Eager Anticipation… Misplaced.

The highly anticipated iPhone 4 hit the shelves one week ago today. Apple announced sales of 1.7 million phones in the first 3 days alone and will likely announce surpassing the 3 million mark in the next week or so. And this is with the phone only being available in 3 countries. Wait till it hits the other 88 countries around the world where it will be available over the next few months. The buzz that Apple can create with a product launch is amazing. Is there a better, more streamlined way to launch the product that would include fewer lines and less waiting? Certainly. But those lines create the eager anticipation and buzz that push Apple to the front pages and lead news stories.

The church where I formerly served has been gracious to allow me to keep my previous iPhone until this new one was available. But, I do need to return it to them, so I had pre-reserved a phone to pick up on launch day. Yes, I was one of those crazies waiting in line. Pictured here is the line at the mall where I had reserved my phone. And for the record, I was waiting in line for 4 hours before I got to this part of the line! That day, I arrived at the mall at 4:45pm. After a quick bathroom break and picking up a drink in the food court, I got in line at 5:00pm. I walked out of the mall, new iPhone 4 in hand, at 10:53pm.

That morning I woke up particularly early. At 6:00am, I was already wide awake. At that point I was thinking, “Hey, I wonder if the Walmart down the street will actually have any units available for walk-up purchase? Maybe I could get mine this morning rather than waiting till after work today to get it.” That is how bad I wanted the phone.

Now, that particular morning I made a good decision. And, to be honest, one that I, unfortunately, don’t always make. Instead of rushing out the door to Walmart, I picked up my Bible to read. Like I said, I’m not always that disciplined. That day I did make a good decision. Anyway, I’ve been reading the Philippians and wanted to share what I read that morning as it has still been on my heart, working me over since that day.

“Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Crazy lines of eager anticipation swarm an iPhone release, yesterday’s release of Eclipse (the third movie in the Twilight series) and even many sporting events. I have, as with the iPhone, even been part of some of those swarms of eager anticipation (for the record, I wasn’t part of the Eclipse crowd!) But this short passage, taken from a hymn that Paul records in his letter to the Philippians, begs the question, “Why don’t I [we] live with this type of eager expectation for the glory of God to be revealed in me [us]?”

Why is it that I put other things first in my life? The answer is one that I don’t want to hear and involves a word that we avoid at all cost: idolatry. Yeah, maybe I made a good decision that day to read my Bible instead of race to Walmart in hopes of being one of the elect who got a phone at 7:02am, but I somehow thought that I couldn’t wait till that evening. I had to have it and had to have it now. At that point, I’m not any different than the Israelites in Exodus 32 when they built the golden calf. I am hoping for life, meaning and satisfaction from a phone rather than in Christ, whom God has exalted to the highest place. That is the definition, par excellence, of idolatry: putting hope and trust in something rather than in Christ.

Thank you, Lord, for the mountain of mercy where I can come and find forgiveness and where Christ is exalted forever as King. Make him King – exalted above all else – in my life today.

Interact: What do you exalt to the highest place in your life? What do I?

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Bow before Little Debbie

Now, I feel like I have to make this disclaimer up front: I am from the Philly area where our idea of a packaged baked good is Tastykake, maker of some of the world’s great snacks from the Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes to Butterscotch Krimpets to their strawberry pie. Amazing.

I give that disclaimer because it is with great hesitancy that I talk about the “other guys.” However, outside of the Philly area, the prepackaged baked goods industry is dominated by one company: Little Debbie. Of all of their products, about the only one that I think is any good is the Raisin Creme Pie. But this week, in my reading of Scripture, the Little Debbie Raisin Creme Pie surfaced in a new way.

If you have never studied the book of Hosea, it’s quite fascinating. Hosea had, quite possibly, the most raw deal of any character in all the Bible. See, God told him to go and marry a prostitute with the promise that she would cheat on him. I love my wife dearly, but I’m not sure how I would have been able to deal with knowing before we even married that she would cheat on me. (Quick aside: I hope I never have to know how that feels!) But when she does cheat on him, she leaves him and returns to her life of prostitution. At that point, God tells Hosea to continue to love her, pursue her and buy her back out of the life of prostitution.

Hosea’s life, however, was not just some weird punishment from God. Rather, through the prophet’s life and marriage, we gain some insight into the heart of God. See, the book of Hosea is not really about Hosea and Gomer. It’s about God and Israel, his chosen people. Throughout Scripture, the people of God are referred to as his bride. Yet, like Gomer, Israel – and now the church – have forsaken him, committing spiritual adultery as we bow to impotent idols.

Which brings us back to the Little Debbie Raisin Creme Pies. Read Hosea 3:1, “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” Yes, the Israelites were forsaking the God who saved them from slavery in Egypt so they could eat some Little Debbie snacks!

How foolish that seems. They were worshipping and bowing before the Little Debbie snack gods. Yet, aren’t we guilty of many of the same sins? We serve the Holy, Creator God – the One who bought us out of our life of sin through Christ just as Hosea did for Gomer. And yet, like Gomer and like Israel, we continue to pursue other things, hoping and trust in that which is lifeless and hopeless.

“Lord, forgive us for pursuing stupid raisin cakes rather than trusting in you and worshipping you alone. Thank you for pursuing us and buying us back out of our sin. Amen.”

Interact: You may not be literally bowing before raisin cakes, but how are you forsaking Christ to bow before other gods?

Slaying the Money Idol

Over on FB and Twitter, I referenced an article over at Faith and Leadership that asks, “Should pastors know what members give?” I wasn’t even really trying to push one answer, just referencing F&L article as it offered some useful insights. This set off quite a discussion, but most of the objections center around money being a private issue,  shaped by the privitistic, individualistic culture in which we live. While not intending to answer the question about pastors knowing, I do think the discussion raises an even bigger issue.

As is often stated, Jesus spent more time talking about money than he did any issue short of the kingdom of God. Why? Because money is a big deal. Consider Matthew 6:24…

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” Matthew 6:24.

You cannot serve both God and money. They are at odds with one another. Only one can be that in which you hope and trust. Our money may say “In God we trust,” but, for most of us, it’s money we trust. We idolize and worship money, not God. Consider this cartoon…

Poignant, huh? It has often been said that “Jesus is either Lord of all or not at all.” That is, there is no keeping your money out of the conversation. When our money is out of bounds, or kept unto ourselves, you are making a choice to serve money. And, again, as Jesus has said, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t serve both God and money. The real issue here is one of slaying idols and of sanctification. At some point in your sanctification, your attitude and approach toward money will be brought to the forefront. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Bring your money into the waters of baptism that you may be sanctified and Jesus may be all in all.

Interact: What money idol do you need to slay in order to set your heart on the Kingdom of God?