Monday, April 30, 2012

Our Passion

Excerpt from Erik Raymond post:  Is This Evangelical Coach Out of Bounds?


Brown is arguably the most influential evangelical in Nebraska. He is routinely asked to speak at churches because people look up to him and love him. This is true inside and outside the church. As a veteran local sage at the Omaha World-Herald noted, Brown has a track record of public engagement on moral issues.
Brown has been consistent in his convictions and beliefs for the 20-some years I've covered him, and gotten to know him. He's been speaking out and attending so many meetings, for so many years, quoting the good book and suggesting how folks should live their lives, that he's become a bit of a caricature of himself.
Why would the writer say this? Brown has a reputation for boldly speaking out on moral issues, and we have come to expect it.
Why is this a concern? Because many, like this columnist, hear a list of "do's" and "don'ts" in his soundbites and statements. This is where we all should be listening to those who listen to us. Are they hearing gospel or moralism? Are we preaching the gospel of what Jesus did or what we need to do/not do?
D. A. Carson has helpfully said, "It is easy to sound prophetic from the margins, what we need is to be prophetic from the center." That is, preaching against issues that flow out of a rejection of the gospel (sexual sin, abortion, etc) are peripheral and must be addressed by means of the core gospel, that which is of first importance (1 Cor. 15:3-5).
I asked Brown about the danger of his message being reduced merely to moralism. Brown pounced on this like an open-field tackle:
I do not want to see a moral Nebraska. I want to see a Nebraska and a country transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why I do all of this. Everything is about getting the truth of Jesus Christ out.
Brown's view of homosexuals does not emerge clearly in this media dust-up. Many have argued that he is hateful towards gays. He told me:
That's not true. It is not all about seeing homosexuals become hetereosexuals. This is not the message of the gospel. The gospel is about all types of sinners (like me) who are unbelievers becoming believers. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not discriminatory, it is all inclusive: we are all sinners. I am pretty consistent in talking to all types of people about Christ. This is the thing that encourages me in this whole thing: the gospel of Christ is being presented. God will forgive people. He will give a clean-slate to all who turn from sin and trust in Jesus.
As you listen to Brown talk about his burden for the gospel to take root, and then you re-read the soundbites, you feel the burden of Carson's words all the more: we must be prophetic from the center. They will hear what we are passionate about. We have to keep hitting those gospel notes, because it is a strange sound to people who do not yet recognize the tune.

Radical Flavor

Tony Reinke (DG) post:  Where Are God's Men?  Where Are God's Women?

John Piper gave this plea in his 2008 message at Together for the Gospel:
My desire and prayer for you is that your life and ministry have a radical flavor. The flavor of risk, sacrifice, love, simplicity, joy, freedom, and precarious adventure.
In 1939, Howard Guinness, one of the early founders of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, wrote a little book called Sacrifice. He was trying to do then what I am trying to do now. He wrote,
Where are the young men and women of this generation who will hold their lives cheap, and be faithful even unto death, who will lose their lives for Christ’s, flinging them away for love of him? Where are those who will live dangerously, and be reckless in this service? Where are the men of prayer? Where are the men who count God’s Word of more importance to them than their daily food? Where are the men who, like Moses of old, commune with God face to face as a man speaks with his friend? Where are God’s men in this day of God’s power?
Indeed, where are the pastors who say with the apostle Paul, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24)?
Where are the pastors who say with Joab to his brother Abishai, when surrounded by Syrians and Ammonites, “Be of good courage, and let us play the man for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him” (2 Samuel 10:12)?
Where are the young women—single and married—who say with Esther, when the life of her people hung in the balance and Mordecai asked her to risk her life, “I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16)?
Closely tied to this plea is the message delivered by David Platt at the most recent T4G conference, "Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions." After hearing the message, Pastor John tweeted: “This may have been the most powerful missions message I've ever heard. I needed to be quiet with God.” That message is now online (audiovideo).

