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Month: April, 2014

Modern Idol Worship

Those of us that grew up in the church, especially the evangelical Church, will often hear a common sermon. Preached frequently from the pulpit is the concept of idol worship and how that translates into the modern skeptical world. Almost no one here in the west will bow down to a molech or ba’al statue now, but we form our own idols in the things we obsess over and spend too much time with. At least, that is the commonly held thought. Sports, video games, TV, these things can all become idols in our lives, or can they?
Concepts like these existed in Ancient Israel, and even likely back to the beginning of time. Men would always spend too much time at work, think too much on sports, or the equivalent. Elisha, I am quite sure, spoke too often of the latest rock rolling game. Yet in Scripture, when God warns of idol worship, He is angry at the actual bowing and worship of another god, not sports, or obsessive lawn care.
So then, if modern-day idol worship isn’t obsession with worldly things, what is it? As we said earlier, we don’t bring our firstborn to molech any more, or worship images of Ba’al. What than is idol worship? Well, the obvious first answer is ACTUAL worship of false gods. This does exist, if not as commonly in the West, but takes shape in Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism. These are actual idol worship, easily identified. What about the West then and its apparent absence of those types of eastern mysticism? Well, it may not be as obvious, but I would argue it is just as pervasive in the western church, more increasingly, we are seeing it in the form of steps taken to reject His revealed Word when it discomforts us or when another “truth” suits us better.
We discover a truth about God and we reject it. How many times have you heard someone say “I couldn’t worship a God like that” That person has ceased to pursue truth and is now pursuing comfort. We will exchange the truth for a lie because it suits us better. We then set this god up in our image (a reversal of creation in the Garden) and we bow to it. We pray to it. We go to church on Sunday and we sing praise and worship songs to it. We have actually created a real idol and just called it by the same name. This is what modern idol worship is, and it is sadly pervasive.


The Odd Dichotomy of Western Christian Thought

As a western culture we are taught from the cradle to doubt. We are never to take a thing at face value. We are taught to be skeptics as quickly as we are taught to tie our shoelaces. Question Motives, origins, make up, directions and outcomes! Then, once and IF you understand it, you may accept it. As I have said before, we live in a culture of doubt. To doubt is actually glorified. In some way, though it should be. Being skeptical can help protect one from certain pitfalls in the form of swindlers and thieves. Along with that comes this harsh inability to accept that which we do not know, or at least fully understand.

Yet, as Christians, we are raised to believe in this unseen God. We hear talk of demons and angels. We have promises of Heaven and sanctification. We hear of or even experience miracles or spiritual warfare. All of these things, unquantifiable yet expected to be accepted. We learn to pray to this God and build much of our life around Him. We learn to sacrifice ourselves to Him, unseen though he is. And we do. Every day we live this harsh dichotomy as western Christians.

In earlier years, this isn’t so difficult to do, as our concrete minds have little to no trouble compartmentalizing this paradox. On one hand we firmly believe nothing really exists that we cannot measure or understand. On the other, we firmly believe that God, the intrinsically unknowable, does indeed exist. It isn’t till later that these two begin to collide. Many begin to smash the two concepts against each other until one prevails and the other fades away. Some of our most passionate and outspoken atheists were brought up in some form of the church. Or we have our mini Chestertons who glory in their belief in the possibilities of Fairies. Some search out a way for the dichotomy to remain and hold onto both at the same time as they age and develop. Still others refuse to deal with the discrepancies and hold desperately to both.

If everyone/thing around you tells you that the supernatural or unknowable is foolish, at what point does that all-encompassing skepticism apply to your own faith?

Hope in Change

Often we fear change. We are so comfortable with our current discomforts that the thought of losing them can terrify. No matter how frustrating or abusive our circumstances can be, they are, after all, ours. We claim them and then clasp them tightly to our chests in their familiarity as change might bring something worse. Complacency, after all, is basically living in fear. And are we even called to have a spirit of fear? Are we? Or perhaps are we called to have a spirit of something else.

