Category Archives: Idolatry

The Passion of a Disciple

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“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
-Luke 14:26

collegefootballidolI don’t know if this photograph is real or photoshopped, but I do know that the situation in our churches make that photograph plausible.  The South is no longer the “Bible Belt.”  It is the College Football Belt.  But, the idolatry of sports (especially college football) pervades the Church across America.  I came to this conclusion back in 2012 when we moved to Warner Robins, Georgia.

Every new Air Force assignment for me requires a move to a new location and that means we have to find a new church wherever we move.  One Sunday in November 2012 we visited a church in Warner Robins.  The song portion of the worship service was typical of what I had seen all over the country: people showing up late, men standing in the sanctuary with their arms crossed or with hands in pockets, women holding coffee cups, hardly anyone singing.

I tried to ignore them. I was there to worship God, but it does put a damper on your attitude of worship when your supposed brothers and sisters do not appear to be as enthusiastic about worshipping Jesus as you are. (I am not saying this in self-righteousness. I am simply describing that the outward posture of the people in that church demonstrated a lack of zeal for worship.)  Anyway, I wanted to worship God.  I was disappointed when the obligatory three songs were over and we were told to be seated.

Then the pastor took the stage.

That’s when the congregation appeared to be more animated.  The silence from the congregation when we sang worship songs was erased by “cat calls,” jeers, whistles, and the random “Roll Tide!” from the crowd.  You see, this Georgia pastor just happened to be a ‘Bama fan, and that Sunday just happened to be the day after Texas A&M defeated Alabama 29-24.  The congregation was giving the pastor quite a ribbing because his team lost.

The pastor then spent 15-20 minutes of his sermon time talking about the game and college football.  Whereas before, the congregation appeared bored and uninterested to be there, they now came alive.

What motivated them?  The Almighty, Infinite God?  No, not hardly.  College football motivated them.  The difference in the congregation was stark.  They had more passion for Saturday afternoons than for Sunday mornings.

And this difference in passions occurred in church no less!  So, perhaps you can understand why I harp on this idolatry in the Church.  I see more “Roll Tides” and “War Eagles” and “Go Dawgs” from Christians in my Facebook newsfeed than I do songs, and hymns, and spiritual songs.

I do not single out anyone to tell them they have a sports idolatry.  I simply speak in general terms to address the issue, hoping people will honestly evaluate themselves.  I get a lot of push-back, though.  No one seems to have a problem, yet nothing changes in the Church.  I love my brothers and sisters.  I know that most of them are sincere in their faith and do not want to worship idols.  I have to trust that they are being honest with themselves and with God.

collegefootballreligionMeanwhile, my Facebook newsfeed continues to be filled with people’s sports passions.

In the Scripture above, Jesus spoke to a multitude of people about the cost of discipleship.  Being a disciple of Jesus means that we are to be so devoted to Him that our passion for other things is to seem like hatred in comparison.  Discipleship requires sacrifice, following Jesus, laying down our lives, our passions for the sake of the Gospel.

The disciple of Jesus demonstrates his passion by bearing his cross.  As disciples of Christ, perhaps one of the things we need to nail to the cross is our passion for college football.

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Me? An Idolater?

I debated whether I was going to address our American sports idolatry this fall.  It is such a touchy subject for some.  Most do not believe they have a sports idolatry, I mean, after all, sports is not inherently evil, right?  Yet, everywhere I go our churches are filled with people who are more passionate about Saturday afternoons than Sunday mornings, or more excited about the opening kickoff than an opening hymn.

If you do not think there is a sport idol in America, watch this commercial:

Before you dismiss any call to evaluate idolatry in your lives, read these articles:

3 Questions to Detect Sports Idolatry
SPORTS IDOLATRY? Has America Made Football Its God?
When Does Sports Become Idolatry?
Worshiping The False God Of Football
Idolatry Season Has Begun

I concluded that I had a sports idolatry a few years ago.  I spent too much time watching sports, talking about sports, thinking about sports, arguing about sports.  It caused me to dislike some people.  I identified myself by what teams I supported.  I evaluated myself honestly and found that I was more passionate for my teams than I was for God.  I had to remove this idol.  Because I identified this idol in my life I can identify it elsewhere.

I debated whether to address our sports idolatry again until I came across this passage in Ezekiel 6:3-7 just this morning:

3 You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places.

4 Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols.

5 And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars.

6 Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be waste and the high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined, your idols broken and destroyed, your incense altars cut down, and your works wiped out.

7 And the slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the LORD.

sportsidol-01Brothers and sisters, idolatry is a serious matter with God.  How long will we be like the Church of Corinth, attending sacred assemblies on Sunday and dining with idols the rest of the week?  God slew his own people who defiled his temple with idols.  Do we think God will not chasten us because “we are under grace?”

“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.”
-I Corinthians 10:14-15

Yes, Church, we do worship idols, most prominently the idol of sports.  Let us flee this abomination, and destroy it as thoroughly as King Josiah destroyed the idols in his day when he had the people tear down the idols, burn them with fire, pound them into powder, and spread their ashes.  Assuming I was merely spouting my opinion again, someone asked me where the line is drawn between idolatry and appropriate leisure.  I responded that I’ve found that as we get closer to God, and know Him in a deeper way, we will know for ourselves where that line is.  Knowing God requires us to die to ourselves.  Our idols are a false reality.  God is the only source of truth.  God does not demand we put away our idols for His sake, but for our own.  God knows that it is to our detriment that we place our passions on and worship things that are false, on things that cannot give us true meaning and worth.  Only in worshipping Him will we find true meaning in our lives.

