Archive for January, 2010

Idolatry

January 30, 2010

When we read the First Commandment and see the part about having “No Strange Gods Before Me”, most of us think of primitive societies and the dolls or statues that people make and then worship.  We think “How quaint”, and sort of skim over that commandment, imagining that modern man no longer commits that sin.  But look a little deeper–a “strange god” is anything we worship, pray to, think of as God, live for or teach that isn’t the real “God”.  To worship the real God and not a false one, we have to know who the real God is.  I have heard calls to prayer where the leader asks the group to pray to God “whoever you conceive God to be.”  There we go.  Conceiving God to be anything other than Who He is, is idolatry.  How then can we know who God is?  In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God is unknowable except through the ways He has revealed Himself.  He has revealed Himself in His creation, but its no longer a clear picture because since sin came into the world, creation has been spoiled. 

Most of us are idolators without even realizing it.  When we conceive God as someone who is fierce against those who commit the sins we hate most, yet tolerant of our sins, we are commiting idolatry.  When we conceive God as an indulgent Grandpa, or a Santa Claus, or anything other than what He has revealed Himself to be, we are commiting idolatry. 

How do we know what God has revealed about Himself?  Its written by the prophets, and Jesus Himself taught us Who God is and what He is like.  We can trust Jesus, because He claimed to be one with God, and backed up His claims with miracles and His resurrection from the dead.  We can trust the prophets because Jesus vouched for them.

Another way we commit idolatry, is to put anyone or anything ahead of God.  Its been said if we look at our calendar and our checkbook we will see what we worship.  Our god may be our hobby, a human relationship, our children, our career, a possession, or our own ego.  Those who say man is the highest authority are making themselves out to be their own god, and that is idolatry.  So, the first commandment can be and is broken by modern man every day, and we would be wise to examine ourselves and repent in our thinking.  In fact, if we think we are without sin, we ought to first think about our relationship to God and about whether we give Him the appreciation He is due, and whether we thank Him for all He has done for us.

The Great Santini

January 22, 2010

After seeing the movie “Brats”, I re-read The Great Santini.  This story was written from the point of view of the oldest son of a Marine Corps officer, more specifically, a fighter pilot.  Fighter pilots in legend and lore, have been hard drinking, hard fighting, tough, unsentimental, fearless characters.  I think its mostly legend and lore, in that the days of any military acceptance of drinking or fighting are long gone.  However, some of the stories of fighter squadron parties in the early 1960s may have some truth to them.  However, was the Marine fighter pilot, or any fighter pilot for that matter a different breed of man than the rest?  I don’t think they inherently were different, although some professions attract certain personalities and some professions change the people who enter them.  Fighter pilots, along with soldiers, police and firefighters put their lives on the line at times or even daily in the performance of their duties.  This kind of  job may attract those who are addicted to adrenaline, those with a “devil may care” attitude, and those with a strong need to be heroes.  However, for those who just know they are good at what they do and who want to serve a cause they highly value, the job may still change them somewhat.  The extreme stress of these jobs may evoke a huge amount of emotion in a week, and people deal with that emotion in various ways.  Those who have trouble dealing with fear or sadness may numb it with alcohol, and although there have been problems of alcoholism in the ranks, its probably not greater than in society at large.  No, I think the ways of dealing with stress are as numerous as they are in any other profession.  A lot of people dealing with fear and sadness cover it with anger.  Anger is an emotion of power, and is therefore much easier to deal with than fear and sadness which leave a person feeling weak and out of control.  People feeling weak, out of control or insecure may alternatively act with a lot of bluster.  Again this is an emotion of power and is easier to deal with.  I think the “Great Santini” was such a person.  Because he probably always had problems with relationships, weakness, and feeling a loss of control, he had probably learned early on the tools of anger and bluster.  Because he was an angry, hard charging kind of guy, he probably found a place as a fighter pilot, where such characteristics were understood.  He could never have made it in careers where relationships and diplomacy were needed, or where control was vague.   We all have known people like the “Great Santini”.  They may have been bosses or family members, and they may not have all been male.  Women may also have these characteristics, but don’t have as many places to use them where they are as socially acceptable as the traditionally male roles of fighter pilot, soldier, police officer and firefighter.  A lot of women who use anger, control and bluster end up being labeled personality disordered or given a word not printable here.

So was the “Great Santini” unusual?  Not at all.  Was his personality over represented in the military?  Probably not.  He would have been a difficult, insensitive husband and father if he’d been in sales or management.   He had absolutely no relationships with his family of origin, his wife and kids feared him, and even his prayer life was impersonal.  Again, we’ve all known people like this, in all walks of life.

Magnificent Obsession

January 20, 2010

I just finished a book I read a long time ago as a young person.  The title, Magnificent Obsession, is the same title used for two movies made from the book, and a TV series was also spun off from the book and movies titled Dr. Hudson’s Secret Journal.   I also watched the tv series as a young person.

The idea behind the story is that doing good deeds in secret results in spiritual power for the doer.  It comes from a bible verse:  “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”  Matt 6:3,4.  

Of course, the book is a novel, so anything that happens as a result of the secret giving is fictional, but the words of Jesus are not fiction to anyone who believes the bible.  They contain a promise that God does reward secret charity.  What if, as the thesis of the book suggests, a great many of us decide to test this out?  What if we invest our excess of time, talent and treasure in people, rather than traditional places?  What if we ask those people to please keep the transaction a secret?  If they want to pay us back, we have to tell them we’ve already been paid back, and to pay it forward instead.  Instead of the good one person can do in a lifetime, we may be multiplying good through many lives and it may be carried on beyond our lifetimes.  Do we believe the promise of God that there is a reward?  Our giving will not leave us paupers.  Many other words of Jesus promise that our giving will never leave us barren.  “Give and it will be given to you, full measure, pressed down and running over.”  Luke 6:38.   Wouldn’t it be a grand experiment to try this just for this year?  After all, we’re only giving what we can’t keep anyway.  Invest wisely and prayerfully, invest where it can grow.  “Remember this:  whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  2Cor 9:6-8

Arguments and Arguments

January 3, 2010

I have received several posts from contrarians. Normally I print all comments when I have time to post a thoughtful response. However, I have learned not to bother with people who argue for the sake of argument. Its endless. No matter what you say, how well thought out or presented, they have some kind of argument. They aren’t really interested in thinking or pursuit of truth, just putting others down. Its obvious by the way they set up caricatures of others beliefs, they haven’t done their research. They are often disrespectful of huge groups of people, writing them off with their simplistic descriptions. For the record, I have studied biochemistry, cell biology, microbiology, arguments for and against evolution, comparative religions, bible research and arguments for and against intelligent design, all at the college level. I have decided the best evidence is on the side of a creator. I have also decided the evidence for both the historicity and claims of Jesus Christ are compelling. This is for each of us to decide. There are two opposing worldviews that can’t be reconciled. One is the naturalistic, godless evolutionary worldview. The other is the creator God worldview. They travel in opposite directions, and once you decide on one or the other, your life choices will reflect your starting point. All I can advise is study deeply and honestly, and choose wisely.