Category Archives: Idolatry of the Heart

Truth: How do we use it?

As a Christian I strongly believe in Truth!  I believe Gods word is absolute truth.  At the same time I have observed what I see as an abuse of truth in many Christians. 

I believe this abuse of truth falls into one of 2 categories.  The first is when we use truth to gain power over another person or another group. Basically, we use truth see ourselves as better than another person or group. 

The other is when we use truth as a shield.  This kind of TRUTH abuse is when we like to talk about truth but we do not use it to get “wooden” with our own sins, thoughts, and feelings. We talk truth as a way of avoiding discussing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about ourselves.  We use truth as  a very clever way of changing the subject so we do not have to look at our own sin.

So what does this look like in reality.  Years ago, my wife and I sat down with a couple we were good friends with.  This couple was struggling with some issues the husband was struggling with.  One of the things we knew about this couple was that this couple had  very black and white, all or nothing, legalistic way of thinking. This was especially true of the wife…. but also true of him.  This couple was at their best when they could look out their windows and talk about how BAD other people were and how BAD other groups were.  Well , what do you think occurs when legalistic, black or white thinking finally meets the sin inside the walls of a marriage instead of outside the walls of the marriage,,,, well, you get FIREWORKS!  I vividly remember when we sat down with them and  her strong and incorrect use of  the word “TRUTH!” at her husband as a way of belittling her husband.  She was using TRUTH as a form of a power play.   Oddly, right before she did this she told us how she was calm she was because she had the “fruit of the spirit” working in her.  As she said this her body language was anything except full of the fruit of the spirit.  This was her way of using truth as a shield to deflect everything away from her.  In one conversation with this couple they had used TRUTH both as a shield and as a power play.

Well, anyhow, I believe the question that deserves some thought today is this:

How have we used our faith and religion as either a shield or as a power play?





The cosmic dance of life

My wife and I are taking dance lessons again.  A couple of years back we learned west coast swing.  Now we are learning a slow dance called night club 2 step.  I really like it. Not only does it give the two of us something  to do during our long winters in Minnesota, but I also love the symbology of dancing and how it is a communication style of  non verbal cues  between 2 people.  The entire dance hinges on a “connection” between 2 people.  For the dance to succeed in looking like a dance it requires some very basic skills of highly subtle communication. Once those basic skills are mastered you can move on to more “styling” in your dance.

For the dancing to start being successful it requires 2 things. First, I need to communicate the dance moves to Sue in a way she understands.   In dancing a lot of these are subtle things you do to communicate your intent.  This connection between 2 people is what makes the dance work.  If the leader gives the wrong understanding to the follower it does not look like much of a dance. If the follower back leads the dance it is not very much fun for the leader and its definitely not how dancing was designed to be like.

Second, to move on to where the dance really looks good and start making progress Sue needs to feel safe in the dance communication going on between us.  If that safety is not there she is not willing to move on to learning the next thing to make dancing even more fun.  Furthermore, A lack of safety sucks the fun right of out dancing for me and her.

Those are the building blocks of dancing. Communicating  our intentions with understanding  and providing a safe environment where can grow and move on to more advanced and more fun dance moves!!  Growing with my wife is is much like dancing.   Intimacy and closeness with  my wife requires understanding and safety. Safety and understanding are the building blocks of intimacy and both, like dancing, require effort and intentionality as we take specific steps to grow together.  To communicate with understanding and safety requires some very deep roots in Gods love and mercy because, quite often it is NOT safe to communicate our shortcomings and vulnerabilitites to other sinners.  Also, we strive and work hard to protect our image of performance as a good performing employee, nice person, or moral achiever.   We communicate our strengths but.. gasp!…. never our weaknesses.   When we live up to our performance expectations we feel good about ourselves and when we don’t we feel like failures.

However, when we create an environment to safely share our weaknesses (James 5:16) and we live with the grace and mercy narrative of the cross  in how we behave toward other sinners we have the recipe for growth and change and finally have a chance at …. real intimacy.  This intimacy is not rooted in the performance and expectations of the other person but it finally has real understanding.  It loves progress but does not demand perfection.   We can put finally put down the performance achievement mask and be real with each other.

