Time for this week’s Church Write-Up.
A. The theme at both the LCMS church and the “Word of Faith” church was idolatry.
At the LCMS church, the Scripture text was Joshua 24, in which Joshua exhorts the Israelites to stop worshiping other gods and affirms that, for him and his house, they will serve the LORD. The youth pastor said it was odd that the Israelites still had foreign gods, after experiencing miracles and acts of provision from the true God. He went through idols, ancient and modern: Ra, sports, money, and ourselves. Sports and money are not bad in themselves, he said, but they become idols when they are all-consuming to us and eclipse our relationship with God. When we worship God, our other interests and commitments fall into their rightful place. The youth pastor said that, whereas idols demand that we serve them, Jesus served us. He gave up his place in heaven, was hungry, and died, all for us.
The pastor spoke in the same vein. We like to be in charge, he said, but do idols allow us to be in charge, or do they enslave us? He noticed that Joshua referred back to the days of Abraham. Abraham’s father, Terah, waffled in his commitment to God, and Abraham was taking a radical step by worshiping a God he could neither see nor touch, rather than a god he could put inside his backpack. The Israelites in Joshua’s day were tempted to worship the gods of the Canaanites: the gods of the Canaanites brought Canaan prosperity, so maybe they should be appeased, they thought! The pastor talked about using our talents and hobbies, not as things over which we should obsess or treat as ultimate, but as means to serve God. August is mission month, so he referred to next week’s mission fair, which will inform people of ways to serve the church, and to help the church serve the world.
That point on gods one can see and touch can perhaps be qualified. The ancients, of course, did not believe that the idols themselves were gods, but rather than the idols contained or channeled the power of the gods. The idols were like mini-temples. At the same time, the pastor may have a point about Abraham and Israel proposing something revolutionary: taking a leap of faith to follow a God who gave them a word and acted on their behalf, even if this God did not show them what he looked like or provide them with talismans each of them could personally grasp. Even when the Israelites had the Ark of the Covenant, it was usually hidden from most of them and seen by the priests.
The pastor at the “Word of Faith” church wrapped up his series on the Book of Revelation. He said that Revelation was a story of two cities. One was the city of Babylon, which rested on human pride and achievement. The other was the city of God, which does not (or at least should not) value people or themselves in terms of their achievements; unfortunately, he noted, the Babylonian mindset afflicts the church! The pastor said that big cities set the culture of the country and can even have a worldwide impact. Another point that the pastor made was that Satan in the Book of Revelation was an accuser, and, unfortunately, people, including Christians, set themselves up as accusers of others. They should be in the mercy business. He said that he was not going to weigh in on capital punishment, but, whether it is right or wrong, Christians should be remembering that even murderers have their own stories and should be pleading with them with tears to accept Jesus.
B. At the LCMS church, a couple was sharing about their experiences in Romania, where they worked at a camp for orphans. A lot of these kids are technically not orphans, but the children have been given up because their parents cannot afford to take care of them. They often do not have enough to eat, they are ashamed over things they have done in an attempt to survive, they have few adult models to teach them life skills, and prospects are available to very few. They are excited to see this couple every year that they visit.