Judge for yourselves if what I say is the truth.

Let us finally be the Church that worships God exclusively!

Is the World Going Insane, or Am I?

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I came to a realization last night after the Republican Party booed conscience, and cheered “I’m proud to be gay.”  Either the world is going insane, or I am.  That question is what I’m going to ponder over the next month while I avoid social media.

mad-worldI know that the Scripture says not to announce your fast to avoid self-righteousness.  My announcement of my fast of social media, however, is not to promote myself as a “holier-than-thou” person.  For those of you who still read my writing (and by the look of my blog traffic, few of you still do) I want to explain my absence.  I’ve been accused of dropping judgmental bombs and then flying under the radar for a time in order to let the uproar die down only to swoop in and drop more.

Before I go any further, I want to say how much I love and appreciate my wife, Dawn.   God has used her to help center me and keep me disciplined.

Dawn, I used to think that God doesn’t have just one person for someone to marry, but that the person you marry becomes that one person.  Now, I see God’s orchestration in brining us together to be the perfect spouse for my perfection and sanctification.

I came to this crossroads last night.  The world seems to be falling apart.  Even the Republican Party is celebrating the sin of homosexuality.  The party that used to be dominated by conservative Christians is now dominated by godless conservatives.  The opposing political party, the party that booed God at their national convention in 2012, enthusiastically cheers on and supports a hypocritical, godless criminal as their pick for president.

My life’s goal has been to speak the truth in a world that loves lies.  Lately, even those of my spiritual family, however, seem to be tone deaf to the message I bring.  Whether it be the Church’s idolatry (of sports, coffee, entertainment, family, tolerance, self-esteem, etc.) or on what truth is to be spoken and how it’s to be spoken.  I’ve been harping on a Church filled with people who appear to me to worship college football, the NFL, the NBA alongside of their worship for God.  I see more enthusiasm for things of sports than things of God, nobody seems to think that this observation applies to them.  The usual retort is to say that sports is not inherently evil, and so the idolatry goes on.

I still have a sports idolatry.  Not when I play them as recreation, but when I root for my teams.  I have decided to completely tear down this idol.  It’s an idol that is working against God anyway.  Besides taking my heart away from worshiping God exclusively, it is trannyworking against God in our society by taking stands for unrighteousness.  The NBA just announced that it is moving the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, NC because of the law that protects young girls from being forced to shower with grown men.  The NFL threatened to move the Superbowl.  Disney, the rock band Boston, and other entertainment companies have vowed to boycott places that protect religious liberty.

Even after Christians are made aware of this, they continue to vociferously consume this entertainment as if nothing is wrong.

I’ve been trying to get to know who God is and how I am to worship him.  I see silly “worship” songs that seem to get Christians motivated emotionally but are devoid of anything theological.  I think I am speaking the truth, but I keep getting push back from people, or worse, they completely ignore me.  It seems people are afraid to have a discussion because it might get unpleasant.  So, they avoid the exchange of ideas and are never exposed to a true idea that might steer them to the truth.

I am not saying I always have the truth.  Being confident in your opinion and insisting on it being the truth is not self-righteousness nor is it arrogant. Of course I think I’m right, otherwise I would not have voiced or advocated a position. Others think they are right, otherwise they wouldn’t challenge my position. But the debate needs to happen because it is in that discussion that we work toward what is true.

The truth is sometimes presented in an arrogant way (of which I know I am sometimes guilty).

“…’Sometimes’ you say?”

OK, enough from the peanut gallery. I try not to be arrogant.

“Maybe you need to try harder.”

Are you done? I have a serious point here.

People tend to read emotions into social media posts that simply aren’t in the minds of the authors. Then the authors get accused for the way they made the readers feel.

Boys and girls, it’s time to put down those participation trophies, leave your safe spaces, and grow into fully functioning adults.

First of all, don’t assume offense was intended. We probably are not as clairvoyant as we think. Secondly, we are not required to carry offense, real or imagined. This situation is the kind for which Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek.

Social media is a place of human communication. Wherever humans interact there are bound to be miscommunications, misunderstandings, and mistakes. There will also be malevolence. The solution is not to shut down the forum or to limit it to light-hearted, soft-headed discussions. To do so would simply yield the forum to banality and lies.

Social media is full of truth claims that compete and clash. Sometimes this conflict produces more heat than light. For Christians to avoid the conflict altogether is not what God has called us to do. The Church has largely avoided conflict with the secular humanists in our culture and now all of our institutions are run by secular humanists.

We must be willing to cross swords with wicked and vain philosophies without cowering because someone might be offended, even on social media. We must speak the truth in love. But speaking the truth in love still requires speaking the truth.

Because I want to be on the side of truth and not promoting lies, I am open to having my mind changed.

hqdefaultThere is something wrong.  It is either me, or the world.  I know my fellow believers do not want to be on the side of lies, but I’m not convinced they are courageous enough to seek the entire truth.  Then again, am I deluded in thinking that I have the truth that no one else has?  Am I pompous, condescending, arrogant?  Am I speaking the truth, but people are turned off by my personality, or the manner in which I present the truth?  Are people so engrossed in postmodernism that any presentation of the truth is offensive to them?  I want to find out the answers.

I intend to avoid social media to free up more time to seek God, and pursue the truth.  I hope to offer to you what I have found.  I am jealous for the glory of God, and ardent in my defense of the truth.  I just don’t want to make my ministry an idol.

See you in a month.

Chris