To that I say, “no!” Complacency finds its safety in a static environment. A preference to fight the enemy you know rather than the one you don’t know, that you might have. But the sad reality of that is that there is no real standing still. There isn’t a static environment. If you aren’t moving towards faith in Christ then you are effectively moving away from it. If you actively choose a static life, and live in fear of change, you are sealing your faith doom. A sure destruction versus a feared possible one.

So rise to that challenge and change. Do not live in fear of it. Look forward in hope instead of sticking your head in the sand and there by dooming yourself. You will find hope in change, and the only difference from before is perspective. Instead of looking in fear, look to the future with hope!

That hope will bring with it a vibrancy for your faith. Jurgen Moltmann, upon seeing his peers succumbing to hopelessness and accepting their current static circumstances as their reality, was spurred on to write his greatest work, the Theology of Hope upon that greatest of changes that we are to accept, the great eschatological change of the end times, and the hope that must bring to us as believers.

Letting fear of change dictate our life will certainly spell our doom, but rather looking to change for the hope it can provide will always pay dividends.

Doubt’s Foe

Doubt, that pernicious element, can sneak its way into any mind, any spiritual crevice and even the oldest, wisest of believers can find themselves struggling against it. Despite our church goings, our Bible readings, or our righteous doings, we are all susceptible to our mind questioner. And while some precious few seem to be given more grace in this area, the vast majority of us are challenged often with its pugnacious persistence. Trained from the cradle with an Aristotelian approach to the divine and supernatural, we question immediately when faced with it. A believer of twenty-six years, I find myself wrestling with it often and I try to remember to use one of the more effective weapons I have to combat it.

One of the most useful cure for doubt is the answered prayer. Nothing can set a troubled mind at ease like a direct response from the divine. A life changed, a need provided for, or even a miracle witnessed, can all be the answer we seek when we enter the holy presence of God as worshipers, and supplicants. Different situations will furnish different opportunities for answered prayer. Things as small or seemingly unimportant as good weather or an open parking spot when you are running late can show you God’s grace and enjoyment of answering prayer as certainly as a father healed or a bill paid that you needed, but couldn’t dare to expect.

While  we do not control the answers to prayer, there is something we can do to be proactive in addressing doubt in this way. Prayer is rarely answered when it is not prayed in the first place. So the first thing we do is get on our knees, fold our hands and bow our heads. We pray. We remember our place as supplicants and we beseech our father for answers. If you want a way to address your doubts then start giving God prayers to answer. Scripture commands us to pray and even gives us a great example in the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father, which art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done,

in earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive them that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation;

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

the power, and the glory,

for ever and ever.

Scripture is full of examples, as well, of God delighting in interacting with his children.

Believer, be active, fulfill your name and believe. An active thing, belief is. So be active and get on your knees. Be active, and pray.

RETRO POST: Emerging from a Modern Past

March, 2007

What pops into your head when you hear the term Emergent Church?

Most likely you are like me, and the first thought is, “The what, now?” Honestly, it is a relatively new movement, only gaining momentum in the last ten years or so. Better men/women than me will give a more full description of what the Emerging or Emergent Church is, but for the purposes of this article, I will say it is basically the Church’s (or portions of the Church) response to a society that no longer thinks modernistically. The problem is that the Gospel thrives within an absolutist modern mindset, but withers unprepared in the onslaught of a postmodern take. The Emerging/ent Church is attempt at an answer to this.

Put simply there are two major area where this movement has sought change, methodology, and theology. Many contemporary theologians have discussed and critiqued the changes in theology that the Emergent Church, in particular, has introduced. These I wish to sidestep for the purposes of this piece. I want to look at the methods with which the Emerging/ent Church has implemented. While many of a more conservative nature may react somewhat to the Emergent Church taking a more postmodern view of interpretation of Scripture, we cannot ignore the drive to change how we do Christianity.

