Idolatry is still a thing, and you may not think you have a problem with it, but the part about you being human means you probably struggle like most people. Idolatry takes place when something or someone comes between you and God. Idolatry takes place when God takes second place in our lives. Our lives will always be ordered by the objects of our worship. There are idols of entertainment, and there’s nothing wrong with wholesome entertainment, but when the majority of our time, energy and efforts are spent somewhere else instead of on the things of God, it’s a problem. The pursuit of worldly riches and the pursuit of popularity completely robs followers of Christ of the blessings of an idol-free life.
Idolatry is not ok, and it’s something we should constantly be examining in our lives. It’s crazy to even consider this, but some people idolize other people and some people idolize themselves. No one should worship the ground you walk on, and if someone does, you should stop their worship instantly. God alone is worthy of your worship! You can appreciate and be thankful for the people in your life without crossing the line of idolatry. This was the problem with many of the Hebrews coming out of Egyptian bondage. They had been surrounded by physical idols and had only heard of God, the Father of creation. Let’s admit that it’s easier to worship what you can see and touch, but we can admit also that worship doesn’t require faith. Here’s what God’s word says about man-made idols. “Their idols [are] silver and gold, The work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear; Noses they have, but they do not smell; They have hands, but they do not handle; Feet they have, but they do not walk; Nor do they mutter through their throat. Those who make them are like them; [So is] everyone who trusts in them. O Israel, trust in the LORD; He [is] their help and their shield.” Psalm 115:4-9. The apostle Paul said, “Flee from idolatry.”
To not fall before an idol you must live a disciplined life, because even today you are surrounded by them. Don’t fall for them. Worship the One True and Living God!
John 6:25 (NKJV) And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” This question was asked by a multitude of people who had witnessed the miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 people. When they had eaten and were full, they saw Jesus walk alone into the mountain and the disciples get in the boat to depart on the sea. They knew the disciples’ boat from all the rest, and they knew the first place to start looking for Jesus so He could feed them again was Capernaum, and they were right. They were seeking Jesus, but for the wrong reason. They were seeking Him only to be fed, but not to believe in Him and have a relationship with Him.
It’s just like many today who seek Christ for what He has, but not want to surrender to who He is. These are crisis Christians and situational saints and Sunday soloists—Sunday being the only day an hour is given to Him. And here’s the deal, God knows who and why we show up. Some will come to Jesus for the social status, but the Lord knows when our hearts are far from Him. No one can fool God!
The good news of this is that when those people came looking for Jesus, they found Him. They never saw Jesus get into the boat, but they had a good idea where the disciples were. And today if you are seeking Jesus, you should go to where you believe His disciples have gathered. Jesus didn’t tell the multitude to go away because they sought for the wrong reasons, He told them the truth about who He was, “I am the bread of life.” People come to Christ for many reasons. Why do you?
Reflecting on my life today filled with struggles and setbacks but how God has shown me so much mercy! Why? Who is to blame, or rather, who is to thank for God’s mercy on me? I know that God is “the Father of mercies.” I know that personally I have done nothing deserving of God’s mercy. So how is it I feel as if God has shown me so much mercy over the years? I know the things I’ve done and how I have acted and at times even rebelled against God, but there’s still mercy. There was mercy when in times of rebellion He disciplined me. When I think about where I should have been in the moments of my sin, I can’t help but wonder at the extent of His mercy for me. With all that being said, I believe there was someone in my life that God loved so much that He decided to show me great mercy. My parents have been faithful in serving and living for God all my life. God has loved them so much that He has shown “me” great mercy.
Just think, that how much you love and serve Christ could result in great mercy on the lives of your children. I believe that’s part of the reason for God’s mercy on me, but there is someone else that has brought mercy down on me. God has loved His Son Jesus so much that He has shown me mercy.
Let me ask you, do you know about the mercy of God? Don’t you know that He should have stopped us along time ago? But He is so patient and kind, and His desire is to show us great mercy! His mercy endures forever and for the fact that you have read this, God is affirming His mercy on you. You might not be able to point to parents or someone else for the cause of God’s mercy on your life, but you can certainly point to the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Judges 16:7 (NKJV) “And Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, then I shall become weak, and be like any [other] man.”
