How My Dog Reminded Me Not to Worship Idols

I love family, home, church, pet, writing, chocolate (and lots of other wonderful, good things), but I refuse to worship them.

It's hard sometimes. Especially when we're cuddling a pup we love so much. (But more about that later.)

I don't want to worship anything or anyone but the Lord God Almighty. It's a choice, sometimes a hard one, but a
choice nonetheless.

Worship of idols is excessive devotion to or reverence for something other than the one, true God.

The worship of "good things," not just things we know can get us into trouble, is a subtle snare of our enemy, Satan. He did, after all, offer the Jesus much in exchange for worship.

But Jesus' words were powerful:
"You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve" (Matthew 4:10b).

We have so much in America. We are so blessed. But in our wealth, we forget God. We forget how completely and totally dependent we really are on Him. It is only by His favor that we are a "wealthy" nation.

The sad truth is, in our wealth we have become spiritually poor.

Jesus understands this temptation. That's why He left heaven to become poor for us, that we might become spiritually rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

I sincerely believe our "idol worship" is one of the reason our nation is in such trouble today.

Yes, I want America to be great again, but not without America becoming godly. Otherwise, in our covetousness, independence and self-sufficiency, we will never draw near to the Lord, repent and become holy before Him (James 4:8).

When we worship idols (when they are our focus), we become more like them and we lack understanding of the truth (Psalm 135:15-18). We exchange the glory of God for images (Romans 1:21-23), sad substitutes for Him. John Piper calls this the "dark exchange."

The Bible is clear about idolatry from beginning to end.
"...Do not turn to idols... I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:4). (See also Exodus 20:3.) "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:13-14). "... the idolaters... will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur..." (Revelation 21:8).

I'm not just spouting scriptures here. I'm taking the time to look at the things of love, and determine whether I love and even "worship" them more than the Lord.

My husband and I made an emergency trip to the veterinarian yesterday. We were not sure how serious our little furboy's condition was; and all the way there, I prayed.

During that time of prayer, God asked me, "Do you love little Roscoe more than you love Me, or my purposes?"

I felt that was a strange question at the time. But I pondered it the entire time Roscoe was at the vet. I knew the Lord had given us this sweet little creature to love and care for. But could I give him up if the Lord asked it of me?

I thought about other people and things I love, and I wept as I considered the cost my Lord might ask of me. I wept.

I surrendered again. I have to do this sometimes; I get so tied to this temporary world.

I reconfirmed my priorities: God first, family next, ministry and then all the other stuff.

And then I took time to worship the Lord with open hands. When we grasp our stuff, it's foolishness. Everything we are and have are really His, and open hands acknowledge an open heart to His will.

Tearing down the idols begins in our own hearts. Then in our families and churches. And then, hopefully, in our nation.


My One-Two Punch for Victory

Today had a tough start.

I forgot how Satan was out to defeat me, to use my weakness as a springboard to create a stronghold of failure.

But then, by God's grace, I remembered 2 Corinthians 12:9:

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

Yes. Satan tries to master my weaknesses, but I serve a powerful Master who manifests His own perfect strength in and through my weaknesses ... for His glory.

More strength for today:

"In the day when I cried out, you answered me, 
and made me bold with strength in my soul" (Psalm 138:3).

"I can do all things through Christ
who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

I've got a sure one-two punch for victory!


7 Ways to Honor Mom (or Dad)

I'm thinking about Mom today. I just saw her this past week, on the other side of the continent. It was hard to leave, never knowing if I'll see her again. But I rejoiced in the opportunity.

Although I'm focusing on my Mom todaysince Daddy is in heaventhe truth is, I'm really thinking

about parents in general.

Many years ago, I learned one way to honor God:  honoring my parents. Honoring the parents the Lord gave us is a sign of respect for them but also obedience to the Lord.

The honor of obedience as children (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2) should flow into mature respect as adults (Deuteronomy 5:16: Ephesians 6:2).

In some cases, it may be difficult to obey and tough to honor. Parents are human with their own set of weaknesses and strengths. There will always be hard cases and "impossible" people, and it's especially hard when that's in our own homes. Dealing with that could fill another post.

But in general, there are many ways to honor our parents, and I want to consider seven of them today.

1. Give Respect

Respect is a hard sell sometimes. Yet the scriptures show God expects us to respect all authorities (Romans 13:7b; Leviticus 19:32). We are to regard their God-given position.

Honoring parents is one of the most overlooked of the Ten Commandments, but Jesus repeated the Old Testament command to honor parents (Matthew 15:4a).

I learned about respect for authority as a young girl: to respect my teachers even if they were harsh, to respect the police officer even if he was foul-mouthed. Respect for position is not the same thing as admiration. It is simply giving honor where honor is due.

