Idols of the Heart

This is the second letter I have written for my friends in the worship ministry. This letter is also applicable for the Christians especially those in any form of ministry. You could read the first letter as a preceding post below.

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My child,

In my first letter I have tried to put emphasis that Christians today should seek God with all of their hearts. By doing this we will get to know His ideals and we will discover that much of what we are doing as Christians and as the Church fall short of His standards. By seeking God with all of our hearts we are empowered to do things that will bring restoration to true worship and service. I also said that we do not experience God enough because we do not seek Him fully. Often, we do not experience God at all.

Now, why is it that we do not seek God with our full heart? One main reason why it becomes naturally hard for us to seek God fully is because the Christian heart today is full of idols. Going back to the Old Testament when Moses gave the Ten Commandments, it is very clear from the first two commandments (Exo. 20:3-6) the two great truths:

  1. God demands our full worship (honoring, loving, and serving Him).
  2. Worshiping God fully means not having idols, for God is a jealous God.

God will not rule in a heart that is full of idols. God could not get the honor and worship that He deserves from the heart that ‘has other false smaller gods.’  And the sad truth is, the heart that is full of idols will naturally not be able to seek God fully, nor will it desire to seek God. The heart that is full of idols is far from God and cannot draw close to Him.

From the beginning, God demands the worship of His covenant people, Israel, and that extends to the Church today. We may not have literal carved idols in our homes, but we have lots of idols and false altars for the worship of these false gods in our hearts. A Christian that has idols in the heart will only sing worship songs from his lips, but never from his heart. (Matt. 15:8) A congregation or Church who sings only from the lips because the heart is far from God is an insult and abomination to God. It could never bless God, and it will never bless the worshiper.

The Church, especially the youth, is a victim of these idols taking various forms. These idols take many forms and are all around us. They are made available and attractive so they could easily be patronized, and now they are idols that are worshiped and served in our hearts. Too often we are easily swayed by the fads and trends of this world. There are gadgets that take us instantly to the online world. We ‘point and click’ too easily without considering our motives and its effects on our spiritual health. I agree very much with worship leader Kari Jobe when she sung the song ‘Heart of Worship.’ She admonished the Church to look onto their hearts for idols; she told that our gadgets and the apps in it are taking us away from God strong and fast before we realize it.

Paul was so sincere and solid when he said that whether we drink or eat, or whatever we do, we must do it for the Glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). To Paul the glory of God is the basic consideration for all of the things that we do. If eating this or that will cause others to stumble, which will dishonor God, then we should not do it. We should take and heed the counsel. If clicking this will draw myself or others away from God, then I should not do it.

Social Networking sites (Facebook, MySpace) are not all about ‘being social,’ often, they are about the very big ‘self.’ What is so bad about the ‘self?’ Aren’t we commanded that we should love others as we love ourselves? (Matt. 22:39) Loving the self in this context means caring for the self for its basic needs: food, clothing, and shelter. It also denotes the idea of respect and forgiveness. But, it will never mean being vain (vanity), or too much appreciation of the self, or thinking and believing that we are too likable compared to others.

A large number of “likes” boosts our ego and self-worth, and it makes us feel good and worthy. We post our best shots, and be careful to make sure that we look nice, strong, powerful, and pretty. I have observed, and many have confirmed, that these social networking sites make us live in a virtual world where we make the big self as beautiful, powerful, and attractive as much as possible – often trying to hide or mask out the real weaknesses inside. Try and search Google and even psychologists who are not Christians observe the same things in their studies. One study even mentioned that many Facebook users feel unhappy and discontented as they see other Facebook users who look like living happier lives, and envy is produced in their hearts as a result. See, it is all about the self. In fact, it is the worship of the self.

This vanity connects much to the heart of the devil. The basic definition of Satanism, according to the Church of Satan is “the worship of the self,” or, “the love of the self.” It is honoring and loving the self outside the bounds of Biblical principles.