Theology should never be compromised, methodology should always be compromised.

It cannot be denied that the Emerging Church has begun to answer a question that must be answered and address by the church. If we seek to maintain the modern status quo, and refuse to change our methods, we will become outdated and ineffective. This is a day and age where preaching life change from a pulpit will not reach a seeker like it did 50-75 years ago. Standing on that corner, handing tracts out to perfect strangers will get you dirty looks. One of the Emerging Church’s main points is what they like to call ‘Missional Living’, which seems to be an amped up and focused version of friendship evangelism. They emphasize the importance of establishing the trust and friendship with someone long before presenting them with your faith. I grew up among Native American people where the gospel would fall on deaf ears as long as they didn’t trust you, and trust was years in the making. There was no need to shake the dust off of our feet as I realized they weren’t rejecting the message, they were rejecting the messenger. How could they, or any postmodern person, believe in an exclusivist faith pattern, when the person telling them means next to nothing to them. The Emerging Church movement has recognized this and seeks to affect change within this church to work with this. Through service, friendship and love we will reach those seekers that would never listen to a preacher, or tract.

What we as conservative Evangelicals need to begin doing is embrace what we can of the Emerging Church, making it our own, and pursuing this postmodern method of showing the world Jesus. I encourage perhaps that maybe we should shelf the theological issue for now and address some of their methodological changes. Learn about their drive for Authenticity, how they live out their Non-legalistic Conduct, the building of their Unstructured Ecclesiology, their artsy forms of Creative Spirituality, their presentation of Conversation/Dialogue. Honestly, there are many aspects of the Emerging Church Movement that beg to be studied, and offer many things that need to be implemented. Read Rob Bell, definitely read Mark Driscoll, read Brian McClaren, and even take a chance on Donald Miller, as he has much to offer on the subject as well.

Perhaps we should take what they are doing right, instead of rejecting what they may be doing wrong. Just a thought.

Reminder: This was written 7 years ago, and each of the people mentioned in this article have continued to evolve since then. Take that with a grain of salt.


I will be periodically posting articles from guest authors to add some variety and different viewpoints from time to time. This first article is from Peter McIntyre, a friend of mine who graduated from Moody Bible Institute with me. An avid photographer and thoughtful man, I look forward to many more article from him. Enjoy!


There’s this annoying kiosk where I work that plays a twenty-seven second clip from each CD, over and over, all day long.  Didn’t pay much attention to it, except that there was this rising interval that jumped into my consciousness every time it played:

At last…

One day I finally walked over, punched the button, and listened.  A warm, bluesy voice rolled out, rose and fell, first caressing and then belting through the cheap speakers:

At last,

My love has come along,

My lonely days are over

 And life is like a song…

There was a bit of an aural train-wreck after that, since the next clip was Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I adjusted and got back to work.  Every once in a while I walk by and hit the button again, stand just long enough to hear the strings swell:

At last…

Sometimes she dances by when I’m working away in a corner.  My love has come along…  And I wonder what took him so long, why she sounds so rested, serene when she sings it.

Today was a bit long, hectic, haggard, hard on the feet.  I got to sit in her corner for a while, digging for stuff, doing this and that.  Another guy I work with was helping me with a few items and she started in with her testimony, to which he responded how much he just hated that song.  I told him that I was about ready to buy a copy then and there.  And she just kept rolling through my mind, over and over, all day long.

I finally finished, bought a few things, some new pans, exciting stuff to carry all the way home.  It was cold waiting for the train, windy.  I sat and stared out the glass as we screeched and clattered west with my new pans and tired feet.  The streets went by like spokes on a wheel, a wheel that was rolling along the window, rolling over me, with a hub beyond the dark horizon, rolling the world along in a moving picture show, flattening me under its weight.  Half way home, a lone firework popped over the orange street lights, a little green spray.  I stared after it but didn’t see more–who’s shooting fireworks in Winter anyway?  And then, staccato piano chords on a warm bed of violins washed into my consciousness:

At last…

Aw,  lemme alone Etta, will ya?  Can’t you see I’m busy letting the world steamroll over me?  But her voice is the kind that’s hard to argue with.  Her twenty-seven second love song began its journey through my mind again, over and over.  I started to wonder about how a woman looks when she feels like that, when she knows her love has come along at last.  I think when I find out I’ll make sure she never gets far from my sight afterward.

