Thursday, February 27, 2014

gods at war- Part 4

This week was Part 4 of the "gods at war" series.  We began with a worship set that included "Marvelous Light", "Dry and Brittle" (They Came Running), and "Cannons" (Phil Wickham).  I opened the message talking about how worship services are not only on Sunday here in America.  Worship services are everyday of the week as we worship all different forms of entertainment.  This idol is one that we all struggle with, probably daily.  If someone was to follow you around for a week, what would they say are the entertainment idols that you worship?

We first looked at Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 where Solomon sets out to fulfill himself with all manner of entertainment.  He acquires wealth, indulges in alcohol and food, does amazing building projects and surrounds himself with great scenery, fame, work, musical entertainment, women, servants, etc.  He gathers for himself anything he could ever dream of and determines that it is all vanity, futility, meaningless!  As he pursued these things he learned that it left him feeling empty and was as pointless as chasing the wind.

We discussed some of the top entertainment gods for teens and mentioned the following:
-Social Media- John Piper once said "One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time."
-Television- The average American watches 4.5 hours of television a day.  Homes in some other countries arrange their living rooms to be seated around a central carved idol, much like ours are centered around a television.
-Video Games- The average teenager plays 14 hours of video games a week.  A video game addict is described as displaying all the same characteristics of a heroin addict.
We also talked some others such as internet, music, sports, etc.

At this point we have to understand that this is not about a legalistic message saying that you cannot have any pleasures of life.  God created entertainment and pleasure and I believe He takes joy when we use them appropriately.  If not so, then He would not have created us with the ability to laugh.  But we have to understand the fact that God will not bless His competition.

We turned to 1 Kings 18 and I gave some background of the previous chapters.  King Ahab, who was known as the most evil king in Israel's history, married Jezebel.  She sets up an altar and temple for the god of Baal and idol worship begins to spread.  God sends Elijah to warn of a drought which was ironic since Baal was known as the god of weather.  God will withhold blessing in the very area of your life that you have a god in His place.  1 Kings 18:19-21 Elijah calls for a gathering with those worshipping Baal and he tells them that they need to decide who they are going to worship either God or Baal.  They remain silent probably because they want to worship both, which is simply not an option.  We read in 1 Kings 18:25-29 that the worshippers of Baal call out to their god, but he never responds, because he doesn't exist.  They even cut themselves and bleed for him. That seems silly to us, but we often sacrifice hurting ourselves and even others for our idols.  1 Kings 18:36-39 after Elijah has drenched the altar with water, he worships God and fire comes down and burns the sacrifice.  The people declare that "the Lord, He is God."  When we worship God, He responds!

I closed with a story about a young girl named Jenny who was in a store with her parents one day and spotted a necklace made of imitation pearls.  She fell in love with them and saved her money to purchase them.  What may have only been a few dollars seemed like a lot of money for her.  She wore this necklace everywhere and would never take it off.  One night as her father tucked her in he said "Jenny do you love me?"  She responded "Of course I do!"  Her father then said "Give me your necklace."  Jenny replied "No daddy, please take this doll instead."  This went on for a few nights with the same response.  One day Jenny walked into her parents room and with tears she said "Daddy I want you to know that I truly love you so here you can have my necklace."  At that moment the father took out a box with a necklace made of real genuine pearls.  The father was waiting for Jenny to give up what was a false idol in her life, so he could then give her a real gift.  That story is not for the purpose of convincing us that if we lay aside our idols that God will bless us with prosperity or anything like that.  It is to show us that when we lay aside our idols and worship God as He truly desires, then He shows up in our lives and gives us Himself which is the greatest prize ever.

What idols and false gods of entertainment are you currently struggling with?

Friday, February 21, 2014

gods at war- Part 3

After another week off due to snow, we were able to meet again this week for WNW and continue on the "gods at war" series.  We began with a worship set that included "Song of Hope" (Robbie Seay Band), "I Believe" (Jason Castro), and "One Thing Remains" (Kristian Stanfill).  I reviewed the previous weeks since we've had gaps with the snow and shared how we would be focusing this week on the "gods of love/relationships".  Our overuse of the word "love" has come about with our diminished view of it.  We use the word to describe our feelings for almost anything these days.  We wrongly use and it sadly has lost its rich meaning.  We focused the night in Genesis 29 and a love story that seems straight out of reality television.  The love story between Jacob and Rachel and Leah.

After Jacob has deceived his father Isaac and betrayed his brother Esau, he leaves and ends up in the land of his relative Laban.  Laban tells him that he won't allow him to serve him for free but to name his price.  Jacob has fallen in love with his daughter Rachel and asks for her hand in marriage and offers to work for him for seven years.  Scripture tells us that Rachel is beautiful but the other sister Leah has weak eyes.  This means that she probably had a weaker color eyes which were viewed as a blemish.  Laban agrees with Jacob on the terms and the seven years of service begins.  Verse 20 tells us that to Jacob they only seemed like a few days.  At first that may seem really sweet, but in my opinion it makes Jacob look a bit like a creeper.  He loved Rachel, but he also made her into an idol in his life.  So at the end of seven years he informs Laban that he is ready to proceed with the wedding.  Then a really odd twist happens.  They have the marriage feast, but Laban sends Leah into the room with Jacob. He wakes up the next morning realizing what had happened and is distraught to say the least.  Jacob, who had once been the deceiver, has now been deceived himself.  He asks Laban why this has happened and he responds that it is their custom to marry the older daughter first but that he can also marry Rachel if he agrees to serve another seven years.  Jacob agrees to this in order to marry the one he really loves.