This is confirmed by the first temptation to man used by the devil that is recorded in the Bible. Eating the forbidden fruit will cause man to be like God, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:5). The sin of pride, the sin of egocentrism. The sin of desiring the self to be exalted. Now this sin is offered not by giving us the forbidden fruit, but by allowing us the free use of the internet (social networking sites and others) wherein we can expose the beautiful and attractive big self. These privileges that the internet is giving us are really opportunities to exalt the self and promote the self to others. It is a cult of self-worship.

We could say a lot more about the bad effects of being addicted to social networking sites (less time for real people, lost of real communication to the family and friends, a cold home, wasted time, broken relationships, gossips, etc.) but the focus here is the idolatry of the heart in connection with vanity.

I am not saying that using social networking is evil, I am just presenting the fact that sometimes, much of what we do in social networking are drawing us away from God — and most of the time, unknown to us – one of the subtle evils of our information-saturated world. The sad truth is that even the Christians are caught in this trap. The worse truth is that they are not willing to admit it. Why? For some reasons:

  1. It can’t be wrong because it brings us pleasure.
  2. It can’t be wrong because I also do spiritual things in social networking.
  3. It can’t be wrong because I get accustomed to it and it feels right.
  4. It can’t be wrong because almost all Christians are doing the same thing.

I am not also saying that everything that we do in Facebook is necessarily evil. We could post healthy memories like family reunions, church activities, prayer requests and devotions. But remember: even the best of motives could be corrupted by the devil. Sometimes even the ministry could be idolized, showing a wrong motive behind pursuing the ministry. For example, we intentionally post great pictures of the ministry for boasting about ‘self-accomplishments,’ rather than glorifying God. Or maybe we post good things just to hide the filth inside, or trying to show others that we have better ministries. We should always examine our hearts for its real intentions and motives.

We should strive to be discerning in all our actions. We should be filled with the Holy Spirit and be knowledgeable in His written Word so we could tell what is right from what is wrong even in small things. I know of some Christians who choose not to have a Facebook account for the sake of purity and deep spirituality. They have known the wiles of the devil in these attractive modern things of life.

Social networking is just one of the many things that create idols in the hearts of the Christian youth. More could be said about secular movies, TV personalities, clothes, accessories and fads, etc. Have we not realized until now that cheering out loud for celebrities is in fact a very subtle form of praising men and women? Have we not considered the fact that getting hooked in love/romantic movies is a way of agreeing to the shallow love presented by the fallen world which is very far from the godly love exemplified by Jesus and some Bible characters?

Idols are very subtle and dangerous. Often, they are the good things of this life (career, possessions, girlfriend, books, ideas, dreams, in fact so many common things) that are valued and loved beyond what is appropriate. Yes, an idol is anything that is valued and loved and sought for beyond what is appropriate, and as a result it draws us away from God. It makes our love for God run cold.

That is why it is very hard to find nowadays a powerful Christian: A Christian who is an effective witness to the Lord, a Christian whose prayers are answered, a Christian whose motives are pure, a Christian whose ministry is fruitful. It is quite hard to find a powerful Christian today and one reason is because the typical Christian heart is full of idols.

The idols of the heart are the things that brings us satisfaction and pleasure. This issue is never new, it has been the problem of God’s people since the beginning. The greatest sin of all Israel from the Old Testament is idolatry. The only difference is that Israel’s idols were actual and literal figure-idols. Now our idols are in our hearts.