It's Out of Control

Mark Batterson post:  DIVINE APPOINTMENTS

Proverbs 16:9 is one of my favorite promises: “In his heart a man plans his course, but God orders His footsteps.”  I’ve circled it for years! I also love Psalm 37 which says the same thing in different words: “the steps of the righteous are ordered of the Lord.” All I know is this: God is awfully good at getting us where He wants us to go!
I feel like I have at least one divine appointment everyday these days. It’s out of control.  And I mean that literally.  I almost feel like a pawn on God’s chessboard.
I live by a simple principle: Don’t worry about meeting the right people.  Focus on meeting with God. If you meet with God, He’ll make sure you meet who you need to meet when you need to meet them!  After all, God knows everyone!
Prayer has a way of turning ordinary appointments into divine appointments.  Nothing like it.  Let God call the shots!  When you follow Jesus, you never know WHO you’ll meet, WHAT you’ll do, or WHERE you’ll go.

Great Paradox

Henri Nouwen Society:  Losing and Gaining Our Lives 

The great paradox of life is that those who lose their lives will gain them.  This paradox becomes visible in very ordinary situations.  If we cling to our friends, we may lose them, but when we are non-possessive in our relationships, we will make many friends.  When fame is what we seek and desire, it often vanishes as soon as we acquire it, but when we have no need to be known, we might be remembered long after our deaths.  When we want to be in the center, we easily end up on the margins, but when we are free enough to be wherever we must be, we find ourselves often in the center.

Giving away our lives for others is the greatest of all human arts.  This will gain us our lives.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

His Treasured Possession

Scotty Smith:  A Prayer about Why God Loves Us

     The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers. . . . Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Deut 7:6-89:6
     Dear Father, I’ve been thinking about our future life in the new heaven and new earth a lot lately. The more aware I am of my brokenness and the brokenness all around me, the more I long for the amazing future you’ve promised your children.
     Indeed, the more I ponder images of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-22:6), the more I experience “doxological overload.” A life devoid of chaos and evil and a world permeated with goodness and grace has never looked so good. However, I need to be reminded all the time that our present relationship with and our coming life in heaven, are ours by inheritance, not wage—it’s what you freely give us, nothing that we could ever earn. Eternal Hallelujahs we shout!
     Forgive us when we’re still tempted to believe there’s something we can do to make you love us. Forgive us when we think there’s something we can do to make you to regret you chose us and make you renege on your promises. Our arrogance and unbelief have infected every cell of our being.
     We’re your treasured people because you chose to make us your treasure. We didn’t choose you. Apart from the gospel we’d still be hating you, rebelling against you and trying our best to ignore you. But you set your love upon us in eternity and revealed this great affection when you sent Jesus to be our Redeemer. And we wouldn’t love Jesus unless you’d given us a new heart by the Spirit and the faith we need to receive eternal life.
     The only reason we’ll enjoy life in the ultimate land—the new heaven and new earth—is because of the righteousness of Jesus. Apart from Jesus’ righteousness, we have none. We’re still a stubborn people, in desperate need of more and more grace. Our stubbornness is seen most clearly in our refusal to believe the gospel; in the ways we still give our hearts to other gods and saviors; and in our multiplied failures to love each other as Jesus loves us. We need the gospel of your grace, everyday and every hour.
     Father, we are thrilled and grateful to affirm, that by the same grace you justified us, you’re sanctifying us—you’re making us like Jesus. From beginning to end, this whole journey is by grace alone to your glory alone. You will complete the good work you began in us.
     Until the Day Jesus returns to finish making all things new, we’ll seek to give you the praise you deserve and the obedience of love. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ beautiful and bountiful name.