Finally, intimacy must be about something shared.  For years as Sue and I were raising the kids we seemed to be on separate missions.  Our shared lives were dismal as I became rooted in my job and she became more rooted in the children.  So what are you sharing? For Sue and I we now share workouts together, walks, devotions, a few games, some deep conversations and of course … we are trying something new …. dancing.

As we enjoy our new dancing skills I also have a vision I established about 5 years ago that I am temporarily calling for this blog topic  “the cosmic dance of life” . <—Link

Merry Christmas to you all!

The land of I – Itunes, Ipods, Ipads, and Idolatry

The new thing of this generation is for people, parents, and kids to be online and plugged into something all the time. The latest fight for parents in schools is for the parents to be in touch with kids ALL THEM TIME…. even if they are in the middle of a classroom. We are getting to the point where we will constantly be plugged in the internet wherever we are. We need to be mindful that in coming generations being plugged in does not become a substitute for having real relationships. In the future this will become something parents NEED to be mindful of.

How does this relate to this post. Well,  for the purpose of this post I am defining idolatry as the things we are plugged into the most.

I have had several posts about how people have a tendency to make good things into ultimate thigns. I want to expand on that.

Why is making good things into ultimate things bad?

Here is list of thoughts supporting this?

  • We live in a generation where child centered parenting is just as bad as absent parents. This is placing our children as idols.  This child centered parenting leads to a lot of dysfunction in families as we tend to engage in dishonest assessments of family problems to protect the family image of our children.
  • We live in a world where people place their spouse on pedestals leading to major expectations that can never be met in a single person. Rejection from our spouses leads to major marital disorder as well as dishonest assessment of real problems as we protect the image of being a great couple.
  • When we place our major sense of self worth in our jobs we become workaholics
  • When we place our major sense of self worth in sports or coaching we lose site of relationships.
  • When we place our image above others we make an idol of self. This image could be our moral performance and the rightness of our beliefs. Making this an ultimate thing then will place  people not living up to exepcations on a lower social scale. This behavior actually becomes a major hindrance for growth in people as we inoculate people against our behavior or beliefs.. even behavior and beliefs that can be VERY good.

In the Christian world when we make good things into ultimate things we call them idols and we believe having an identity in Christ needs to come first. Why is this important? Because then when the other things we hold close to our hearts are attacked we may feel bad but we are not devastated by them.  Also, its really not healthy to place a person or child at the center of your self-worth.  If we do we tend to respond in unhealthy ways as opposed to healthy ways when we feel your idol being threatened.

That’s my thought for the day.

Monstrum Incertitudinis (the monster of uncertainty) Where To Look When You’re In Trouble?

monstrum incertitudinis (the monster of uncertainty)

I found this article at:

I have some words highlighted in red below. In todays world man has become profoundly inwardly focused on how he can impact and imprint the world via moralism or righteouss acts.   His focus on his own external behavior diminishes the Glory of the cross and gospel and what God finished on the cross.  Its not me do… its what He has done!  Don’t get me wrong, I feel called to lead sanctification oriented ministries. However, I find a  very common gospel-gap in most growth oriented ministries that results in people that can’t be very honest and open before God.  This gospel-gap that focuses on my external moral behavior without focussing on Christs work in my heart by what HE did for us on the cross !!! …. I see as major hindrance to real-christ oriented sanctification and implementing the James 5:15 where we can truly see and confess our sins!

Where To Look When You’re In Trouble

A shift has taken place in the Evangelical church with regard to the way we think about the gospel–and it’s far from simply an ivory tower conversation. This shift effects us on the ground of everyday life.

In his book Paul: An Outline of His Theology, famed Dutch Theologian Herman Ridderbos (1909 – 2007) summarizes this shift which took place following Calvin and Luther. It was a sizable but subtle shift which turned the focus of salvation from Christ’s external accomplishment to our internal appropriation:

While in Calvin and Luther all the emphasis fell on the redemptive event that took place with Christ’s death and resurrection, later under the influence of pietism, mysticism and moralism, the emphasis shifted to the individual appropriation of the salvation given in Christ and to it’s mystical and moral effect in the life of the believer. Accordingly, in the history of the interpretation of the epistles of Paul the center of gravity shifted more and more from the forensic to the pneumatic and ethical aspects of his preaching, and there arose an entirely different conception of the structures that lay at the foundation of Paul’s preaching.