Yet the common thing is that all of these idols bring us pleasure, satisfaction, and joy. Jeremiah 2 is one good exposition of this. In the context Jeremiah was just starting out his public ministry and God has revealed to His prophet the gist or the core of His heart: it tells that Israel has forsaken the true fountain of pleasure (God) in exchange for the things (idols) that they thought would give them pleasure:

(Jer 2:13) for my people have committed two evils: (1) they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, (2) and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

I have found a very good prayer that could help any Christian in the renunciation (giving up or surrendering) of all idols and past/present sins. It includes a prayer of recommitment to God. The prayer is three pages long but is complete. You can download the prayer here: http://www.delvecchio.org/OTROSTEMAS/Estudios/pdf/prayer_of_renunciation_and_reconciliation.pdf

I testify from my experience that a prayer of renunciation is very effective when prayed with a sincere heart with faith in God’s promises of deliverance. I was freed from my idols after I finished praying audibly.

May God show and radiate His Holiness to His Church. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Bro. Francis S. Hernandez

 

Just Continue Hoping

If I were to ask you something that would reveal the weakness of your human heart, would you still dare to admit it?

This early afternoon we held again our Bible Study at the BSEd building. To be honest, my heart was not ready, and I have not prepared something to share. It is because I am experiencing spiritual flaws and I thought we would not have the Bible Study that afternoon because we were supposed to have our Science Elect class.

I shared about hoping in prayer – despite of the fact that as Christians we are suffering from spiritual lapses.

Could we still hope and pray boldly? Could we still ask for the most wonderful things even if we know in our hearts that we are not pleasing Him?

Yes, the Bible tells so. Psalm 50:15 tells of the heart of God that pleases to answer prayers. Of course sin is always an obstacle against our prayers, as Isaiah 59:2 says. But, crying out to God to get us out of sin that entangles us is something that God would surely answer – God would love to rescue us from sin.

We will continue to hope and ask desperately for God. We are weak. If we were strong, why should we put our hope in God?

Just another Day

Monday, January 20, 2014. Another day is just almost as good as done. Yet, is it really ‘good as done’?

Earlier this afternoon it just bumped on me again that time really goes by fast – and I mean super-fast. I do not mean that all those 1440 minutes in a day is really short – it just really is surprising that the moments you are treasuring right now are just mere fragments of thoughts and memories in the near future. I know you get exactly what I mean. Just right now every second is alive and fresh – but a little later there will be a feeling of longing for those moments, knowing that they are already part of history. Yes, history.

Reflecting on this, a good advice from some good old friends became fresh: I have to make every second count. I have to do everything as if they were the last things that I could do. I have to spend this day as if it is the last day. With this kind of thinking and attitude, much of future regrets could be avoided, and every memory would be a lot meaningful. Most of all, we could make the most out of this short life – maybe ninety years at most.

Furthermore, this attitude calls for accountability. Besides, all of life is meant for humble submission and love to the Creator. The kind of life that we would have in the next life is determined by our actions now – may it be that the next life would be filled of wonderful memories of this life.

The Call and Obedience

Let me share our Bible sharing this afternoon. The Text is Isaiah 6:1-8.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

  

Obedience – Complying to the command and expectations of someone who is in higher authority.

 

Levels of Obedience:

  1. Against the will
  2. Half-hearted
  3. Wholehearted

 

Questions:

  1. In what level of obedience are you in?
  2. Do you think all of these three (levels of obedience) are acceptable to God?
  3. Do you think the first two can be used by God for His purposes?
  4. In God’s standard, are the first two can be called obedience?
  5. Are you obeying God now?

 

Sequence of events leading to obedience

  1. Seeing the Majesty of God, or receiving the Revelation of God. vv. 1-3
  2. Humility before God/Self-analysis before God. vv. 4-5
  3. Receiving God’s cleansing and forgiveness. vv. 6-7

 

Conclusions:

  1. All of these three are necessary to have a whole-hearted obedience.
  2. Obedience that is not whole-hearted could indicate a weakness in any of these three.

Spelling out integrity

integrity
More often, integrity could be hardly spelled out.

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

Integrity is a tough word. It calls for purity, devotedness, faithfulness, and unwavering commitment. To be a man of integrity is a tough virtue.