Ultimate Demand Met

Tullian Tchividjian post:  Three Ways We Say "No" To Law

I was in New York City this past weekend with some friends at The Mockingbird Conference. Best time in NYC I’ve ever had. The work and ministry of my friend David Zahl and his crew is simply the best in the biz. And I’m a hard guy to please. If you’re unfamiliar with Mockingbird, you HAVE to familiarize yourself with them. What they’re doing is unlike anything else.
Their mission is to connect the Christian faith with the everyday realities of life–”demonstrating and cataloging the myriad ways in which the Christian understanding of reality (what people are like, what God is like and how the two intersect) is born out all around us. We want to do so in a way that is both comforting and inspiring, taking care along the way to look for new words for the old story.” It’s gripping and provocative stuff.
They just published a new book entitled This American Gospel: Public Radio Parables and the Grace of God. I read the intro and first chapter last night. I laughed and cried. I felt my desperation and God’s deliverance profoundly. I connected deeply with this…I hope you do to.
The Law is shorthand for an accusing standard of performance. Whenever the Law is coming, accusation comes close behind. Whenever an expectation stands before us, we are either condemned by our failure before it, or we become condemners in our fulfillment of it. The Law is unfeeling–it tolerates no excuses, it accepts no shortcuts. The Law is good, in that it proffers a good standard (“You shouldn’t smoke”, “Love one another”, “Spend on the money you have”, etc.), but it is received as condemnation when one finds oneself incapable of fulfilling it. It is for this reason–our eventual and consistent failures–that the Law is condemnation’s prerequisite.
Failure before the Law always creates a reaction. When criticized, we defend. As Paul Zahl says, it is not so much the Law’s demand, but, “its second characteristic, it’s inability to produce the obedience it requires…we instinctively fight the law. We use a thousand arguments to criticize it and flour it. Obeying speed limits do not come naturally…”
You are brought to a moment of internal crisis, where something you are is in conflict with something you ought to be.
In the face of judgment, one response is flight. You run from what someone thinks you ought to be. You stop going to the gym, you leave home and experience the world through travel, you don’t answer their phone calls anymore, you close your eyes and cover your ears. The idea is: I know the judge isn’t leaving anytime soon, so I will. Sayonara!
Or perhaps you attempt to assassinate the judge; it’s not flight, it’s fight. You know the judge isn’t leaving anytime soon, but you’re not either, so it’s time to put up your dukes. You bicker with your boss about his unrealistic expectations, condescend about the vanity of going to the gym, blame your parents for what they’ve done to you, or wear leather and turn the speakers up.
Or maybe you appease. The judge isn’t satisfied, so you show him how hard you are trying, you’re sorry, and it’s going to get better. You decide to wear what they wear, apologize needlessly for fear they are mad at you, go to the gym from time to time and justify why you don’t go more often, or sit still and mind your manners so you don’t get barked at. Appeasement is cowering before the judge, hoping at some point the judge might understand and sympathize with your situation.
When the voice of accusation comes, how do you respond? Run? Fight? Appease? All three?
The deepest fear we have, “the fear beneath all fears”, is the fear of not measuring up, the fear of judgment. It’s this fear that creates the stress and depression of everyday life. And it comes from the fact that down deep we all know we don’t measure up and are therefore deserving of judgment. We’re aware that we fail, that what we are is not what we’re supposed to be, that “we’ve been weighed in the balances and been found wanting.” One young mother recently put it as honestly as anyone can:
Deep down, I know I should be perfect and I’m not. I feel it when someone comes into my house unannounced and there’s a mess in every corner. I know it when my children misbehave in public and I just want to hide. I can tell it when that empty feeling rises after I’ve spoken in haste, said too much, or raised my voice. There’s the feeling in my stomach that I just can’t shake when I know I’ve missed the mark of perfection.
When we feel this weight of judgment against us, we all tend to slip into the slavery of self-salvation: trying to appease the judge (friends, parents, spouse, ourselves) with hard work, good behavior, getting better, achievement, losing weight, and so on. We conclude, “If I can just stay out of trouble and get good grades, maybe my mom and dad will finally approve of me; If I can overcome this addiction, then I’ll be able to accept myself; If I can get thin, maybe my husband will finally think I’m beautiful and pay attention to me; If I can help out more with the kids, maybe my wife won’t criticize me as much; If I can make a name for myself and be successful, maybe I’ll get the respect I long for.” But, as is always the case, self-salvation projects experientially eclipse the only salvation project that can set us free from this oppression. “If we were confident of ultimate acquittal”, says Paul Zahl, “judgment from others would not possess the sting it does.”
This is what makes the Gospel such good news. It announces that Jesus came to acquit the guilty. He came to judge and be judged in our place. Christ came to satisfy the deep judgment against us once and for all so that we could be free from the judgment of God, others, and ourselves. He came to give rest to our efforts at trying to deal with stinging accusation on our own.Colossians 2:13-14 announces, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him,having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
The Gospel declares that our guilt has been atoned for, the law has been fulfilled. So we don’t need to live under the burden of trying to figure out whether we need to run, fight, or appease. In Christ the ultimate demand has been met, the deepest judgment has been satisfied. The atonement of Christ frees us from the fear of judgment.