In case you didn’t know, if you’re a man, this is the enemy’s goal. His goal is to make a man of God like any other man, however he can do it, whoever he can use to do it, and whatever it costs him to do it. Samson was an unstoppable force until he met his match in Delilah. The enemy knows who to use against you. The enemy knew women were Samson’s weakness. The desires of his flesh controlled him and the determination of the enemy is what got him. And unless your devotion and dedication to God is greater than the determination of the enemy, you will join the ranks of those defeated and become like any other man. Delilah wouldn’t stop until she learned the secret of Samson’s strength. If the enemy has not brought you down and made you level with everyone else, he has not given up. So you must guard your heart and mind from sexual immorality, pornography and perversion. You must keep pursuing God because you are being pursued like David and even Solomon. For 20 years Samson put up a good fight and God’s people lived free from the enemy’s oppression, but the day his hair was cut and separated from his head, so was his mighty strength, so was the thing that distinguished him from other men. The enemy’s plan is to make you talk like, walk like, act like, and look like any other man (or woman) morally and spiritually. He could care less how physically or intellectually strong you are.
Think about this, the first thing the enemy did to Samson was put his eyes out. The enemy doesn’t want you to see where you are or recognize you are like all other men. Many times we are blind to ourselves. The enemy always celebrates too quickly because the Bible tells us that as blind and weak Samson was grinding in the Philistine’s prison, v. 22, “his hair began to grow.” If what happened to Samson has happened to you, there is some good news, your strength can be renewed. In the Philistines early celebration God gave Samson enough strength to kill more of his enemies in his death than in his life. Don’t forget this, unless your devotion and dedication to God is greater than the determination of the enemy you will become like any other man. You will become like any other Christian. To guard yourself get some spiritually healthy people around you, Samson didn’t do that. That still will not be enough though, you must have a man inside of you Jesus Christ. He will make you the unstoppable force you were made to be.
It’s possible to have so many gifts wrapped and stacked under the tree at Christmas to actually miss one. Or it’s possible you hid the gift and couldn’t find it when the time came to give it. Gifts get misplaced and sometimes forgotten, then months later or even years later they are found. Not only is this possible but it’s probably more common than we know. Some of that can be explained by just having too many gifts that you have forgotten what was purchased. It may also have something to do with the value of the gift. The greater the value, the less likely it is to be lost or forgotten.
Just like it’s possible to miss a gift when the opening frenzy begins, it’s very possible that followers of Christ haven’t discovered all the spiritual gifts God has so freely given them. Think about it, if you had a spiritual gift from God you haven’t discovered up to this point, wouldn’t you want to know what it is? We know we have at least one spiritual gift and it shouldn’t surprise us that we have more than one knowing the generosity of our Father and the kingdom purpose behind those gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual [gifts,] brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:, 7-11 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit [of all:] 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another [different] kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. When it comes to spiritual gifts, we should be as children and wonder, have I missed a gift? Why not take another look, there may be one more gift you have yet to discover. To look, tell the Father how thankful you are for the gifts He has already given you, then ask Him if there are any more. I can promise you He will not be upset, but He will be delighted in you.
I have noticed that quite often during my day, for no apparent reason, I start thinking about my two grandsons. I have this happen to me with my children who are all grown as well. I know that God will put different people on your mind, but my two grandsons and my own kids seem to always come to mind during the day. Perhaps this has been happening for years, but just recently the thoughts of my kids and grandkids has become more and more noticeable. And I’ve wondered, is this normal? Does this happen to other people as well? I can be in the middle of studying for a lesson and thoughts of them pop up like windows popping up on the computer. What I have discovered is that this is normal, and if it were not normal, I would still be ok with it because those are the most treasured people in my life. If you think about it, our Father in heaven does the same thing; however, the thoughts He has of you and me are not random or like pop-up windows, but they are more like His screensavers. Here’s what the word says about His thoughts of you:
Psalms 33:11 “The counsel of the LORD stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.”
Psalms 40:5 “Many, O LORD my God, [are] Your wonderful works [Which] You have done; And Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; [If] I would declare and speak [of them,] They are more than can be numbered.”
John 1:48 “Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Sounds to me like our Father in heaven never stops thinking about you and me. You are always on His mind and in His thoughts. But why? Doesn’t God have greater things to meditate on and give attention to? The answer is yes and no. Just like with me, I think about my kids and grandkids because my heart is full of love for them. God never stops thinking about you because He never stops loving you. The next time you think about one of your children or grandchildren, be reminded that your Heavenly Father is thinking about you and has a love for you that is everlasting. It is normal!
