Sunday, August 28, 2011

Name Your Price

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 9.3.11

You know in all those detective and cop shows, there’s often a bad guy who wants to make his troubles go away by paying someone large amounts of money.  When that someone refuses, the amount of money often goes up.  The good guy usually says something like, “I can’t be bought.”  To which the bad guy usually replies, “Everyone has a price.” 
Now, I don’t know how often bad guys try to bribe good guys in real life, but think about this for a second.  Isn’t that pretty much what Satan is doing?  He’s trying to find out what it will take for us to turn away from God.  He’s trying to find out what our price is.  Have you ever thought about what you’re willing to take to stop worshiping God the way He asks us to worship Him?
In Ezekiel 8, we read about some folks who had named their price, taken their pay off, and turned so far away from God that they were worshiping idols and pagan gods in God’s own house.  God took Ezekiel on a tour so that Ezekiel could write it down. 
“… On the fifth day of the sixth month, I was sitting in my house. The elders of Judah were sitting there with me. The Lord and King put his powerful hand on me there … In visions God gave me, the Spirit took me to Jerusalem. He brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the inner courtyard. The statue of a god was standing there. It made God very angry. … Then the Lord said to me, ‘Son of man, look toward the north.’ So I did. I saw a statue that made God angry. It was in the entrance of the gate north of the altar.  He said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what the people of Israel are doing here? They are doing things I hate very much. Those things will cause me to go far away from my temple. But you will see things I hate even more.’  Then he brought me to the entrance to the courtyard. … And I saw a door there. He continued, ‘Go through it. Look at the evil things they are doing here. I hate those things.’ … All over the walls were pictures of all kinds of crawling things and other animals. The Lord hates it when people worship those things. There were also carvings of all of the gods of the people of Israel.  In front of them stood 70 elders of Israel. …  Each elder was holding a shallow cup. A sweet-smelling cloud of incense was rising from the cups.  The Lord said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what the elders of Israel are doing in the dark? Each of them is in his own room worshiping his own god. They say, “The Lord doesn't see us. He has deserted the land.”’ He continued, ‘You will see them doing things I hate even more.’  Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the Lord's house. I saw women sitting there. They were sobbing over the god Tammuz. The Lord said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing? You will see things I hate even more.’  Then he brought me into the inner courtyard of the Lord's house. About 25 men were there. They were at the entrance to the Lord's temple between the porch and the altar. Their backs were turned toward the temple. Their faces were turned toward the east. And they were bowing down to the sun.  He said to me, ‘Son of man, have you seen all of that? The people of Judah are doing things here that I hate.’”  (most of) Ezekiel 8
I know, they didn’t leave God and start worshiping other gods all at once.  I’m sure it took several generations.  They took baby steps but look where they ended up!  It makes me think about how I worship God.  What compromise am I making that will make it easier for someone else to make another compromise?
Do you know that the churches in Europe are being turned into movie theaters and night clubs?  I realize they’re not “sacred” the way the Temple in the Bible was sacred, but it still seems kind of sacrilegious to me.
Here in the United States there are folks who believe that the fasted growing “religion” here isn’t really a religion, but sports.
Wait.  What? 
That’s right.
“‘Sport is America's newest and fastest-growing religion, far outdistancing whatever is in second place,’ says Charles S. Prebish, associate professor of religious studies at Pennsylvania State University. ‘...It is not merely “like” a religion, he argues, nor is it a “secular” religion, as other religion scholars and sociologists have postulated.’
“To Mr. Prebish, sport can and does provide its followers everything that traditional religions have provided over the centuries. He writes: ‘For me, it is not just a parallel that is emerging between sport and religion, but rather a complete identity. Sport is religion for growing numbers of Americans, and this is no product of simply facile reasoning or wishful thinking. Further, for many, sport religion has become a more appropriate expression of personal religiosity than Christianity, Judaism, or any of the traditional religions. ...’
“Athletes and spectators for whom sport is religion may differ in their ideas about what the ‘ultimate’ is, Mr. Prebish says, but sport is the vehicle by which all of them find it.”[1]
You and I may read what Mr. Prebish has to say and think he’s overstating or overreacting…but how different is that really than what Ezekiel described? 
We’re all prone to compromise, for any number of reasons – we don’t want to seem different than the folks around us, convenience, money.  Especially when we think that no one will notice.
I think about Daniel and his three buddies – just barely adults, their parents gone, their cushy lives gone, in a situation that screamed for compromise, if not complete abandonment of their beliefs.  And when it came down to compromise or death, each one of them stood firm.  Absolutely amazing.
Yeah, but nobody’s that tough today, right?  Um, not so fast.
“Following Sunday worship services on January 8, 2006, five young men attacked and threatened to kill a Protestant church leader in Turkey's fourth largest city. Kamil Kiroglu, 29, had just left his church in Adana when he was ambushed and beaten so severely that he fell unconscious twice.
“‘They were trying to force me to deny Jesus,’ Kiroglu said. ‘But each time they asked me to deny Jesus and become a Muslim, I was saying, “Jesus is Lord.” The more I said, “Jesus is Lord.” the more they beat me.’ One of the attackers pulled out a long butcher knife and threatened to kill Kiroglu if he did not deny his Christian faith and return to Islam. Kiroglu refused.
“After the incident, he said, ‘I am praising God—not because he saved me from death, but because he helped me not to deny him in the shadow of death.’”[2]
Is there anybody big enough to stand between us and God?  Satan says, “Yes.”  God says, “No.”  Who are we going to believe?  “What should we say then? Since God is on our side, who can be against us?”  Romans 8:31

[1] M. Scott Vance, The Chronicle of Higher Education. Christianity Today, Vol. 29, no. 18.
[2] Compass Direct (January 2006)

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