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

 

Your Love is Amazing

My first song for our Creative Writing class. I don’t have a tune/melody for it yet! Can anyone help? Thanks.

Your Love is Amazing

I
Fill my cup with Your Grace
Run it over to the brim
I want to taste it
And experience Your Grace

Chorus
Your love is amazing
Invigorating and healing
Oh You are so faithful
Promises so unwavering
You keep on embracing me

II
A dose of Your Forgiveness
That’s what I need everyday
Cleanse me all over
Let me be whole again

III
Strengthen me each day
Empower me to do things
I will do Your will
To glorify Your Name

Bridge
For Your love is amazing
Fills my cup to the brim
Promises healing and embracing
Forgiveness making me whole again

Coda
Oh Your love is enough
It is more than enough

I will Surrender to God, not to Subjects

I am facing my dreadful subject – Math. I am so weak at it that I really find it super hard to survive passing it. Yeah – maybe I could pass – but only barely.

I got no passing grade for the quizzes this Midterm period in this subject, and in next week we will have our Midterm Exams – which is a lot harder.

That is one of the reasons why I feel so tired and weak last Christmas – I felt like surrendering and giving up. I am en emotional being – easy to be encouraged, but also easy to be discouraged.

But after God has put in me the heart of worshipping Him in a much truer sense – I have now this conviction: I will surrender to God, and not to subjects, especially in Math. I would consider myself a success if I will regain my former glorious relationship with Him, even though I fail in this subject for the mean time. But I would consider myself a failure if I pass this subject but my former closeness to God would not be restored.

These past months, I was distracted and lost focused on God. That is my priority now – get back to God, and passing the class subjects are just secondary ones.

The Worship of God is Everything

Often, I find myself weak and feeling empty. Even though I try to do things by exerting my best, still my efforts prove futile. It is a great irony that even if I do the things that I am most passionate in, I find no meaning in doing them.

Over a course of time I found out the reason for this frustrating futility – I have neglected the worship of God. I have been very busy, but not first being busy in God.

Being separate from God cuts off His supply of power in our lives. This power is in fact a bounty of many wonderful things – peace, joy, wisdom, self-control, holiness, love, maturity, and fulfillment  Whatever I do, no matter how much I try, apart from God – it is true, I really cannot do anything.

May God always remind me that worship of Him should first be in everyday life. How I spend the first conscious hours of the day determines the success of the entire day.

 

How to Sing Well

I am not a good singer, but earlier this afternoon I heard my voice singing wonderfully. Not because I was able to sing well, but because I put my heart on it. The singing heart made the difference.

As I was singing in the church practicing for next week’s worship service, at first I could not control my voice. I was nervous and feeling uneasy. But our mentor guided us to be natural. I was trying very hard to raise my pitch, but he told me my job was not to change my pitch, but just to be natural – and fill it with emotions.

I took that by heart and tried to relieve the tension. I also determined to myself to worship God and not to practice. Within a few minutes, I was able to sing rightly. I began to use my voice and my spirit.

Next Sunday will be different – it will be the real thing – but may God give me the heart to worship Him with all my heart. With that, I know my voice would follow naturally.

Seeing the Glory of God and Its Benefits to the Soul

If we desire to give God the Glory and worship that He rightfully deserves, we should seek to see his greatness and be proactive in making more (and more) rooms for Him in our life. If we desire to have more of our flesh crucified, the best way is to let God take full control of our lives, and surrendering ourselves (and self-righteousness) to His will in sweet resignation – the very essence of making more room for God and less for ourselves.

But before we can truly have the desire to surrender ourselves (and our will) to
Him, we need first to see His Greatness. The more we realize the greatness of God, the more we are humbled to the ground in reverent submission (Lev.9:24; Dan. 10:8,9; Isa. 6:1-5), making us to realize our littleness or nothingness. To contemplate on the Greatness and Sovereignty of God is the best antidote for human pride. The worship of God should be worshiping God is simply the attitude-and-act of glorifying God by the offering of the self as an acceptable sacrifice (Rom. 12) – for the chief end of man is to glorify God (knowing, loving, and honoring Him) :

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:
for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are
and were created. (Rev. 4:11)
The LORD hath made all things for himself (Prov. 16:4a)
For of him, and through him, and to him,
are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.(Rom. 11:36)

And, worshiping  the Glorious God provides the happiest moments of life here on earth. In Him I find real satisfaction for my dry and hungry soul – ever thirsting for something or someone who is ever to satisfy the thirst. In worshiping God, I have my most substantial joy. In living the life of reverent submission, there comes an abundance of strength, power, and fulfillment.

And this is Christian Hedonism (however trivial the term may sound!)- finding your JOY IN GOD – the only unceasing fountain of everlasting joy:

      As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants
       for Thee, O God, for the living God (Psa. 42:1-2)
       My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a
       dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psa. 63:1)
       O taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psa. 34:8)

My chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever, where
He is most exalted, and I am most humbled down
and satisfied.

Facedown Worship is Basically a Humble Response to the Glorious God

facedown web2The otherness of God tells us of His beauty. His otherness is the fact
that He ALONE is self-SUFFICIENT, self-RELIANT, self-JOYOUS, self-WORTHY, and self-GLORIOUS. These irrefutable characteristics of God make Him absolutely different from us.

Worship leader Matt Redman summarizes facedown worship as:

“When we face up to the Glory of God, we find ourselves facedown in worship.” – Matt Redman.

And here is what I have personally learned from my journey of digging in to what worship is really all about. Studying the contexts of facedown worship instances in the Bible (Gen. 17; Exo. 33 & 34; Lev. 9; Dan. 10; Mat 17; Acts 9; Rev. 5) reveal several truths: First, worship is primarily not just giving worth to God, but a ‘response’ to His greatness. And before we can truly worship, we must first ‘see’ God – or simply receive a revelation about Him, or His greatness. His glory is something which cannot be overlooked. His glory is something that is so powerful that once we encounter it, we simply cannot help but to have the awe, astonishment, and wonder at His greatness – the very simplicity of worshipping God in spirit and truth. Secondly, that God wants to be worshipped based on who He really is – the way He made His Written Word tell His Nature, Character, and Majesty. He wants to vindicate Himself.

What I am trying to say here is that if we truly face up to the Glory of God, then falling facedown in worship is not hypocrisy, nor superficial but a real genuine reflection of an overwhelmed heart.Throughout the Scriptures, the Glory of God plays an important role upon making ordinary man be broken in spirit, be totally ‘undone’ in his self (Isa. 6), fearful (Mat. 17; Rev. 1) and astonished in awe and joy (Lev. 9:24). If we truly realize and understand the beautiful ‘otherness’ of God, or His Glory, then falling facedown becomes understandable too. The ‘bigness’ of the measure of God’s Glory is the very factor that eats up the heart of the worshipper. The very measure of God’s Glory is the same measure of how powerful it can eat up a worshipper’s heart. If we only know how great and majestic and honorable and glorious our Living God is, then it’s not hard to understand why we fall facedown in worship – because our facedown posture reflects a heart that has been totally consumed. And an eaten-up heart is the heart that has been humbled down and instinctively taught to revere the Glorious God.

Few Afterwords:

I am not saying here that worshipping God rightly should always involve being facedown in posture. There are also other postures in worship mentioned in the Bible like standing, dancing, and clapping of hands. What I am pinpointing is that in the Scriptures, the best noticeable kind of worship that reflects awe, humility, and submission to God and His Glory is facedown worship. And an important word to add – in this life, true worship is always seen in a holy life (Romans 12).