Donald Bloesch made a similar observation when he wrote, “Among the Evangelicals, it is not the justification of the ungodly (which formed the basic motif in the Reformation) but the sanctification of the righteous that is given the most attention.”

With this shift came a renewed focus on the internal life of the individual. The subjective question, “How am I doing?” became a more dominant feature than the objective question, “What did Jesus do?” As a result, generations of Christians were taught that Christianity was primarily a life-style; that the essence of our faith centered on “how to live”; that real Christianity was demonstrated in the moral change that took place inside those who had a “personal relationship with Jesus.” Our ongoing performance for Jesus, therefore, not Jesus’ finished performance for us, became the focus of sermons, books, and conferences. What I need to do and who I need to become, became the end game.

Believe it or not, this shift in focus from “the forensic to the pneumatic”, from the external to the internal, has enslaving practical consequences.

When you’re on the brink of despair–looking into the abyss of darkness, experiencing a dark-night of the soul–turning to the internal quality of your faith will bring you no hope, no rescue, no relief. Every internal answer will collapse underneath you. Turning to the external object of your faith, namely Christ and his finished work on your behalf, is the only place to find peace, re-orientation, and help. The gospel always directs you to something, Someone, outside you instead of to something inside you for the assurance you crave and need in seasons of desperation and doubt. The surety you long for when everything seems to be falling apart won’t come from discovering the dedicated “hero within” but only from the realization that no matter how you feel or what you’re going through, you’ve already been discovered by the “Hero without.

As Sinclair Ferguson writes in his book The Christian Life:

True faith takes its character and quality from its object and not from itself. Faith gets a man out of himself and into Christ. Its strength therefore depends on the character of Christ. Even those of us who have weak faith have the same strong Christ as others!

By his Spirit, Christ’s continuing subjective work in me consists of his constant, daily driving me back to his completed objective work for me. Sanctification feeds on justification, not the other way around. To be sure, both doctrine and devotion go hand in hand, but the gospel is the good news announcing Christ’s devotion to us, not our devotion to him. The gospel is not a command to hang onto Jesus. Rather, it’s a promise that no matter how weak your faith may be in seasons of spiritual depression, God is always holding on to you.

Martin Luther had a term for the debilitating danger that comes from locating our hope in anything inside us: monstrum incertitudinis (the monster of uncertainty). It’s a danger that has always plagued Christians since the fall but especially Christians in our highly subjectivistic age. And it’s a monster that can only be destroyed by the external promises of God in Jesus.

Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is a bonafide peace that’s built on a real change in status before God—from standing guilty before God the judge to standing righteous before God our Father. This is the objective custody of even the weakest believer. It’s a peace that rests squarely on the fact that we’ve already been “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (v. 10), justified before God once and for all through faith in Christ’s finished work. It will surely produce real feelings and robust action, but this peace with God that Paul describes rests securely on the work of Christ for us, outside us. The truth is, that the more I look into my own heart for peace, the less I find. On the other hand, the more I look to Christ and his promises for peace, the more I find.

So, when pressed in on every side, look up. In God’s economy, the only way out is always up, not in.

How is your deck stack

In the last couple of weeks I purchased a cheap deck of cards.  Since the book of  Psalms and Proverbs discusses wisdom and “the heart” a lot I decided to use the stack of cards as a “tool” to figure out the things that have been important to me in the past … but more important to figure out the things that need to be important to me according scripture.

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

So in light of this deck of cards being a “personal inventory of my own heart” I started writing on the deck of cards using all the “hearts” as stuff that  symbolized items and things that could be ‘functional gods’ of my heart.

