The Idols of My Heart

Contentment and Covetousness are opposing forces. One settles you in God and the other makes you turn you back to God. Contentment is under-girded by the idea that God is for you and He works for your good. Covetousness is backed by the idea that God is holding back from you and He is not necessarily for your good

Contentment is being satisfied in the will of God. It is not the height of fulfillment but it means you take a stance similar to this: “it is enough that God is God, and I am His child and He loves me.” With Contentment, God is not your plan A or B or Z; He is simply your reality – you have enough trust that you throw your lot with God.

Covetousness is the desire to gain, selfish gain. It is when desire approaches or reaches the obsessive state where it overrules what is good i.e. what God defines as good. Covetousness is not necessarily an action; it starts out as a thought, an inclination.

Idolatry is primarily a condition of the heart. In Col 3:5, we see that covetousness is idolatry. There is no hard and fast rule on classifying a particular action as idolatry. We must be careful to not fall into legalism and rationalize away the idols in our hearts

In Lev 26:1 and Exo 20:3, we see that we have the power to make things or people an idol. An idol’s power lies in the heart. Idols are not necessarily made of wood, stone or iron. An Idol is anything that serves as a source for us, outside of God. It can be a source for success, happiness, wealth, acceptance, affirmation, support, healing, love, recognition, comfort, etc.

Anything we put before God is idolatry. We must be careful here because if you were to ask me if I put anything before God, my sincere answer is No and I do believe that wholeheartedly. However, how does this come to play when I want to make career decisions and I give little thought to God? How does this work itself out when I make decisions about marriage, friendships, investments, etc., without integrity? When I work to see my own ambition come to pass at all times without caring who I step on, is that not putting my ambitions before God? How is my aforementioned claim reflected in how I spend my time and what I think about?

The fool has said in his heart (not with his lips) that there is no God (Ps 14:1, emphasis mine). How do we say there is no God? We say it through our actions, when we set aside the instructions of God and seek to make things happen in our own might. If David had killed Saul in 1 Sam 26:1-12, it would have been David saying, “God, I know you are all powerful, but I can handle this situation better, so relax and let me handle this”

We act from our heart, see Proverbs 4:23. We will never do anything that does not make any remote sense to us. Our actions show what we, to some extent, believe. Yes, an act of violence might not mean I am full of violence but it does show that there is violence in me. The same goes with gossip, caustic lips, anger, etc.

Our actions, at the very least, show what we are made up of. They might show that we don’t love as much as we think we love or maybe they show us that we are not as matured as we think.

What we love, desire or give attention to, repeatedly, beyond the parameters God has set for us is an idol. Sports can be an idol for you in a way that it is not for another person. What we draw strength from apart from can be idolatry. What we give our resources (time and strength) to can be idolatry. When your heart is stirred with discontentment and you look for satisfaction outside of God, then you are inching towards idolatry, if not already in its throes.

The problem with idolatry is that one tends to see everything else through the filter of the idols in one’s heart. Even when it comes to hearing from God, you can twist things as much as you want to support your goals. Eze 14:1-11 troubles me as it shows that when I am in idolatry, I can seemingly twist the words of God so I hear what I want to hear.

Take a step back and look at the last couple of months, where, if ever, did you lose that settled-ness in God, that calmness that has you running ahead of God to accomplish or see something through? Where have you lost that posture of laying down in the lush green meadows when it comes to relationships, love, acceptance, comfort, etc.? Where have you turned away from standing by the Master as you walk along the calm, restful waters in pursuit of recognition, affirmation or maybe retribution? Where did your eyes leave the Master in pursuit of something else although you are still walking by His side?

I am guilty of idolatry in so many ways. As I ponder on those questions, I can only marvel at the grace of God and thank Him for His revelation. There is much to correct and even as I move to make amends, I see my old nature rising and I am reminded of Ps 139:23-24. Let God be the one that seeks out the issues of your heart and posture. Let Him do the leading that will ultimately make you into a refreshed soul who walks the paths of righteousness, for His name sake.

Amen

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The Idols of My Heart

Taking Territories for God

I salute your courage and strength as you face tough seasons in this life. I salute the smile you wear to encourage another soul. I salute the hugs you give, the prayers, and sometimes the simple act of standing, in silence, with a hurting friend. 
 
Understand that this life is but an introduction and a preface for the next life where we will begin chapter 1 of our beautiful existence. You are an eternal being, eternity matters for us not in terms of where we will spend it but in terms of how.
 
