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Posts Tagged ‘Christian tradition’

Ever since leaving the Hebrew Roots Movement, I have become very sensitive to the existence of idolatry in my own life, and believe this thorn is the single most destructive element in American Christianity today.  It’s a theme I keep coming back to over and over.. and God does not relent to impress this on my mind.

As one reads through the Old Testament, this recurring sin gets so redundant as to seem ridiculous.  You would think after several hundred years, and all the history Israel remembered as part of their identity, seeking other gods would have finally died out.  Instead, in spite of periodic revivals, idol worship strengthened.   As men turn their hearts away from their Creator to gods that gratify their selfishness and greed, cruelty and injustice prevail.  If God hates the root, He hates the fruit even more.  Finally, both the northern and southern kingdoms were destroyed from their Land.  I keep asking myself, “What is so irresistible to us about idols?”  I am not sure I know the answer, but there is no doubt that humans have trouble with their attention span when it comes to following God.

When Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the King of the northern tribes, in fear of his own reign being weakened by his subjects traveling to Jerusalem to worship, instituted his own version of how to worship Yahweh.  He set up two golden calves, and changed the festival dates from those God had commanded for His people.   One day a prophet from Judah came to him as he was worshiping at the altar of his own creation and prophesied to the altar itself saying, “A son will be born to the house of David, named Josiah, and he will sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who are burning incense on you.  Human bones will be burned on you.”  This prophecy came with a sign from heaven that ripped the false altar apart, and the King’s hand shriveled up when he pointed for the prophet to be arrested.  Even though he begged the prophet to pray for his healing, and it came, he still made no attempt to change his direction.  The sin remained.

A few generations later, God called a man named Jehu to become king.  He was told to destroy the house of Ahab and the queen Jezebel who had brought innocent bloodshed and witchcraft to the land through Baal worship.  Jehu fulfilled the prophecies of Elijah concerning this family down to the letter.  Not only that, he called all the prophets of Baal in the whole land to come for a festival and worship at their temple, pretending that he was going to worship Baal with more fervor than even Ahab had done.  He did this to gather them for a destruction he did not fail to carry out.  Yet even in all his zeal for Yahweh, the only true God, at the end of the story it says he did not do away with the sins of Jeroboam.  And God waited for what He had already ordained.  He had promised it would fail, but for now, he commended Jehu for what he had obeyed in.

About 300 years after the prophecy made to Jeroboam, first King of northern Israel, a king from Judah by the name of Josiah did come and fulfill the Word of the prophet to Jeroboam… a prophet whom they had built a monument for at his tomb!   His message had not been forgotten and the people told Josiah, “…he proclaimed these things you have done to the altar at Bethel”.  Yet they had not turned away.  Their illegitimate altar was destroyed.  God’s time to judge the sin had come.  But no one could argue they had not received fair warning or plenty of time to repent.

What does all this mean for us?

What sacred cows do we have that are man-made and actually contradict that which Jesus has commanded us?  What do we hold on to, claiming we are worshiping the Lord, when in fact we are walking in disobedience?  Can we even detect these contradictions because we have held them for so long, they have become our own definition of “Christian”?  What traditions have been instituted over the centuries that were designed to keep people in submission to insecure leaders in the name of Jesus rather than to inspire love and devotion to Him and His ways?  If someone were to speak out against these things today, how would they be received?  Wasn’t this problem still in place when Jesus came?  Israel finally had no golden images, but they had plenty of stumbling blocks which prevented their belief in Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah.

Many sincere people in the Hebrew Roots Movement have sensed this problem in the church, and desire a pure worship.  At the time of our involvement, we defined this restoration based on Moses, not Christ, and then our pride took over anyway.  We traded one set of idols for different ones.  However I still maintain there is a need for restoration and repentance.  Often God will raise up champions within the system, but it does not mean He approves of the system.  God still desires we seek and follow His Son above all things, and in spite of anything that we have justified and condoned as being “religious.”

The tragedy of all this… is that while we worship the golden calf in the name of Jesus, we miss Him.  We have not really known HIM.  We have known what someone told us He is.. and followed what they said we must do.  Friends, not just cults have this problem.  We must see Jesus.

There are many fascinating things to study in the Word, many rabbit trails to chase, and theological points to argue or discuss.  The church is embroiled in many distractions and self-promotion, but we do not see Jesus.  Mostly, we do not follow Him but an empty form with His name attached.  A huge percentage of us don’t even know what He said, or what He meant by what He said.  How can we follow someone we don’t know?

I pray Jesus, that You strip away our idols, as painful as that is.  Help us see You only – that You may be glorified in this world in the eyes of those who need to trust You.  May Your Church become a beautiful bride in Your love that is eager for your purifying Presence.

"Thorns for the crown" by Indagate

Help us see that to follow You is to immerse ourselves in Your love for us to the end that we will follow you at all costs.  Let us realize that a genuine love for You will create a sacrificial love for each other, our brothers and sisters adopted and redeemed.  May we spend our lives yearning to follow you in these two things even if we never understand the scholar’s systems or their definitions of who You are… not that we don’t love to try to describe You.  We just can’t fully do this.  Help us to not get lost in the words and fall broken on the Word made Flesh.

(These and many other amazing stories are found in I & II Kings.)

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Just another Christmas reflection.  I have at least five posts in my head, but no one wants to think about them right now.  Not even me.  It’s nice to take a break and just enjoy the peace.  This year I would say we finally hit Christmas full swing, in a way I didn’t really want to do when we first began to acknowledge it again; parties, gift exchanges, mad-dash shopping at the last minute .  I even found myself with the Classical Christmas Pandora station playing today as I lit the candles around the nativity decorations.  The $8.00 artificial tree is lit up with its yard-sale decoration finds, (okay – some are dollar-store new).

I also did something I had not done in a very long time.  I popped in on some people with some small symbols of our affection (truly, the thought has to count because my dollars don’t).  As the big day gets closer, so many people come to my mind that I love and am so thankful for.  People I don’t think to tell.  At other times it might be more awkward, but this time of year gives everyone permission to be a little mushy, even those of us who are mush-challenged, like me.  I think of people I won’t have time to contact, those I don’t know how to reach, and those I just plum forgot. 😦   My heart breaks for those who are alone but we’ve also enjoyed the privilege of sharing a little with those in need.  We ourselves have been in need these past few months – yet miraculously, we have managed to give more than ever before.

Today I was thinking how this “Spirit of Christmas” ….. this urge to give and love….is such a beautiful reflection of the heart of God.  And such a small speck in contrast to what He gave when He left the glory of heaven to born to a young woman with her reputation on the line, in a barn, to sleep in a feeding trough, wrapped in strips of cloth intended for newborn animals.  To lead such a humble life, a sacrificial life, and death.

I believe it’s good for us to empty ourselves a little for others, every day of the year.  But at Christmas it’s nearly irresistible.  I remember that being the hardest call to leave unanswered during our years of Christmas abstinence.  I still felt that urge strongly and would see little gifts I knew “so and so” would like, but then stop, remembering “we don’t do that anymore.”

It would be great if everyone could give like Christmas all year, but thankful that for a few days, it becomes a nearly universal practice.  Even those who take no thought of the Christian theme of this day, still reflect the Giver who made them.   I still hate the retail-driven frenzy that invades what could just be simple and beautiful.  But I have learned to block that out and keep my eyes on Him who gave all for me.

May your Christmas make you a blessing.

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