Christians have got our priorities somewhat lopsided.

God, through the prophet Haggai in the Old Testament, lashed out at his people for decorating their own home while the temple (God’s symbolic home) in Jerusalem was lying in ruins. God’s people had returned from 70 years in exile and their houses were in a mess and no doubt needed some attention. Yet, by the time of Haggai’s prophecy, God’s people had been back 19 years from exile and the temple remained unbuilt.

The excuse was that the timing was not quite right for the rebuilding (Haggai 1:2). Interestingly, the people did have time to decorate and beautify their own homes (1:4). The reason for this, according to God, was that the people did not fear or revere the LORD Almighty (1:12), nor did they live for his pleasure or honour (1:8). In other words, God’s people didn’t think much of God and were living for their own entertainment and comfort. As a result, their experienced lack of pleasing and judgment. Four times in the book of Haggai God says to his people, “What’s up with this, consider what you do!” God called for his people to make temple building their priority.

I bet that if you had to ask one of Haggai’s audience where God was on their priority list, they would have said that of course in first place. But actions speak louder than words.

The temple, which symbolised God’s presence, in a picture of Jesus, who is God’s presence with us. So now, if we want to worship and meet with God we don’t get on a plane to Jerusalem, but bow down to Jesus. Getting our priorities straight means prioritising our relationship with Jesus and prioritizing Jesus’ work. Too many of us spend too much of our time, talents and treasure on our own entertainment, comfort and home decoration, than on Jesus and his work (i.e. giving generously to gospel ministry, hospitality, serving the local church, encouraging others etc).

God says to us too: “What’s up with this?”

Is your church a cult?

 
You may be in great danger! 1 Timothy 4:1 in the bible says that some will “abandon the faith and follow the teachings of demons”. Interestingly, it does not say they will abandon faith. And so today we find many churches and organisations teaching all kinds of doctrines that people believe and put their faith in. The verse says that they will abandon “the” faith, that is, accepted, orthodox, biblical Christianity. Ultimately Satan, the master-deceiver and world-seducer, is behind all churches and groupings and denominations that abandon the truth of the bible as old-fashioned, irrelevant and naïve.

So how do you know if you’re in a cult?

1. Key doctrines are downplayed
For example: the authority & inspiration of the bible; the fact that all humanity is depraved through sin; Jesus’ death was penal substitution; through faith in Jesus alone were are members of God’s kingdom; Jesus is a model for all Christians; God has made male and female gender distinctions & sex outside marriage is sin; the reality of an eternal, conscious hell for unbelievers; Satan & demons are real etc.

2. Lots of legalism
Your church will have rules and regulations for your dress code, your activities, your finances, your time, your possessions and your relationships (including who you are permitted to marry. They will dictate to you who to see, what to do, what the right thing to say is and how to say it. Various degrees of control can be experienced, from subtle manipulation to blatant ordering. Obviously this is dangerous because in the process the gospel of God’s free grace in Jesus is distorted: No longer just Jesus, now Jesus plus obedience to our rules. Oh yes, I almost forgot, the rules don’t always apply to the leader!

3. Leaders are full of pride and have an unteachable spirit
Normally in cults the leader becomes untouchable by anyone. He is accountable to God only and everyone must obey what he says like it is God’s words.

4. Extra revelation from God
Cults regularly claim they that god has appeared to their leader and revealed a new message. It might be Joseph Smith of the Mormon “church”; pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy of the kingdom of Jesus Christ; David Koresh of the Branch Davidians; or your local minister who God appeared to last week. Time and again the new revelations refer to the end of the world and how the earthquake in China is a sign.

5. The only true church
If you ever hear something like this, “We are the only ones who are right. If you are not one of us, then you are destined for hell. We alone have the truth, so you must join us to be saved“, then RUN!

Don’t fall for it
The way to make sure you don’t join a cult is to scrutinise the statement(s) of faith any particular church you are thinking of joining. Friendliness and good music are nice, but not the main criteria when looking for a church. Check that the church has a statement of faith where their core beliefs and values are spelt out. Ensure that the preaching is from the bible, in line with their faith-statements, to judge whether they have kept THE faith.

How do we love sinners yet hate sin?


Jesus came to call sinners to repentance, not those who think God is impressed with them. Jesus hung out with sinners, even endured being called an alcoholic and glutton, for the sake of the gospel.

How do we also befriend, hang-out with, and engage sinners who sin, without compromising our own godliness? What do we do when we find out the couple we are trying to build a friendship with are swingers? Or the friend from the pilates class, who I invited for a chicken salad, snorts coke? Or the guys from the office circulate who porn?

Jesus’ example in John 8 helps us.

1. Treat sinners with dignity and respect
The woman is caught in adultery. Adultery is grievous to God, even punishable by stoning according to Old Testament law. She deserved to die. Yet Jesus treat her with honour and respect, even calling her “woman”, the same word he called him mother in John 2. Big lesson: Sinners (even bad sinners) are humans, created in the image of God and should be treated as such.

2. Call sin sin
Jesus however did not compromise on the reality of sin. Jesus did not excuse her sin or avoid talking about it. He said to her, “leave your life of sin”, implying that it was a sinful life! We should not be too embarrassed or intimidated to call sin sin. We can be open and honest when asked our opinion or when called to give advise.

3. Remain godly at all times
Jesus was a heterosexual male in his earl 30’s. This woman, presumably half-dressed, caught having sex is put on display in front of him. Yet, Jesus remains godly, full of integrity and self-control. We are called to the same. We need to be discerning as to what were we can participate and when we have to back off and possibly even leave the situation or decline the invite. Compromise our godliness would be selling out, not reaching out.

4. Point sinners to Jesus
The religious leaders actually did quite a good thing for the sinful woman: they bought her to Jesus, the only one who can deal with her sin. Unfortunately, when the leaders’ sin was exposed, they slunk away from the source of forgiveness. Our over-arching aim in being friends with non-Christians is to point and introduce them to Jesus.

5. Call for repentance
Once this woman was introduced to Jesus and forgiven, Jesus commanded her to leave her life of sin. We should expect the same from our friends who came to know Jesus. No longer excuses or justifications for an ongoing lifestyle of habitual sin, but rather a renewed passion for holiness and obedience to the bible.

Outstanding issue
The Old Testament law demanded that the woman be punished by death. How could Jesus simply forgive her and thus break a law of God? Actually, the law was upheld! The woman’s sin was punished by death – Jesus’ death. Jesus died for her sins. Jesus died for your adultery and pride and greed too.