As you face diverse challenges, please remember that God’s loving eyes never leave you. He allows those challenges and uses them for discipline (Heb 12:3-13). Understand that God will never take anything from you that you need. Why? Because He Himself is your sustenance! Plus He swore that He will never leave nor forsake you (Heb 13:5-6 AMP, Isa 54)
 
We face challenges because this is how we truly access the Kingdom of God (Rom 8:17 & 1 Peter 2:21-24). Through the difficult times, we learn to wage war with our mind, our words, and our determination. We come to that place where within our very own weaknesses, we see the might of God influencing nations; we come to understand the necessity of depending on God. We learn what it means to truly Be Still before the Lord, to enter into His rest. Eventually, we readily entrust our ambitions, reputation and success into the hands of a Sovereign and Loving Governor
 
As we overcome these challenges, we are taking territories for God i.e. we become battle tested soldiers who are equipped to help others through their own battles, further advancing the Kingdom of the Most High – Iron sharpens iron
 
Yet in the midst of those challenges, things can be so dreary and uncertain. I know that one can feel so weak, so insignificant, so talent-less, so stale, so empty. Do not give up hope. All is not lost. Actually all that seem lost will be restored and recovered and God will bless you double for your woes (Zech 9:11-12). 
 
We overcome those feelings and thoughts by continually feasting on God’s words. And sometimes that means taking 5 to 10 minutes to meditate on what it means for God’s eyes to always be on you. Or maybe feast on the truth that God loves you deeply. If this is true, how should you walk around? What should your inclinations be? What is the limit of your capacity on an assignment that He has given you?
 
Take significant time to meditate on scriptures such as Ps 23. Be the sheep in the psalm, think of what it means to have a caring and loving Shepherd that anticipates your needs. Feast on Ps 139, feast on the beauty that you are. What you call imperfections or quirks about how you look or think is the deliberate crafting of God to make you into what you only ever be – an ORIGINAL MASTERPIECE
 
“As fire has to have continuous contact with an object to affect it, so an intermittent thought cannot bring about passion in a heart; a certain amount of time is necessary.” St. Basil the Great
 
In the same way, we must always set the Lord before us (Ps 16:8) i.e. we must always be present with God and we accomplish that by continually ruminating on His words
 
Be of good cheer, do not be discouraged. The dark night will pass and you would have conquered another territory for God
 
The One who calls you is Faithful! 
Taking Territories for God

Hope for the Shadows

In my life, there are times when I am simply pumped, excited and ready to take on all challenges. During these seasons, I am “fearless,” the very embodiment of “courage.” Some will say those are the “good ol’ days.” I cannot help but laugh when I consider other seasons of my life. Sometimes the very light we step into creates shadows that subtly stay in our blind spot. What I see as being courageous is an illusion, for I cannot be courageous except in the face of daunting obstacles – obstacles that typically come as a result of external pressure, the type that shifts my perspective of reality.

After much struggle, and much failure, I come to the end of myself – which is where I inevitably find God’s address. These seasons are indeed the “good ol’ days.” In those seasons, I learn to trust God more, and lay aside my strengths. I learn to walk a mile in the shoes of heroes of our faith. I borrow their emotions, watch the internal struggle, taste their failure and conduct their hope. I am grateful for these seasons. I am grateful that God will bother with me. I am grateful He has a will for my life. I am reminded that indeed these seasons are expressions of God’s love for me (Heb 12:5-7).

I have made mistakes in life and when I look back at them, I am VERY grateful to God. No one, no devil can destroy your destiny or pluck you from the hands of the Almighty – that prerogative belongs only to you. Sometimes, what you see as mistakes is the skillful hand of the Lord guiding events and humans to the fulfillment of His will. Now, there are times when you truly made a bad decision and the subsequent music is not pretty but God in His mercies will help and sustain you.

If the enemy truly had that much power over you, he would have obliterated you a long time ago. Your existence is proof that hope is not lost. Nothing happens to you without the knowledge of God, rest easy for even before you were born, God knew about your current situation and he has provided a way out already (1 Cor 10:13). In Gen 37:19-20, Joseph’s brothers thought they could destroy his destiny but unbeknownst to them, they were being instrumental to fulfilling His destiny. In Gen 45:4-8, we see that what the brothers thought of as their “mistake” in betraying Joseph was actually a “working” of God to send Joseph to Egypt. In the same vein, it was “a mistake” for Joseph to share his dreams with his brothers. Quite frankly, it was not good sense but in reality it was a “working” of God.