The Ace of hearts: On the highest card, the Ace of hearts,  I wrote Jesus  and King of Kings to be inline with the scriptural truth of the greatest commandment to “love our god with all our heart”.   Jesus became the Ace of hearts or the heart with the highest power.

The Queen of Hearts: I made the second highest card the Queen of hearts and I wrote my wifes name on that card.    Sue is my wife and my queen of hearts! Scripture calls the marriage union a  one-flesh union and says it is not good for man to be alone.  God makes a point of emphasizing emphasizing  marriage and woman as “very good” in the book of Genesis!

The King of Hearts: I made the next card directly below the queen to be the “king of hearts” and wrote my name on this card.  Yes, the second greatest command said to love others as “yourself”.  So I believe scripture allows us to place ourselves high in this deck of cards.

The Jack of Hearts: My wife and I dont believe in child centered parenting so the next card was the Jack of hearts and I wrote both  my daughters’  names on this card.

Continue reading

Learning to Live Beyond our Idolatry and Insecurity

The following information is courtesy of Hosanna Lutheran Church in Lakeville, MN and a sermon done on 1/24/2011 by Ryan Alexander. The stuff that is indented is some notes and thoughts of mine!  I have been a Tim Keller fan for quite a while.  Last week and this week Ryan hit Tim Kellers Gospel and Idolatry philosophy spot on. I also want to point you to the idea of moralism under the Our Religion Bullet.  This is the topic in the next sermon.  This may bend peoples brains a bit but I am not sure if you know Christians with a legacy of broken relationships. Read the John MccArthur quote below  and it will explain why these broken relationships may come from a scripturally incorrect moralistic therapeutic deism that most (yes, most) people maintain today!  Moralistic therapeutic deism is a major thief of the Gospel today!!!!

Here is a link to Tim Kellers Centrality of the Gospel Document: Link.

Here is a link to Ryans Sermon from Hosanna Church in audio form: Link

Below is the sermon outline and some thoughts and notes of mine.

Idolatry_________________________ is a universal human tendency.
Acts 14:8-20 (p. 664)
Insecurity_______________________ is a symptom of idolatry.

Idolatry is the opposite of true worship. Every human being – at the very center of their life, today and into eternity – is unceasingly doing either the former or the latter. –

Idolatry ( a passion for something greater and more powerful than God in your life) and Insecurity (fear of not having or getting our idols)  are opposite sides of the same coin

There is a lot of talk in secular counseling about attachment and intimacy disorders.  At our core man has a worship disorder and we always break the 1st commandment (making God secondary) before we engage in the behavioral part of our sin. What we need is the expulsive, replacement, rejoicing  of Jesus Christ as we examine the idols (functional gods) of our heart!!!!

Idolatry is anything more important to you than God…anything you seek to give you what only God can give you. Idolatry is anything you look at and say, “If I have that, my life has value.” – Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods
Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your god.
– Martin Luther
10 Commandments
Under every behavioral sin is the sin of idolatry. – Luther
Top 4 American Idol Contestants:

Cars, house, money, sex, TV, Phones, games, sports

• Others___________________________

Pastors, Celebrities, Children,Spouse, Sex and Romance, (Turning Spouse and Children and good things into ultimate things)

God will never ask you to love your children or spouse less… but he will ask you to love Him more!!!!!!!!


Lust for Power, Self assurance, Self-reliance, being our own god (man’s original sin), Sex

Our Religion_______________________

Moralism (making morality the thing that makes yourself or another person acceptable to you)

Morality is the result of a relationship with jesus and not the way to a relationship with Jesus. Its not Jesus plus … Its Jesus period!

Religious rules being the main thing, our doctrine, Legalism

Part of this weeks sermon:  Moralism brings persecution to Christians for all the wrong reasons! — John MccArthur.