What do you have in your house? This was the question the prophet Elisha asked a widow woman who was grieving because she had just lost her husband and was living under the threat of losing her two sons to a creditor she owed. Her response was “nothing except a jar of oil.” Her house was literally empty as the creditor had most likely taken everything she owned to satisfy her debt, and the only thing left of any value were her two sons. She was filled with grief over her loss, filled with fear about losing her sons, and completely empty and drained of life as a result—and the creditor didn’t care. We live in a world that’s the same way, and the events, demands, losses, attacks will leave you the same way. If that describes you right now, you need to study the widow woman in 2 Kings 4, because her life turned around. Her life turned around because she knew where to go for directions. Because her husband feared the Lord, she knew that in a time of need she needed to go to a man of God, Elisha. There are men and women of God who can point you in the right direction and should ask you, “What do you have in your house?” The widow already had what she needed, she just didn’t know what to do with it. Elisha gave her specific instructions, “Go and borrow a lot of empty vessels from your neighbors, and get a bunch,” (my paraphrase). Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you and pour out into the empty vessels. Sounds strange, but here’s the point—when you have a crisis-level need and ask God for provisions, always be ready to follow His instructions no matter what.
The widow had what she needed already, she just needed to pour it out. As she poured out in faith and obedience, God poured in. She started out with nothing, but ended up with all she needed and was a witness to all her neighbors, the creditor, her sons, and to us. God is ready today to pour into your life, but you have to answer the question, what’s in your house? If you have by faith accepted Christ’s death on your behalf, the Spirit of God lives within you and you are the dwelling place of His Spirit—He lives in your house! In Him, you have all that you need. Follow God’s instructions in faith and obedience and let your life be full again.
When I Pray Praying to God has always been a part of my life. I know how to pray, but I’m still learning to hear God’s voice and to pray those things He places on my mind, and I’m still learning how to be still in His presence. One of the privileges we have in praying is making intercession for others. Recently I have been especially blessed by visualizing myself standing before the throne of God in my prayer time, and I sincerely believe I am there. This is the faith of every believer whether they visualize this or not. I’m not trying to visualize God, but rather, as I stand there and talk to God, I begin to call out the names of those I’m praying for and then visualize individuals joining me as I speak their name to the Father. Usually I’m standing there before God and I start calling out the names of my family. And I will say something like, “Father, I have Kristen (my wife) with me, and I know you know her needs, so I ask you to bless her (and I will name in details of what I know to pray for her). And I will do every member of my family that way, but the point is I’m standing before God with them beside me. After that, I go through my prayer list of other names, calling each one out and then again seeing them with me. I call out the names of those in my church, and by the time I finish my time in prayer, I’m standing in the throne room of God with a lot of people!
Praying this way takes time and faith and it can renew your love for praying for others. God’s Word says, “But without faith [it is] impossible to please [Him,] for he who comes to God (in prayer) must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.“ —Hebrews 11:6 Why not try this the next time you go to the Lord in prayer and see how many people you can bring into the throne room of God with you. “…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” —Ephesians 6:18 When you go to God in prayer, don’t go by yourself. Bring as many people as you can into the throne room of God. That’s what it’s there for and that’s why the door is always left open.
Whatever you do, don’t let your heart become hard. The hardening of the heart is the most natural thing to have happen in our lives. The world we live in is a hard world that takes us through difficult times and hard places. We often get jerked around by unforeseen events. I would be one to say that if your heart has not become hard, it’s a miracle of God. The hardening of the heart is a built-in defense mechanism used to protect us from getting hurt again. I remember as a young boy playing games and getting hurt but would say, “That didn’t hurt,” when in reality, it did! Granted there are people who have a high tolerance for pain, and then there are some who have just let their hearts get hard and numb. Sinning against God and denying the truth are hardening agents of the heart. The symptoms of a hard heart are apathy and not much sympathy for this hurting around you. Shallow relationships, keeping people at a distance, and refusing to listen are all signs of a hard heart. If you never feel anything, you may have a hard heart. No one ever wants to have one, but many do. God’s word says in Proverbs 4:23 “Keep (guard) your heart with all diligence, For out of it [spring] the issues of life.”
The fullness and blessings of life will pass you by if you have a hard heart and you don’t address it with intentional actions. Ask God to help you make your heart tender again, because that is what He wants for all of us. Add some heart softener to your heart everyday by reading God’s word. Then keep a monitor on your heart to reflect on how you interact with others, especially strangers.