To those that are suffering from “missed opportunities” or feeling the heat of “mistakes,” I implore you to turn to God and rest in His sufficiency by believing in His goodness and greatness towards you. I encourage you to lay aside your strengths, lay down your “Isaacs” before God. Do things His way. Contact godly friends who will bear you up, invite God as you face your fears and limits, cry out to Him from the depth of your heart even if your heart is empty. Call to the Almighty and He will, without fail, respond.

When we read Joseph’s story, we know how it ends so it is inspiring but step into the story as Joseph without the benefit of knowing the end. It’s a scary story especially at the beginning of his journey into slavery. When Joseph was sold into slavery, humanly speaking, his hope had to below zero. Even if he got married, his wife would most likely be a slave and his lineage would be slaves. In essence, his situation was more than dire.

In addition, it seems like with every progress he made, there was a bigger downfall waiting for him. Yet with such unimaginable burden, he was still proclaiming the faithfulness of God.  Joseph’s concern for fellow prisoners was evidence of his relationship with God. With zero resources, Joseph persevered most likely by feeding on God’s faithfulness. How did he do this?

Maybe by recalling the stories Jacob told him of God and by recalling his own experiences with God. For us, our sword is the Word of God. We must feed on the Word of God. With eyes of love, meditatively read through Ps 23 and Ps 139 and let the realities of God watching over you allay your fears and doubts. Read Ps 29 to know that the voice of God is powerful enough to overturn any and all situations. Meditate on Col 1:15-17 to see the Supremacy of Christ, the same Christ who is for you in Rom 8:26-39. Yes, both Christ and the Holy Spirit are praying for you! No matter how you feel, no matter how bad you think you handled the “tough” times, be of good cheer, rest in the Father, you are more than a CONQUEROR. You might not feel like one, but throw aside your logic and feelings and simply BELIEVE (John 6:28-29)

In the midst of this dire situation, God was working out certain things in Joseph. Maybe God was teaching Joseph that his talents were meant for service not to set him apart. Maybe God was training him on how to exercise authority and leadership. Whatever the case might have been, God was preparing Joseph to literally save the known world. In essence, Joseph was a conqueror in training. You are also a conqueror in training. In fact, when you look closely, you are already taking mountains, like Joseph rose through the ranks in Potiphar’s estate.

I do not know the particulars of what God is molding in you but I do know that if you will partner with God, He will paint a beautiful mosaic out of the broken pieces of your heart and life. When I remember that my Abba is the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” I am filled with hope because I know that Jacob was a nutcase by any standard back then lol. And if God associates His holy name with Jacob, there is hope for me and you in Christ Jesus, regardless of our mistakes if only we cry out and submit to Him

To those walking through the valleys of shadows, fear not, trust in the Lord and He will strengthen and uphold you. Press on through the shadows, not by your strength, not by how you feel, not by what you sense but by feeding on the faithfulness of God. Press on by remembering that He will never leave you nor forsake you, absolutely not! (Heb 13:5 – check out the amplified version). Press on for if you do not give up, you will soon see the dawn of the morning (Gal 6:9). God will never take from you that which you need for sustenance. Why? Because He is your sustenance!

Whatever or whoever you “lose,” keep pressing on, focusing, not on the impossibility of your issue but on the goodness and greatness of God towards you. His goodness guarantees He is after your wellbeing. His greatness speaks of His might to do you good. Make His goodness and greatness your hope. If He is indeed the Sufficiency of All things, nothing takes Him by surprise. Therefore because He loves you dearly, He already has a way out planned for you

We do not live by sight or our feelings, we live by faith! And our hope in Christ, not in an ending or in a person; we dare not even trust our own strength. Hope that is seen is not hope, hence the necessity of the struggle. The struggle itself can be a blessing depending on how you approach it. Be strong and of good courage by praising God, by feeding on His Word, by aligning your perspective and will to His. Stay in the place that stretches your faith and grow. Lengthen your cords, deepen your stakes, and grow strong in faith by giving glory to God (Rom 4:20).

I see the “hard” seasons as good because the goal is never the “end.” Rather the goal is who we are becoming! My prayer and hope is that you are becoming Christ like, for that is your destiny. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13). Be of good courage and good cheer

Hope for the Shadows