Monday, September 22, 2014

No "gods" Before God

So, here's a small confession to begin this week's blogpost with.

A lot of the Bible's rules, regulations, laws and edicts don't seem like they have a whole lot to do with me.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I am glad they are all in there, but, for example, when the Bible says; "Any alien living among you shall not eat any blood," (Lev. 17:8) I wonder what to do with this text. I am not aware of any aliens living among me, and if I was aware of them, I guess I could call The Department of Homeland Security, but would they care if that alien ate blood.  A burger anyone?  Or, here's another text which seems to defy a direct application to my life; "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest," (Lev. 19:9).   When I read this, I look at the four walls of my tiny apartment in Camarillo, California and realize that we barely have any plants in our house, let alone a field.  These texts, I must remind myself, are not just written for me, but the Bible is for all humanity, for all of the history of the entire planet earth, for the entire cosmos - so, though they must apply to someone, they do not necessarily apply to me.

Keeping this in mind, one of the main texts of the Bible which I have always felt was written for someone other than me is the first commandment: "You shall have no other gods before me" (Deut. 5:7).  Whenever I have read this, I have said to myself, "Well, that one's not for me either."  I don't have any idols in my house.  I do not have shrine to Chemosh, the first century God of the Moabites, or I do not have any statues of Athena, as Paul preached against in the book of Acts, so this text is not written for me.

However, as I have contemplated this text, I have thought that there are at least two ways to interpret it.  It could be interpreted as idols (statues of foreign gods), or it could be interpreted as what we do as Christ followers to prepare ourselves to come before God, to worship God.  In other words, it could mean, "When you come before God, you should make sure there are no impediments, vices, distractions, unhealthy outside influences in your life."

Every evening my wife Star and I say a prayer together.  We pray for everything that we are thinking about, worrying about, contemplating, hoping for, and working on.  We pray for our children that they might have a good day at school the next day.  We pray for our future worship leader at Mission Street, that he/she would have great success here.  We pray for the rest of our church staff.  We pray for past call settings that we have served in.  We pray for our friends and relatives that are struggling with some aspect of their life.

Now, if I am honest with myself, I have to admit that I do have many small "g" gods in my life.  I do have many vices and idols which can become "gods".  A short list of these includes:

*  TV
*  Food and Drink
*  in an earlier part of my life Smoking
*  my I-Phone, I-Pad, MacBook Pro
*  Working Out and my Body Image
*  my desire to neatly Order all parts of my life
*  my personal Ambitions
*  my Insecurities

These are a short list of my small "g" gods.  Now, God knows, and I know that many of these small "g" Gods will be with me all of my life.  God, and I, would prefer that they not be in my life at all, and yet, many of them always will be.  I am human.  However, when I come before God in prayer every night, with my wife, I work hard to rid them of those few moments that I am spending intentionally with God.

*  I turn off the TV when I am praying
*  I try not to be drinking a glass of wine when I am praying
*  I turn off my I-phone
*  I try not to be wearing my work-out clothes
*  I try not to worry about all the things of my life that are out of order
*  I try to remember that my whole life really isn't just about ME!

In short, when I come before God, I try to have no "gods" of my own.  What is quite interesting is that the first commandment doesn't tell us that we should destroy all of our small "g" gods.  It doesn't say, "Rid yourself of all gods".  It also, interestingly, assumes that all people, all people will have small "g" gods, and it acknowledges their presence.  The Bible doesn't say, "God is the only god in the universe".  God, the one true God, Yahweh/Jesus, knows that there are other small "g" gods.  No, the writer of Deuteronomy (historically thought of as Moses), knew better.  He knows that humans would have gods, and that these gods exist.  The point is that when we come before The GOD, we should not have these small gods around around.

Now, I must go and harvest some of the grain from my fields…but remember to not glean from the edges!?!?!

All For Now,

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