Changing of the Gods

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Changing of the Gods

###Jeremiah 2:4-13

“Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:

What wrong did your ancestors find in me

that they went far from me,

and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?

They did not say, “Where is the Lord

who brought us up from the land of Egypt,

who led us in the wilderness,

in a land of deserts and pits,

in a land of drought and deep darkness,

in a land that no one passes through,

where no one lives?”

I brought you into a plentiful land

to eat its fruits and its good things.

But when you entered you defiled my land,

and made my heritage an abomination.

The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?”

Those who handle the law did not know me;

the rulers transgressed against me;

the prophets prophesied by Baal,

and went after things that do not profit.

Therefore once more I accuse you,

says the Lord,

and I accuse your children’s children.

Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,

send to Kedar and examine with care;

see if there has ever been such a thing.

Has a nation changed its gods,

even though they are no gods?

But my people have changed their glory

for something that does not profit.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this,

be shocked, be utterly desolate,

says the Lord,

for my people have committed two evils:

they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living water,

and dug out cisterns for themselves,

cracked cisterns

that can hold no water. ”

Spoiler alert!

American Gods is coming to television… and it’s not going to be a Christian show. How do I know? I read the book several years ago. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, but I wasn’t looking in it for any kind of Christian affirmation.

Somebody will get upset about and perhaps boycott it because that seems to be our way of communicating values nowadays. The more upset it makes people, the more attention it will get, adding fuel to the fire, and gathering up the attention of everyone who will have missed it on their radar. I would love for this attention to be paired with an adaptation of the novel that does it justice, but I have no influence on that at all.

I think, sometime after it all blows up, Christian leaders will pick up on the theme of trading out gods that is a major movement of this story. That will spark some discussion and create some sermon series, and at some point, someone will open up the scroll (or scroll down and find) Jeremiah 2.

“There is nothing new under the sun”, wrote King Solomon. The current struggles we have with the temptation to trade out Christian values for the newest pop culture (in music, clothing, video, and other media…) are not new and are not only in American culture. God’s people have struggled with this since the beginning.

Why do we trade out our everything for nothing? Why do I entrust my life to broken things? I’m sure there are as many answers to those questions as there are people. These are the kind of questions that God can’t answer for us, nor can anyone else around us. We can only answer them for ourselves. Only the buyer knows why they settle on a particular price.

While Jeremiah claims that his ancestors never questioned where God was, I’m not sure how true that was. Some people go through life without questioning the details of God, but most of them are atheists. Disciples ask questions. They want to know God more. But those who are growing in their love of God will be sure of who needs to be questioned before blaming the God they know and praising the new relationship they are still learning about.

I think Neil Gaiman would concur that our past is important and that broken things will eventually fail us, but there is always hope to start in the right direction today, trading our false gods away for the love found only in our Lord Jesus.

What things in life would you struggle to live without?

How can you ask God to help you hold them more loosely and gratefully today?

Do you have anything you need to let go of entirely?

 

 

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What should I be reading in 2017?

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If you’ve stumbled across this blog than chances are you have at least a passing interest in reading so I’d like to put in my two cents on how you should spend the limited time you have this year. I successfully finished reading 25 books in 2016, more than half of which were work-related. Several of these I actually read with my ears instead of my eyes. I know what it means to have a limited amount of time to read and the importance of being choosy.

We may have differing interests when it comes to reading, so rather than go into specific topics, let me instead divide up all literature into a few broad categories.

  1. The Classics: Whatever subject you are interested in, there is someone who wrote the first book of its kind. There will also be other books of the category that were game changers, or perhaps discussion changers along the way. These books, referred to as evergreen by publishers, are, or will be considered classics, and it is important to be conversant in this literature… so whatever your topic (sports, history, science fiction, poetry, romance, etc.) be sure to make room in your schedule for reading some of the classics.
  2. Contemporaries: Once you start to get some of the classics under your belt, you will begin to make the discovery that today’s bestsellers are essentially just the next statements in a multigenerational conversation that started with the classics. Some people argue that there is less value in reading these books and sometimes cite Ecclesiastes which says: That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. The problem I have with this is that conversations do change over time as one piece of timeless truth interacts with other pieces of timeless truth in new contexts revealing new inspiration. (The Sadducees may have used this same reasoning for only reading and teaching the first five books of the Bible, neglecting the prophets, and disbelieving in the resurrection.) Indeed, if we want to be super-critical, we could say that everything that happened after the third chapter of Genesis is simply a continuation of the original conversation!
  3. As a third category, which may contain books from both the above categories, it is important to be sure to read from one or two books or kinds of books that you may not agree with. One of the best classes I took was on John Calvin, where we read through his own writing. It was not a required class – on the contrary, Calvin’s theology was not looked upon well in my particular professional circles… but I had decided, if he really was that wrong, I wanted to know why and why he wrote what he did. It was eye opening to gain insight into the motivations of someone who was a part of the overall theological discussion, just listening to understand rather than to get to or prove my position as being right. It challenged me and helped me understand more what, and why I believe the way I do. That said, it is important to be careful in reading these kinds of books so that you are not led astray easily. Take everything with a grain of salt and recognize that there is a larger conversation taking place of which each author is only playing a small part.
  4. Finally, I encourage you to read the Bible. So much of literature finds its base of conversation in the stories and writings found there. There are many “Read the Bible in a year plans”, bible apps for your phone, and many different translations and paraphrases to choose from (with or without study notes). I’ve got my own favorites, but I encourage you to pick one that you can get into yoruself. Whether you read a book a day or a verse a week, I think the important thing is that you get into that conversation because, through the Bible, you will begin and continue to have a conversation, not with distant and dead authors, but with the Living God. This reading will open your eyes and ears to new and old ideas that keep popping up in all the other conversations around you.

So, read a book, take your time, choose wisely, and be sure to include the Bible as part of your mental conversation with the saints and sages of the world.

What are you reading this year?