Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thoughts from Father Harbaugh

     The 2013 Super Bowl (that would be Super Bowl XLVII, for those who speak Roman numeral) was nicknamed the "Har-Bowl".  Why?  Because for the first time in NFL history, two brothers, John and Jim Harbaugh, faced off as the head coaches of their respective teams.  There were other intriguing story lines in the game.  Ray Lewis, the linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens once accused of murder, had announced his retirement and was playing in his final game.  Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco  49ers with a cannon for an arm and video game type moves, had led the '9ers to a Super Bowl in just his second year out of college.  But it was the "brother versus brother" match-up that compelled many to tune in.
     I heard a radio interview with Jack Harbaugh, the father of Jim and John, just hours before the game.  There were the usual questions:  "Are you nervous?"  "How's your wife, Jackie, holding up through all of this?"   "How proud are you of your sons?"  But the question and answer that really got me to thinking was near the end of the interview.  The reporter asked, "How will you spend that three and a half hours during the game?"  (How could the reporter have known that there would be a blackout in half of the New Orleans Superdome that would halt play for thirty-five minutes?)  Jack's response, "Well, there's no emotion.  'Cause you have to know that if something good happens for one, it's bad for the other.  And vice versa."
     Wow.  What an incredibly difficult position.  Now, as a father, I can kind of get my mind around my children competing against one another.  But as a football fan...now you've sucked all of the fun out of the game.  Those of you who are football fans know that the games are most fun when you become emotionally invested.  It's thrilling when "your team" wins, even if you have no logical, financial or geographical connection to the team.  That's why they call us "fans"; because we're fanatical about "our team".  What an impossible situation to be faced with.  When two things you love face off, it's a "zero sum game".  Somebody wins.  Somebody loses.  But there's no emotion.
     The Bible has a bit to say about this.  In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."  Now, your "other love" may not be cash.  It may be your comfort, or your convenience or your children.  It may be your reputation, or your relationships, or even your religion.  But if there's anything in our life that impacts any segment of our life more than following the will of God, it's an idol.
     The Old Testament tells us time and again about the children of Israel getting caught up in idol worship.  2 Kings 17:8-12 is one such passage:
     (They) followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.  The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns.  They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree.  At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the Lord had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger.  They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, “You shall not do this.”
     There is so much that could be unpacked from these verses.  I think the knee jerk reaction for many Christians goes something like, "Whew!  Glad I don't have any idols in my life.  I mean I don't have any Asherah poles or sacred stones, and I don't burn incense to Baal.  Check that off the list.  I'm in the clear."  But notice that this passage begins by saying they "followed the practices of the nations".  Do you know what that means?  It means that they were just doing what everybody else was doing.
     You see, an idol doesn't have to be illegal (like a drug addiction or sacrificing your children in a fire).  It doesn't have to be culturally unacceptable (like abandoning your wife).  It may even be accepted, uplifted and applauded by your circle of Christian friends.  But if there is anything, yes anything, that causes you to hesitate about following the will of God, it could very well be an idol.
     Christian George writes in the Gospel Project, "The question is not if we are worshiping; the question is what we are worshiping.   Any attention we give to idols is attention we deflect from God...robbing God of the glory that is rightfully His.  The God of the Bible describes Himself as 'jealous'.  God does not play second fiddle.  He never has and He never will."  God is not jealous of us or for us.  He is jealous for Himself.  That is because He is alone is true, and perfect, and holy, and sovereign, he is worthy of all worship and will indeed be glorified!
     In 1 Kings 18:21, the prophet Elijah asked the children of Israel, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions?" (HCSB)  Like "a calf starring at a new gate", many of us have halted in our walk with the Lord, not know which way to turn.  We have a longing to serve God, but the allure of worldly things has taken precedence in our lives.  Pray today, if you dare, that God would reveal the idols in your life...and pray for the resolve to destroy them.

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