Keeps Me From Stumbling

Tony Reinke at DG post:  Reflections on the Life of Isaac Newton

At a recent morning staff devotional at the DG offices, John Piper shared a biographical sketch of the brilliant scientist, Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727). The talk was inspired by his recent reading of this 2005 biography by Gale Christianson.
The 37-minute talk was recorded, and although the audio quality is poorer than we prefer, the content is worth sharing.
"Isaac Newton was one of the most brilliant men who walked this planet, and, as far as I can tell, he ‘missed it’ profoundly,” said Piper. “The price of his ruthless focus on scientific observation was very high. He missed the true nature of Jesus. And he was in ceaseless war with other scientists, arguing endlessly about who discovered things first.”
It is a tragic story, but it is also a story that points to several spiritual principles. The biography can be listened to here.
Newton is remembered for many things, but especially for his theory of gravity, a discovery famously sparked by a falling apple. Yet the cause of gravity remains, “a giant riddle still” (Christianson). In one of the more meditative sections of talk, Pastor John pondered the correlation between the cause of gravity in the natural realm and the cause of perseverance in the spiritual realm.
Nobody knows what gravity is — yet. All we know is the effects. Every entity in the universe that has mass is exerting a pull on every other entity in the universe. The earth is pulling on the moon, the moon is pulling on the earth, and since the waters in the sea are movable, the pull causes rising and falling tides.
The force of the moon's pull on the tides is enormous. I tried to compute in my head how much the water weighs that rises 20 feet in the middle of the Pacific, pulling out the water from all the coastlines. It must be trillions of tons of water getting pulled — by nothing. It's nothing!
Does anybody know what it [gravity] is? That the moon exists, means it is pulling. And scientists don't know what that is.
So I'm preparing my message for T4G and thinking: how does He keep me a Christian? He is Spirit. And I have a spirit. My spirit came alive when I was 6 years old. I have no idea what that means. Something came into being that wasn't there. Life. A spiritual life, and moment by moment that life is kept from degenerating into carnality and non-existence. And who can describe what force is exerted by this thing I have no idea what it is, called Spirit, on this thing, called spirit.
Therefore, who can define what power is necessary for that to happen? Is it a little power? Is it an easy thing for the Spirit to keep a spirit in being? Is it measured in pounds? Kilowatts? What is it? I have no idea what it is. All I have is the Bible to go on, and the Bible says: glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, to him who is able to keep me from stumbling (Jude 24–25).
Find the full biographical sketch here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thanks Mom

This is a tribute to my mother.  She is in the final days* of her life having fought cancer for almost nine years as chronicled in her blog John's Wife.  

I want to publicly thank and honor mom (and dad - it is hard to separate them after almost 60 years of marriage as they have shown what Paul described in Ephesians 5 as a "picture of Christ and the church" in their marriage.  They both have the gift of encouragement and use it freely and frequently!)

Mom has fought the good fight and trusted God in an honest and transparent way as she has described her victories, defeats, times of waiting and times of disappointment all the while continuing to believe in the goodness and sovereignty of God.  She has not "wasted her cancer" (as described by John Piper), but has used her cancer as a basis of encouraging those who are suffering, and using it as a way of "bringing glory to God" in an illustration of Jesus' answer to the question posed in John 9 about the man born blind.  

For many years I have mostly prayed that mom would not "lose heart" (2 Cor 4), and in God's mercy she has experienced the inner renewal day by day as her joy and trust in the Lord has steadily increased to the point that she recently said she would not trade this cancer for anything in the world because through this she has come to very deeply know the sweetness of Jesus.  In her fight through cancer I have come to really appreciate Laura Story's song Blessings.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  [2 Cor 4]

As Job said ".. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

(*update:  mom went to be with Jesus on Tuesday, April 24)

