ODJ 9th June - Jesus among the idols
According to anthropologists, worship is found in every culture. Deep within us lies an impulse to offer ourselves to someone or something that will give us meaning, security, and identity.
The Golan Heights, a region between modern-day Israel and Syria, is an area rich in worship history. More than a dozen temples dedicated to the Old Testament fertility god Baal have been uncovered there. A nearby cave is said to be the birthplace of the Greek hunting god Pan. Herod the Great built a temple to Caesar there (from whom the earlier name Caesarea Philippi originates).
Jesus and His disciples were walking through this region one day when Jesus stopped and asked this question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13). They gave Him the public’s best guess—that He was one of the ancient prophets returned from the dead (Mark 8:28). “But who do you say I am?” Jesus probed. “You are the Messiah,” Peter replied (Mark 8:29), “the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). What a significant place for the identity of Jesus to be revealed! As the words echoed off the pagan altars around them, the disciples knew that here stood One greater than Baal, Pan, or Caesar.
Most people today don’t worship emperors. But the worship of physical idols continues as well as our veneration of movie stars, professional athletes, and high-achieving colleagues, or through our worship of work, physical exercise, hobbies, or romantic partners.
Jesus walks among our modern idols and altars and calls for our sole allegiance. Will we bow?
ODJ 10th June - Revealed
My list of projects to accomplish this weekend is somewhere near the level of insanity. As a teacher, I thrive on learning new things and finding innovative ways to communicate ideas to my students. So I have this nasty habit of creating projects for myself. Most times, I live somewhere on the continuum between order and chaos. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always match the length of my “to do” list. When I put God at the center of everything, however, each task becomes simpler.
In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul contrasts God’s faithfulness with the Israelites’ unfaithfulness. By doing so, he highlights that our beliefs are not revealed in our words, but in our choices. Though they had tasted of God’s goodness (1 Corinthians 10:3-4), the Israelites struggled to hold fast to the conviction that if God had provided for them before, He was capable of providing for them again. Instead, they presumed on God’s grace and didn’t follow Him with all their hearts.
The Israelites’ spiritual adultery didn’t begin with offerings to a foreign god. It began with a lack of faith. In our frail humanity, we run the risk of not faithfully following God, so we’re cautioned, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
When times are uncertain and life is demanding, we can run to the shelter of self and allow fear to drive our decisions. Or we can place our decisions—and thus our lives—before God’s throne. When we see every part of life as an act of worship to Him, then all that encompasses our lives becomes an opportunity for the greatness of God to be made manifest. It allows His glory to be revealed.
ODJ 14th June - Batting 1.000
Baseball determines a player’s batting average by dividing his total number of hits by the number of times he’s batted. If a player hits the ball every time he bats, he’s batting 1.000 (or one thousand). For as long as baseball has been around, no player has ever batted 1.000. And just as no baseball player has ever achieved batting perfection, so no follower of Jesus has ever been perfect either. No one would have understood this better than the apostle Paul. Romans 7 reflects Paul’s personal admission of not being able to bat 1.000. It emphasizes that believers in Jesus will be made perfect one day, but will still struggle with sin this side of heaven. In these verses Paul taught the Romans at least three important principles:
• Christians can and should continually grow in sanctification through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Though they will never bat 1.000 in living holy lives, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try (Romans 7:6).
• Christians will struggle with sin throughout their lives (Romans 7:21; Galatians 5:17). No follower of Jesus has ever nor ever will bat 1.000.
• Daily deliverance from this constant tension is found in the once dead and now living Jesus, the only One who ever batted 1.000 (Romans 7:25; Hebrews 4:15).
As followers of Jesus, we should be profoundly aware of how far we fall short of God’s absolute of righteousness, and how important it is to allow the One who lived a perfect life to live through us. Also, we should continue to feed our faith, shower people with grace when they fail to reach the goal, and refuse to become discouraged when we miss the mark.
Repent, receive God’s forgiveness, forget the past, and move on. You’ll never bat 1.000, but a perfect Savior walks with you.