We see a family that is about as dysfunctional as possible.  This is not the way that God intended marriage and the family to be.  Jacob does not love Leah, yet is married to her.  Leah knew she was unloved and made it her life effort to gain Jacob's attention and love. This probably consumes every moment of every day.  She makes Jacob and her desire for his love an idol in her heart.  In verses 31-34 we see how she strives to earn his love thinking that by giving Jacob a child that he will begin to love her. She bears three sons for Jacob, but it does not change how he feels about her.

If we are not careful then we will worship the idea of love.  We can easily get a wrong and twisted view of love by what we see in the media and the world around us.  We will desire a fairytale love that truly does not exist and we make it our idol.  Love and marriage and not bad things themselves.  In fact, God created them to be good things in our life.  However when we seek them to be the fulfilling essential in our lives we worship love instead of the God that is love and it becomes a false god in our lives.

So what happens to Leah?  In verse 35 we see that her mind changes from seeking the attention of Jacob to worshiping God.  This changes everything!  When we stop pursuing the false gods in our lives and pursue and worship God then our lives begin to transform.  Leah praises God and names her fourth son "Judah" which sounds similar to the word "praise" in Hebrew.  We recognize Judah in that Jesus is known as the "Lion of the Tribe of Judah."  When we read the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:2 it tells us "Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was the father of Jacob, and Jacob was the father of Judah."  When Leah stopped worshiping Jacob and began worshiping God, God used her to be a part of the bloodline of Jesus.  

The god of love is one that we will all probably struggle with at some point in life.  We must realize that if we are pursuing the god of love to fulfill us, that it will leave us feeling empty.  Love is a great thing and we were created for love.  However we were created for a deeper, richer love that only Jesus Christ offers us.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

gods at war- Part 2

After a week off for snow, we continued the "gods at war" series at WNW.  We began the night by doing the activity "Would You Rather."  Students answered which they would rather do in several different scenarios.  One example was "Would you rather have to speak everything on your mind or never talk?"  After going through several of these, we discussed why some of them were tough decisions and how our answer shows what is important to us in life which can potentially reveal our idols.  We then went into a worship set that included "Running to You" (Newsboys), "SMS-Shine" (David Crowder Band), "Sovereign Over Us" (Aaron Keyes).

I gave a quick review of what we covered the previous time and what the series is about.  We then discussed painting a wall that has cracks in it.  We try out best to fill the cracks with extra paint and cover it as best possible.  In a short period of time the crack will reappear.  The problem with the wall is not the crack itself, but the foundation.  We too must be most concerned with our foundation.  I made reference to the tree I had used in the previous message and how our root system, or in other words our hear, is our personal foundation.

We looked at Proverbs 4:23 and broke it down into three parts:
1)  Above All Else
Solomon, the author of this proverb is letting us know that this matter must take priority in our lives.  It would be interesting if we all shared our top five priorities in life if we were truly honest.  He is saying here that this matter of the heart that he is about to mention must be a priority in our lives.  
2)  Guard Your Heart
To guard something means that we must diligently protect against the enemy.  We guard what is important to us because we know that an enemy wants to destroy it.  Fort Knox, KY houses about 3% of all the refined gold in the world.  The gold is stored in a 2 story building made up of 16,500 cubic ft of granite, over 1400 tons of steel, and 4200 cubic yards of concrete.  The vault door weighs more than 20 tons.  No single person has the combination to the vault, but several people in different locations must dial in to open the vault.  We go to great measure to protect what is valuable to us and we must understand that our heart is extremely valuable.
3)  Everything Flows From It
Our physical heart beats around 100,000 times a day and pumps around 2,000 gallons of blood a day.  Every part of your body is a recipient of this blood.  Whatever your mind or heart is connected to is going to determine how you grow.  Whatever you allow into your heart is going to flow into every aspect of your life.  Which god wins the war for you heart has a lot to do with how diligently you guard it.

So how do you guard your heart?  I talked about these three practical basics of the Christian life that we all know we need to do, but maybe do not always put into practice.
1)  Accountability
This means laying down our pride.  We need people in our lives to help keep us accountable in all areas of life, but especially with the area of idols.
2)  Prayer
When you are not guarding your heart, it becomes more difficult to pray.  Prayer helps us guard our heart from the enemy.
3)  Scripture Meditation/Memorization
We use the poor excuse often that we can't memorize Scripture.  I asked the students to consider this:  if i were to give them a piece of paper and asked them to write down everything they know about their favorite actor, singer, movie, athlete, tv show, video game, hobby, etc., would they be able to write down more information about that than they can quote Scripture.  We probably all would write down more information about our favorite "thing" than we can Scripture.  We will memorize what is important to us.  David wrote in Psalm 119:11 "Your word I have treasured (hidden) in my heart that I may not sin against You."  It's not just about what we guard our hearts from, but also what we open our hearts to.

We closed by thinking back to the passage in Joshua 24 where Joshua told them to choose who they would serve.  I told them to in the same way to choose whether or not they will guard their heart, because their answer is based on which god they will serve.