Part of that respect is speaking well of our parents both in private and publicly, rather than cursing themrunning them down (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9).

Even if we have a dysfunctional parent, we can still respect their authority and appeal to that authority for change (after much prayer and in a spirit of humility).

If your parent has passed on, consider if there is still some way to honor their memory.

Do you respect your mom (or dad)? If not, isn't that an issue to take up with the Lord?

2. Show Esteem

To esteem is to combine respect with admiration, to recognize and declare value.

We can respect a parent and still not admire them, but when we do find things to admire, we should express admiration.

I knew a woman whose dad was an alcoholic. She respected him, even though she didn't admire his lifestyle. But she prayed, asking God to show her some element in her dad's life that was praiseworthy.

God opened her eyes to her dad's tender heart of compassion. Because he so often felt out of control, he understood others caught in the trap of addiction. The woman was touched to watch her dad, in his sober moments, reaching out to encourage the down-and-out. She expressed high esteem for that quality in him. And he responded in brokenness and love.

Ask the Lord to help you "see" the qualities in your parent worth esteeming.

3. Express Kindness

Most parents experience the hard knocks of life and some develop a hard shell to protect themselves. One way to break through the shell and gain their trust is to express kindness.

Kindness is a given for the believer. God's children are to "put on" kindness regularly (Colossians 3:12), and the Spirit of God enables us to be kind (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul said, "Be kind to one another...." (Ephesians 4:32a), and there's no better proving ground for kindness than in the family.

How can you show your mom (or dad) kindness today in a way that will touch their heart? 

4. Practice Forgiveness

The other half of Ephesians 4:32 includes these words: "...forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

This is a tough one for many adult children. Parents fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and need the grace of God to transform their lives . . . just like their children. (Parents fall short of their own expectations, too, not just their offspring's' expectations.)

Deep wounds in the home linger like old, unsightly baggage. They threaten to destroy relationships.

But Christians are not left without hope. We learn forgiveness from the Savior who forgave us on the cross and continues to forgive (Luke 23:34a). He is our model of forgiving grace. We CAN forgive parents for hurting and wounding usin Christ. 

Forgiveness does not take hurts lightly or excuse them. Forgivenessyielding to the Lord our pain, bitterness and angerhands over hurts to the Lord, the righteous Judge, who handles all offenses in His own time and way.

Do you need to forgive your mom (or dad)? Can you trust the Lord to enable that?

5. Seek Wisdom

It's common today for grown children to proudly reject their parent's wisdom, but it's foolish when they do. Even the most ungodly of parents can teach their children practical wisdom in some area of life.

The Bible pairs youth with foolishness and age with wisdom (Job 12:12; Proverbs 20:29) for a good reason. They have walked the path and experienced many of the potholes! In general, parents have learned a thing or two, and a wise adult child will intentionally seek out this knowledge and apply it.

When facing a big decision, seek your mom (or dad's) wisdomeven if you decide, ultimately, not to "receive" it as your own wisdom.

Think about what your mom (or dad) has been through. Is there some question you might ask to gain wisdom for your own life? 

6. Offer Support

There are many ways to offer a parent support that have nothing to do with finances.

For one, we can let them know we still "see" them. They haven't become invisible. There's nothing more troubling to the elderly than being older and isolatedalone and lonely. The psalmist expressed this in terms of feeling "forsaken" (Psalm 71:9).

The adult child can assure parents of ongoing love, concern and emotional support. Healthy support includes encouraging words and actions. Perhaps an occasional note or letter. A phone call. An encouraging text message.

"Be there" for them as they become feeble. Understand how devastating their loss of independence can be and allow them to do as much as they are able to do. Be their "backup system."

Validate their emotions, even if you can't understand them. Listen with compassioneven if they tell the same story for the umpteenth time.

If parents are believers, encourage them to "bear fruit" in their old age (Psalm 92:14). One of the most godly women I know was a fervent prayer soldier. Another mentored younger women as long as she could. Consider if there's some way to help them be more "fruitful" in ministry.

Where does your mom (or dad) need your emotional support? How can you be creative and offer it in practical ways?

7. Provide Assistance

In 1 Timothy 5:3-8, Paul reminds Timothy to honor widows in the local church. He addresses two principles regarding provision. Children are to provide a "return" to parents and family members are to "provide" for members of the household.

The overarching principle is this: Don't let a family member struggle with needed provisions. That doesn't mean we cater to every want and whim, or indulge foolish appetites. We don't want to contribute to foolish choices. But we do come alongside to figure out how we might help with legitimate needs.

We may have limited resources ourselves, but there is always something we can share, some way we can assist in our loved one's care.