Part of this weeks sermon:   Moralism is if you obey your accepted but the Gospel says your accepted therefore you will strive to obey. All of scripture shows us the difference between the two. — Tim Keller

Have you ever know a very knowledgeable Christian with a legacy of broken relationships that also feels justified for all those broken relationships (I have).  The chances are that this person has not been “acting in line” with the truth of the Gospel message and is engaging in moralistic therapeutic deism (ie moralism) that Jesus rebukes with the pharisees and  Paul corrects Peter for in  Galatians (Gal 2:14). Moralism is a major thief of the truth of the Gospel message where we make a persons moral or religious performance a requirement for that person to be acceptable to you  — Jon Spadino

Idolatry is always the perversion of something good. – NT Wright
Questions for further reflection and discussion:
1. What are the idols that permeate and plague your life?
2. How are they creating insecurity in your life?
3. How can you live beyond your insecurities by exalting God more?

Brett Favre: Hero or Zero

Brett Favre (Brett Farve) has been a sports hero of mine.  He has been a guy that is playing a game at the age of 40 and still has fun playing it. As many of y0u know he has recently had lawsuits against him for making illicit sexual comments to massage therapists. Granted this is all conjecture at this point because the lawsuits have just been started and   I realize this country always presumes innocence and I do to… but since I want to use this as a teaching moment lets pretend Brett is guilty.

What do you think of this?

Does this move Brett from hero to zero in your mind?

I don’t think so.  He is still my sports hero.  Here is a guy that in his 40’s has now come face to face with his humanity and his humanity (may have)  won!  His status  of being a sports hero is gone for many.  I am sure he will try with all of his passion and energy to hang on to his sports idol status!

However, Brett Favre also has the greatest opportunity of his life. I hope he does not waste this opportunity!  He now has an opportunity to be a real life hero…. not just a sports hero!

2 Cor 12:9-10 tells us

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 about my weaknesses, so that  Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I call this verse the pain to power principal.  This scripture tells us as we embrace our fallen human nature (our pain, sin, and suffering) we see Christs power that was shown on the cross for us.  This verse allows us to get “real” with who we are (fallen and broken) and to get real with who Jesus is and too see how great Gods glory of the cross was!!

Brett has a fantastic opportunityHe has an opportunity to get honest and transparent in ways with himself, his wife,  and children in ways he has never been before. He can either make the best of this opportunity or he can waste it.   I hope Brett becomes a real life hero (in humble ways) and embraces the pain to power principal!

Repenting of our sin and good deeds

I have never found an explanation of repentance and faith as clear as this one.

What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do, you may remain just a [self righteouss] elder brother. To truly become a Christian we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness – the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things.

It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord—lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness—that you are on the verge of becoming a Christian indeed. When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everything—how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, you sins, your virtue. It’s called the new birth because its so radical” – Tim Keller, The Prodigal God

We must repent not only of our evil ways, but also our good ways motivated by the wrong reasons.

Gospel Based Intimacy with God and Others

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is…
We are more sinful and weak than we ever dared to admit and…
We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope.

In recent years I have been working hard at understanding my core and to not deviate far from it. In essence to try to remain in the sweet spot of Gods word. The sweet  spot to me is the Gospel message. If we don’t keep that clearly in our sites we can eventually use scripture to damage relationships as we claim obedience or attempted obedience in some judgemental way.

I want to expand on some personal reasons why I believe we as Christians need to “Keep the main thing the main thing” and continually beat the gospel message about Christ into our heads. We need to re-remind each other of the Gospel message continuously. Martin Luther says, “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine….Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” (on Gal.2:14f).  The gospel might be easy to understand but it is very difficult to apply in a persons life!!!!!

What I have seen [and participated in] is that as sinners we can twist anything and everything, including scripture, in idolotrous ways and suck life out of it for Continue reading

Idolatry: Making good things into ultimate things

When my wife and I were first married we made a decision to start going to Church. One of the primary reasons for making this decision was to raise our Kids in Christian way and to raise our kids to be moral, upright citizens.  Many people start going to Church for the same reason.  However, I have learned over the years that this is an incorrect motive for going to Church.  Our primary reason to go to Church needs to be to  worship the creator and NOT created things.  Any other reason is a violation of the 1st commandment … to have no other Gods!  Unfortunately, making functional idols out of our children and our spouses is a subtle idol that many people have!

I have also noticed in my own family that we have a tendency to make good things like family into ultimate things in our hearts.  I believe one of the areas of the heart that Continue reading