That Brief Span

Scotty Smith:  A Prayer for Wise Choices in This Brief Life

     O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. Ps. 39:4-7
     Sovereign Father, though I have no desire to know the exact day or means by which you will take me home, I’m more committed to live with that day in view. Because the gospel is true, I no longer have a fear of death. As your son, I know that be absent from my body will mean that I am immediately present with you. The sting of my death has been removed. The grave has been robbed of its victory over me and my body. I can honestly say with Paul that “it’s better by far to depart and be with the Lord” (Phil. 1:23). What great peace and assurance…
     But until that departure, how do you want me to invest the rest of my days? I’ve spent enough years bustling about in vanity, heaping up stuff that will only end up on the ash heap one day. Should you give me one more, ten more, twenty-five more years, how can I best steward that brief span to your glory? In light of the gospel of your kingdom and the riches of your grace, establish my priorities, Father.
    What do I need to make a bigger deal about, and what doesn’t deserve one more sleepless night or second thought? What things do I simply need to let go of? Who should I be spending more time with, and quite honestly, less time with? What broken relationships do I need to keep on my radar screen, with the hope of reconciliation?
     According to your Word, the two things which frame history are your commitment to redeem your pan-national family and your commitment to make all things new through Jesus. How do you want me to engage with both of those stories, with my friends and church?
     Indeed, give me greater love for people who don’t know Jesus, Father. I spend way too much time just with other Christians. And help me live more intentionally as an agent of redemption and restoration in my community and neighborhood.
     I’m not asking for an angel to visit me or some supernatural sign giving me a detailed plan for the rest of my life. It’s enough to know that you are the God who opens doors I cannot close and the One who closes doors I cannot open. I will keep my heart and feet in gear, and trust you to lead me, Father. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ magnificent and merciful name.

On A Mission

Henri Nouwen Society:  Fulfilling A Mission

When we live our lives as missions, we become aware that there is a home from where we are sent and to where we have to return.  We start thinking about ourselves as people who are in a faraway country to bring a message or work on a project, but only for a certain amount of time.  When the message has been delivered and the project is finished, we want to return home to give an account of our mission and to rest from our labours.

One of the most important spiritual disciplines is to develop the knowledge that the years of our lives are years "on a mission."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Don't Want Charity?

Tullian Tchividjian post:  Hiding From God Behind His Law

There are two ways we can miss the mark of righteousness before God, two ways the relationship can be destroyed.
One is more or less obvious: outright sinfulness, unrighteousness, lawlessness, self-indulgence, what the Bible would call “worldliness” or, perhaps in more modern dress, carelessness or heedlessness. In other words, we can just say to God, “No thanks, I don’t want it, I’ll take my own chances.”
The other is much less obvious and more subtle, one that morally earnest people have much more trouble with: turning our back on the free gift and saying in effect, “I do agree with what you demand, but I don’t want charity. That’s too demeaning. So I prefer to do it myself. What you are offering is too cheap. I prefer the law to grace, thank-you very much. That seems safer to me.”
What this means, of course, is that secretly we find doing it ourselves more flattering to our self-esteem–the current circumlocution for pride. The law, that is, even the law of God–”the most salutary doctrine of life”– is used as a defense against the gift. Thus, the more we “succeed”, the worse off we actually are. The relationship to the giver of the free gift is broken. The relation is broken because these too turn us quite simply against grace…the Almighty God desires simply to be known as the giver of the gift of absolute grace. To this we say “no”. Then the relationship is destroyed just as surely as it was by our immorality. To borrow the language of addiction, it is the addiction that destroys the relationship…One can be addicted either to what is base or to what is high, either to lawlessness or lawfulness. Theologically there is not any difference since both break the relationship to God, the giver.
The law is not a remedy for sin. It does not cure sin. St. Paul says it was given to make sin apparent, indeed to increase it. It doesn’t do that necessarily by increasing immorality, although that can happen when rebellion or the power of suggestion leads us to do just what the law is against. But what the theologian of the cross sees clearly from the start is that, even more perversely, the law multiplies sin precisely through our morality, our misuse of the law and our “success” at it. It becomes a defense against the gift. That is the very essence of sin: refusing the gift and thereby setting what we do in the place of what God has done.
There is something in us that is always suspicious of or rebels against the gift. The defense that it is too cheap, easy, or morally dangerous is already the protest of the Old Adam and Eve who fear–rightly!–that their house is under radical attack. Since they are entrenched behind the very law of God as their last and most pious defense, the attack must indeed be radical. It is a battle to the death.
Gerhard Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross, pg. 26-28

Moving Us Toward God

Henri Nouwen Society:  Healing Contradictions

The many contradictions in our lives - such as being home while feeling homeless, being busy while feeling bored, being popular while feeling lonely, being believers while feeling many doubts -  can frustrate, irritate, and even discourage us.  They make us feel that we are never fully present.  Every door that opens for us makes us see how many more doors are closed.