In today’s environment, there are very few people we can find to be as such. One reason is that the people who were once men of integrity fell away from the virtue when great temptation came. And, the same could be said for the remaining few – many of them would fall away from the narrow road of integrity once tested big deal.

For the students, staying away from copying could never be easy. Do an honest survey and a very small number would dare to claim they have never copied during exams. Copying is just one thing. Not to say stealing intellectual and material properties – in different proportions and ways. Virtually everyone is guilty.

In the government, how much resources in different forms should have been given to the right people but sadly went into the pockets and hands of the few greedy? Our nation is known as one of the most corrupts in the world.

Even families are experiencing corruption. Unfaithfulness between married couples are becoming rampant. Siblings betray each other, or protect each other even at the expense of dishonesty. And in other ways the list could go on.

The Christian Church is not exempted – no. Many of the world’s systems that are anti-biblical have been popularly embraced by the Church for the sake of marketing, acceptance, and power. Many believers have also denied the simple Gospel in exchange for money, entertainment, prestige and honor.

God is looking for a people who are willing to offer their lives for the sake of righteousness. God wants to see devout lives that are fully surrendered to His ethical principles of justice, mercy, and uprightness. With these kind of people, God could do wonders of societal transformation. God desires for holy vessels whom He can use to change the world. Sin brings reproach, righteousness exalts – individually and corporately.

Goodness on Fire

Cover of "Merriam Webster Dictionary"
Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition of goodness fall short in comparison to the goodness of God.

What biblical goodness is
Goodness, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary refers to the quality or state of being good. The term good is then defined as a favourable character or tendency.

Receiving the compliment of being good is an honour and privilege – we may call many as exhibited some good acts, but labelling them as good people takes on a much higher level. Yes, being called good is such a rare opportunity.

National heroes may speak well of the term – but not all of them. It only shows that the term is heavy and calls for uniqueness.

In the Bible, the term goodness is said fifty (50) times in the King James Version (KJV), in which more than 90% refers to the goodness of God. Good is said seven hundred fifty (750) times, and the majority of it coming from the acts and nature of God. Very few of the biblical terms goodness and good refer to a particular biblical character. Clearly implied, goodness is a virtue in which God is exemplary, and none of His creation comes close to the degree of His innate goodness or good character.

A survey of the use of both goodness and good in the Bible defines the meaning by its qualities that are exhibited when practiced. One key area is forgiveness. When God shows goodness, it is often associated in His unwavering commitment to forgive His straying people (e.g. Isaiah 63:7). Another is God’s willingness to bless peoples materially. This is evident in the way God blessed Israel in the Old Testament times (1 Kings 8:66): God loves to bless His people not because of their own merit but because God desires to glorify His Name. It is also God’s way of showing that He desires a people who will speak of His goodness.

The list could go on but maybe the most important of all is how the goodness of God relates to His character of love. In the Holy Scriptures, the goodness of God in relation to His love (actually mercy (chesed), but the term mercy/lovingkindess implies love according to Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew) is mentioned sixteen (16) times in the KJV. When God chooses to do wonderful good acts, it is because He does it out of love. Or to put it differently, because God is love, He will never cease to do good things. Wow! O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. (1 Chronicles 16:34)

The goodness of the Lord therefore is of a separate class. It is far beyond the idea of human kindness. The goodness of man has its own limits, and its nature is imperfect, but God’s goodness crosses boundaries and is perfect in its nature.

I will keep on coming

Trials!
They are all over around me
Whistling noise
Calloused hearts
Allover follow me

Putting me down
Trampling over me
Handing me over
To my enemies behind

What can I do
But to fight back
With my little strength
Yeah, with tiny force I got left

Back me up!
Yeah, You support me up
With You I can do this
And even more

Do not leave me behind
For I will not survive
Yet with You this is possible
And very much attainable

No matter how many setbacks
I have endured and will suffer
I will keep on coming
For His force is pushing

Forward, yeah, forward
And step towards victory
For I am not alone
You are with me!