Think about your mom (or dad). Is there some way you can provide assistance today? Do you need to ask some questions to see where the real needs lie?

Honoring our parents is our duty, but it can also be our delight as we ask the Lord for His heart of compassion and begin to see Mom and Dad through His eyes.

If you are estranged from your parent, the Lord
 can change that in an instant, or over time. 
But in the meantime, is there another "mom" or "dad" 
who has influenced your life and nourished your growth? 
Don't forget to honor them too!


Trifling with Eternity

I had a great discussion with a friend after church about 1 John 3:2-3. 

Jesus will return...
 "and everyone who has this hope in Him 
purifies himself just as He is pure" (HCSB).

I grieved over a friend who is a believer who has absolutely no desire to break sinful habits and become more like Christ.
Shouldn't knowing Jesus will return motivate us to evaluate our hearts, root out sinful thoughts/habits, and desire to do (in the power of the Spirit) what He wants every day? 
I'm not talking about legalism, but rather grace-filled obedience.
None of us is perfect. 
We need God's mercy every day. 
But I can't fathom people calling Jesus "Lord" and then absolutely not caring about growing to be more like Him. 
We all are "prone to wander." 
That's why. . . 

My heart cry for myself, and for all my Christ-follower family and friends, is that we will truly live for Him and ENCOURAGE each other to live in light of His coming. (Titus 2:13)
The Bible teaches His return is imminent.... the time could be very short.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of trifling with eternity.
The same God who saved us wants to purify us. And I want to cooperate.
Don't you?
Graphic adapted courtesy of cohdra at Morguefile.


Building a "Zone" around Your Marriage

The media practically devoured Vice Present Mike Pence for his admission (in a 2002 piece for The Hill) that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and for other "boundary"-type choices.

Once again, the left was quick to criticize Pence and his wife Karen for their Christian choices.
Butfind this couple refreshing. In an anything-goes era, it is not so much their conservative, middle-America values that shine out, but rather their evangelical Christian discernment.

The Vice President is not a sexist, as the left claims. I'm sure he will deal with meetings with top female leaders (like England's Theresa May or Germany's Angela Merkel) in God-honoring ways.

He and his wife are not fools. They are concerned about integrity.

This power couple's overall commitment to each other and desire to protect that relationship should be applauded, not decried. 

Their "gut check" relationship protection is something to be admired, and it's not really that different from most conservative Christians who care about guarding their hearts and homes from harmful, even divisive distractions and temptation.

The scriptures are clear about the importance of "watching" out for temptation.
  • "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23).
  • "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:38).
  • "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
The heart connection between Mike and Karen Pence is genuine and exemplary. She is his subtle but influential partner, valued ally and consistent prayer warrior.

But back to their decision to not have Mike Pence meet alone with other womenI get that.

Pence, again in his interview with The Hill, said their decision is akin to "building a zone around your marriage." In this wicked culture, there are many opportunities for temptation to creep in, and appearances can be deadly as well. 

The practice of careful public boundaries has gone out of fashion with some, but it's still a valid choice.

My husband, a pastor for many years, would not counsel any female without his study door open and the church secretary at her desk in the adjacent room.

This was not only for his protection against possible false accusations, but also for the counselee's freedom. My husband did not want to give any "opportunity" for the enemy to destroy what was meant to be a positive counseling experience.

In reading about Karen Pence, I discovered she was married once, quite young. They grew apart, her former husband said, as he spent long hours at work. Perhaps this failed marriage is one reason Karen Pence is so committed to staying near the Vice President. Perhaps they know by building a "zone" around their marriage, they will actually experience greater freedom to serve others.

One of the best pieces of advice I received as a young bride came from a wise elderly woman in my husband's church:

"Guard your marriage," she said. 
"The enemy is real, and he would love to destroy your home."

For some people, that boundarythat zonemight be called a "hedge of protection." 
  • It presupposes there is something of value worth protecting. 
  • There's a desire to protect marriage from perceived or real threats--and that could take on many forms, like the "other woman/other man" or even pornography. 
  • Within this protection there is a greater sense of relational freedom centered in trust, not a lot of "what-ifs." 
  • It includes the concept of becoming accountability partners. (Even if both partners are not willing to build in protective boundaries, God can bless the efforts of the spouse who does.)
If you are married, recognize its value. Be sure to build strong boundarieshedges of protectionin your marriage. If you are not married, commit to protecting others' marriages. Don't allow yourself to become the "other."

Marriage is a portrait of Jesus' relationship with His church, 
and as such it is precious and valuable, well worth guarding.

I think it's up to Christians to determine what that "guarding" looks like as a couple. For the Vice President and his loyal wife, that means clear boundaries.

  - Graphic, adapted from Leylandii Hedge, Evergreen Hedging.