But there is another response.  These same contradictions can bring us into touch with a deeper longing, for the fulfillment of a desire that lives beneath all desires and that only God can satisfy.  Contradictions, thus understood, create the friction that can help us move toward God.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Into Eternity

Ray Ortlund post:  You do matter

“His view of death and his own death was having confidence that life matters and that the world matters. . . . Because of that you fight to live, and because of that you need to go out and carry on the good fight.  You do matter, and God does exist.  So you put your hand to the plow, you work and you struggle — you do what you can in all different areas, with passion.  You don’t sit in a corner somewhere and wait to die. . . . What you look forward to is not death but the Second Coming.  You are longing and working for that.  Contrary to what people say — that you can’t take anything with you — yes, you do take your work with you.  It’s a biblical teaching, that what you do matters and will continue on into eternity.”
Deborah Schaeffer Middelmann, regarding her father Francis Schaeffer, quoted in Colin Duriez, Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life (Wheaton, 2008), page 203.

Greatest Temptation

Kevin DeYoung post:  Why Idolatry Was (and Is) Attractive

Most Westerners have struggled at one time or another to understand the attraction of idolatry in the ancient world. What could be so compelling about an inanimate block of wood or chunk of stone? Hard core idolatry feels as tempting as beet juice. It’s likely someone out there loves a frothy glass of obscure vegetable extract, but the temptation doesn’t weigh heavily on our souls.
But idolatry made a lot of sense in the ancient world. And, had we lived two or three millennia ago, it almost certainly would have been tempting to each one of us. In his commentary on Exodus, Doug Stuart explains idolatry’s attraction with nine points. You’ll likely want to save this list and file it for future sermons or Bible studies.
1. Idolatry was guaranteed. The formula was simple. Carve a god out of wood or stone and the god would enter the icon. Now that you have a god in your midst, you can get his (or her) attention quickly. Your incantations, oaths, and offerings will always be noticed.
2. Idolatry was selfish. Scratch the gods backs and they’ll scratch yours. They need food and sacrifices; you need blessings. Do your stuff and they’ll be obliged to get you stuff.
3. Idolatry was easy. Ancient idolatry encouraged vain religious activity. Do what you like with your life. So long as you show up consistently with your sacrifices, you’ll be in good shape.
4. Idolatry was convenient. Gods in the ancient world were not hard to come by. Access was almost everywhere. Statues can be used in the home or on the go.
5. Idolatry was normal. Everyone did it. It’s how woman got pregnant, how crops grew, how armies conquered. Idolatry was like oil: nothing ran in the ancient world without it.
6. Idolatry was logical. Nations are different. People are different. Their needs and desires are different. Obviously, there must be different deities for different strokes. How could one god cover all of life? You don’t eat at one restaurant do you? The more options the better. They can all be right some of the time.
7. Idolatry was pleasing to the senses. If you are going to be especially religious, it helps to be able to see your god. It’s harder to impress people with an invisible deity.
8. Idolatry is indulgent. Sacrificing to the gods did not often require sacrifice for the worshiper. Leftover food could be eaten. Drink could be drunk. Generosity to the gods leads to feasting for you.
9. Idolatry was sensual. The whole system was marked by eroticism. Rituals could turn into orgies. Sex on earth often meant sex in heaven, and sex in heaven meant big rain, big harvests and multiplying herds.
Can you see the attraction of idolatry? “Let’s see I want a spirituality that gets me lots, costs me little, is easy to see, easy to do, has few ethical or doctrinal boundaries, guarantees me success, feels good, and doesn’t offend those around me.” That’ll preach. We want the same things they wanted.  We just go after them in different ways. We want a faith that gets us stuff and guarantees success (prosperity gospel). We want discipleship that is always convenient (virtual church). We want a religion that is ritualistic (nominal Christianity). Or a spirituality that no matter what encourages sexual expression (GLBTQ). We all want to follow God in a way that makes sense to others, feels good to us, and is easy to see and understand. From the garden to the Asherah pole to the imperial feasts, idolatry was the greatest temptation for God’s people in both testaments.
A look around and a look inside will tell you it still is.