I rode on and thought that was all there was to it, but it just kept rolling.  I thought about David, songs in the bible, all that ancient stuff.  Ya know, all of those “songs” in Revelation never really did much for me, if I must be honest.  As I clattered the last few blocks with my pans and sore feet, I wondered if they sound more poetic in the original Greek, maybe flow a little better.  I climbed up all the stairs and dumped my stuff on the bed and told God that I missed him.  Lord, what ever happened to rending the heavens and coming down here?  I know you’re on your way and all, but the world’s still rolling and I’m still wondering if I should have spent so much on pans.  Sooner or later you are going to show up, right?

I know what I will look like when he does.  A little embarrassed probably, but not the guilty kind like when you get caught reading the Cosmopolitan cover at the grocery checkout.  No, it’ll be the kind of embarrassed that a girl gets when a boy she likes tells her she’s pretty, or maybe like a bride when her veil is finally lifted.  Embarrassed doesn’t really seem like the right word, though, but then maybe there isn’t one.  Maybe two words would suffice.

– Peter McIntyre

The End of Doubt

When Christ appeared to the disciples following His death and resurrection, His first words were to identify and question their doubt. “Why are you so troubled and filled with doubt?” He questions their doubt, but he does not leave it there. He goes on to give them the assurance and even physical proof that they need to rest their questions. He does not reject them for those doubts, but rather addresses them and assures them.

The important thing to understand here is that the doubts were the beginning of the interchange Jesus has with his disciples. They are not the end. Doubt is always a beginning, but never an end. It begins a question, and as heavy or destructive as that question might end up being, the doubt never resolves that question. Something else inevitably ends that beginning, and I believe we actually have a say in what that ending will be. Doubt will happen to us, but where we go from there will be up to us. The danger comes in when we begin to translate these doubts and questions as if they were defining resolutions in us. But, how can they be? How could a question ever be used to explain who I am and what I believe? At best it could perhaps show what I don’t believe, but by definition a belief is an understanding of a concept in the positive, and a doubt/question is a query in the negative. Your doubt cannot and will not define you. Where you take it? That might define you though.

So, what about you? What is the end result of your doubt? Where will you come out? Sure, you have doubts as we all do and will, but what will be the end of your doubt? Will you choose unbelief, or will you address those doubts, grow and move on? What will be the end of doubt?

LONG POST: Is Rebellion Sin?

A recent question debated with some friends and family.

Reading Future Men by Doug Wilson, and he flat-out states that rebellion is sin. Therefore, a boy dying his hair purple is sin. I am curious what others think.

Well, I think rebellion is a heart issue. If the attitude of my heart is “Screw authority of ANY kind, I’m doing what I want regardless of what anyone thinks!” then yes. Sin. But the ACT of dying one’s hair purple is not a sin unless it comes out of a heart rebelling.


But, then according to that (and I am not saying I disagree) for that person whose heart is in constant rebellion to authority of any kind, most things they do would be sin…?


Isaiah 63:10 – But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore He turned to become their enemy and Himself fought against them.

I Samuel 12:14-15 – If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God—good! 15 But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your

Psalm 68:6 – The rebellious dwell in a dry land.


Well, rebellion against God is definitely sin, but is ALL rebellion sin? Those passages seem quite clear the rebellion was against God and His commandments. What if the rebellion is against the “status quo”? or Cultural demands? IE. Assuming his parents didn’t forbid him to dye his hair, all he is rebelling against then is culture, if that… so why would purple hair be sin?


