Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Holy Cow

Exodus 20:3-6"You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments...."

In his book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller imagines a conversation that a cow bowing Israelite might have had with a raging mad Moses after he had come down from the mountain: "Calm down, Mosey. You always go up and talk to God and come back with a sunburn. You have a God to hover around your tent in a cloud, you have a God to turn your staff into a snake, and we get nothing. Nothing! It's not like we have this personal communication going with God. We need a god to worship. We need a god to touch and feel and interact with in a very personal way. So I made a cow. You can also wear it as a necklace" (p92).

God designed us to worship: without the "personal communication going with God," or worship, we will naturally worship something; it is a desire that never runs void. In a desperate attempt to turn the unseen into the seen, or the Holy into the held, a cow was crafted (interesting choice). Idols are simply something seen and tangible, when the unseen seems tangled (money when we can't see provision, person when we can't see love, etc.). Understandable, right? At the time, the Most Holy God presented Himself to His people visually, such as appearing in a cloud or fire, but that still was not enough...why? All the more today, God is manifested through His people by their love (when serving others, it's harder to selfishly seek out an idol to fulfill us, unless service itself becomes the idol). But yet, we still turn from God...why?

Because we naturally worship from our sight, not our spirit. John 4:23-24 "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

The most dangerous, as always, is the most subtle. What develops from my desires to turn my insecurities into idols? Deuteronomy 11:16 states that it's not the lie of the eye, but the delusion of my desire: “But be careful. Don’t let your heart be deceived so that you turn away from the Lord and serve and worship other gods." Satan is beautiful and uses beauty to tempt, but he knows that the heart is the seat of all desires. It was Satan's first and most successful lie (Genesis 3 - first to kill with deception, then to destroy with deluded desire) and still is today. No wonder forbidding idols is the first two of God's ten commands (Exodus 20), and is the object of God's most violent wrath (Exodus 32:9).

The Message translation of Isaiah 44:20 notes idolatry as insanity: This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can't even look at what he's doing, can't even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, "This is crazy."

It is completely insane. Why forsake the God Who creates all, provides all, satisfies all, enriches all, sustains all, and loves all for an eternal gamble on a temporary fix? Because we trust in our own understanding and deceiving heart. Because we trust the lie that "seeing is believing" instead of trusting His Truth that "believing is seeing." Believe Him; See Him.

The same pattern is repeated hundreds of times throughout history: tear down idols, consecrate the temples, worship God alone. Blessings if you do, curses if you don't - the greatest blessing is His Presence (Heaven); the greatest curse is His absence (Hell). All the "gifts on earth" are not worth anything without His Presence (Exodus 33:15, Phil 3:8).

Only the sensitivity to His Spirit can reveal the idols that tear me from being pressed against His heart. Jesus asks me, "What do you want?" - not so that He knows, but so that I know. I desire to answer completely and honestly, "I want YOU, I want YOU!" - but I my attentions and affections may reveal otherwise. May my idols be crushed at the cross of Jesus and my worship be favored at the foot of His Throne. Praise to the One who testifies to the Truth!

As a Kingdom of God living as citizens in Babylon, we are strikingly similar to the Israelites. Does their past not sound like our present? Babylon, as a whole, seems to be falling all around us; even on top of our heads. It rains on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), and no one is exempt from suffering. We cannot control the downpour, but we can connect to the Deliverer. He calls for us as a people, as His children, as His Beloved, as His nation - to humble ourselves before Him, tear down any idols in our lives, turn to Him and trust Him, praise Him and worship Him alone. Lean not on the created, but listen to the Creator. Seek Him. Believe Him. Love Him. Obey Him. Worship Him. Reverse our curse, Praise His Name.

Enjoy Him, Michelle

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Have Mercy

Esther 7:3 Then Queen Esther answered, "If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition."

Tithing the Tongue
“If I have found favor with you, O King...this is my petition.” Esther's first words were directly to her husband and respectful of her king. She knows to touch the scepter before speaking the tongue.

Like Esther, My King and my Husband tells me that my request will be given (John 14:13, Matt. 6:33). His Spirit tells me to seek His Favor and speak His Name first and forever in my prayer. Respect before Request. Praise before Petition. Hallowed be Your Name, O King.

Expose my Enemy
Esther 7:6a Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman." Esther calls out the one to be expelled. The enemy must be exposed to be extinguished. Silence softens the blow but tightens the cords of deception, especially in the denying the details. Complete confession is not condemnation, it is essential communication. Do not deny the dark and do not deny the Light – confess them both and call them all out loud - condemning the viper and praising the Victor constantly before the King Jesus.

Two as One
Esther 7:6b Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. From idolized to unified, the terrorist becomes terrified. Beth Moore notes the intimacy of the unity of the king and queen: “two people sharing life as one." In John 14:20 Jesus said, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” The cross of Christ was so that He and I could share life as one – in perfect intimacy. Though I am in Covenant union with Him, I must constantly choose devotion to Him; both for my intimacy and victory.

Falling for Mercy
Esther 7:7b "Haman was found on the queen's couch begging for mercy" and sealing his death - all in the same moment. Decisions in the dark deepen the dagger in the heart.

Isaiah 6 brings us to another man's falling before Royalty: a prophet before God on the throne. This servant of God (completely opposite to Haman) still calls out his conviction in the Presence of the King. Isaiah's confession brings mercy; not for his status, but for the lamb's sacrifice.

Fallen before His Throne, His Mercy Seat, I am never misunderstood or met with rage, but fully known and welcomed. I deserve to be hung on the gallows that I built with beams of pride, jealousy, deception, greed, anger and unbelief. My confession is this: that the Perfect King Himself has been crucified in my place on the gallows built for me. Mercy is received; only because of the Lamb's sacrifice.

If I have found favor with You, my King, and if it pleases Your Majesty, grant me my life - this is my petition. This is my cry, fallen on the lap of love.

Enjoy Him, Michelle