What if authority is in rebellion against God and you are rebelling against authority?


Joshua, that would be direct reference to passages that argue, obey God’s law rather than man’s when they contradict, so that one seems clear-cut as well.


Rebellion in my opinion is sin. We are not only called to submit to Gods authority but He calls us to submit to all authority. Now if the authorities were to tell us to sin, and we don’t, that is not rebellion. If the child dyed his hair purple against his parents’ wishes, he sinned.


What if his parents didn’t tell him not to…and he was doing it say…in rebellion to current culture?


If it is in rebellion of current culture, then you really need to define the word and its intent. I love going against the flow when it comes to current culture, that doesn’t make me rebellious. You have to be careful though, and make sure that when you do decide to go against your culture, it isn’t out of selfishness. That is a word to contemplate! Selfish ambition.


I think scripture is pretty clear that Christians should generally honor their parents when young, and submit to both Church and government authorities. Whatever you might think of your current local government, it is not worse than first century Rome. An interesting facet of the government that God has placed over us, though, is that in order for it to function we are REQUIRED to be involved citizens, which includes questioning authority at times. That said, all of those authorities are subordinate to God and to scripture so I agree that Joshua is right.

I think it is a reach to consider cultural norms to be an “authority” when no legitimate authority has specifically ordered them. However, you should consider whether deviating from cultural norms is going to present a stumbling block to other believers or negatively affect your witness as a Christian (in some cases, it may actually improve your witness to certain people). I’m not sure if I’d go as far as to call it “sin” if it doesn’t pass those tests, but it still probably isn’t advisable. Of course, those are complicated questions on their own.


I’m beginning to come to a realization that any action can be righteous or sinful, only the heart determines which is which (“Man looks on the outward appearance…”). Having said that, what is often called rebelling, whether it is actually sinful or not, also functions–for the rebeller–as a way to set the boundaries of their soul, i.e. “Common opinion says this is wrong, but what do I think about it?” As this process happens to an adolescent, it is sometimes quelled using spiritual terminology that really amounts to “Get back in line” or even “I personally don’t like purple hair and I’m the authority so it is wrong for you.” See, for example, the copious writings of  Eric Padzoria on the subject of Spiritual Abuse for a more thorough fleshing out of this.


I might add to Peter’s idea that where you are a parent, employer, or other authority figure, if you exasperate those under you by imposing rules based on only your personal taste, you are sinning.


Jesus was a rebel


I would argue he wasn’t. He was establishing a higher authority. God/himself, he was paving the way for a restoration from our long rebellion. Christ was, himself, the cure for rebellion.


Depends on what you are rebelling from, if it is from God, Yes, from wrong doing, and turning to God NO


It seems, I would think on reflecting on all of your comments (thank you so much, except Jesse), a very level heading, and I would say, correct consensus is that perhaps Doug Wilson is wrong in labeling purple hair as Rebellion.

Rebellion as a concept means rejecting the authority over you and deciding you are your own authority. It always includes an actual authority to be rejected, whether that is God, Church, Parents or Government. Purple hair by itself (outside of a mandate by the law(not likely to happen) or parents(wasn’t specified in this example)) is not rebellion, regardless of how counter-culture it might be. Culture is not an authority placed over us and thus we are not mandated to follow its “rules” So being “counter-culture” is not actual Rebellion.

That being said, it would seem then… that Rebellion IS sin… It is disobedient, self-centered, and proud. The one exception would be if that rebellion is in order to reject man’s authority in favor of God’s authority, and in a case like that is actually obedience to God’s law more than it is rebellion to man’s law. So, it would seem, it is not actually rebellion at all, but rather obedience. Which means, I am comfortable agreeing with Doug Wilson on this, Rebellion is sin, always. I am also comfortable in disagreeing with him that purple hair is rebellion.


Lonnie, can I have my hammer back? Cuz I think you nailed it.

Stephen Mattson

Inspiration. Faith. Christian Culture. Writing.

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