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Misdirected love creates false gods

January 22, 2024

Daily Scripture

Exodus 20:2-3

2 I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You must have no other gods before [or besides] me.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Before listing any of the ten commandments, God reminded Israel (who shouldn’t have needed reminding!) that God alone had freed them from slavery. The commandments were not a means to earn God’s favor. “The giving of law presumes that mutual love and loyalty have been established between Israel and her divine suzerain. The Ten Commandments come to Israel after God redeems her from Egypt.” * Jesus, that same God in flesh, also died to free God’s people from sin’s deadly grip.

  • The Jewish and Christian faith that shaped the Bible (and, later, the Muslim faith too) taught what we call “monotheism”—that is, that there is only one true God who deserves our worship and praise. Remember, the Israelites had just left Egypt, a land that worshiped multiple “gods” of nature, as well as their Pharaohs. How did this commandment reflect the principle that there is only one God for us to worship, rather than many “gods”?
  • In Matthew 4:8-10, Jesus answered a tempting offer of “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13’s version of the first commandment: “You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” Popularity, prosperity, prestige—all of us at times feel an inner drive to acquire those “gods” at any price. Which “kingdoms of the world and their glory” have most tempted you to leave God’s kind of life? How can you, like Jesus, resist that temptation?

Lord Jesus, true worship is not just about dressing up or “going to church.” Worshiping God means making God and God’s kingdom my highest priority. Help me do that every day. Amen.

GPS Insights

Valerie Nagel

Valerie Nagel

Valerie Nagel serves as a Connection and Care Pastor at Resurrection Leawood. She was born, raised, and attended college in California. Her Master of Divinity degree is from Duke Divinity School. She began serving as an associate pastor in the Rio Texas Conference in 2011 in the Austin area and San Antonio. From congregational care and welcoming guests to leading in worship, Valerie loves the ministry of the local church. She juggles ministry with being a mom to Caleb (born 2012) and Jacob (born 2015), friend, avid reader, lover of the outdoors, beginner to the world of CrossFit, and foodie.

“Aslan is a lion–the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”… “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver… “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” *

I love The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Long before I had children of my own, I found comfort in the world that C.S. Lewis created. While no less complex than our world, somehow the idea that Narnia is a made-up world made it easier for me to reflect on good verses evil, selfish desires, consequences, sibling rivalry, fear, and so much more. This quote is one of my favorite quotes, and an idea I return to again and again. Aslan, the lion and Christlike figure, is good. But the book reminds us that a lion is not tame.

When I feel heartache, longing, restlessness, pain, sorrow, or any other emotion I try to sit with it. I have a hard time being honest with myself when I’m feeling deep feelings, but I’m learning how to pay attention to myself and to how others are feeling. I prefer to think and to live in the world of ideas. As many of you know, I love to read. But life is lived here. God is very real. And I’m invited to live my life with love for God, others, and myself.

Every week when we come to our time of confession during our prayer in worship, I’m tempted to rattle off the usual “safe” list of things I’m sorry for. But this sermon series, Scripture, and you, my community, invite me to look deeper. If I want to live the abundant life God invites me into and makes possible, then I have to get very honest with myself about what is getting in the way of that. Far too often I want to settle on my small dreams, the things that might quickly soothe me when I’m afraid, rather than to trust that God has hope, beauty, and goodness in store for me.

The truth is that while I intellectually know that God is good, like the Pevensie children in Narnia and the Israelites who followed God out into the desert, I’m aware that loving God doesn’t mean my life will be “safe” in the ways I might prefer. The Pevensie children went into battle with Aslan against evil forces and the Israelites had to learn how to trust that God would provide for them in the desert.

I have found that when I spend time practicing my faith by focusing on the five essential practices–worship, study, serving, giving, and bearing witness to our faith–I learn how to trust the truth that God is good. I also learn, like the Israelites, how to follow God out into the desert. When I honestly open my heart to confessing what exactly is getting in the way of my love for God, I find it much easier to experience the peace that comes from loving God. When I let go of my fears about what might lie ahead and instead fix my eyes on Jesus, I find a deep joy in my life, right here right now. I’m praying for us. I’m praying that each day we can trust that God is good and learn how to live out of the good news that God loves us!

* Lewis, C.S., The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Classic Fantasy Adventure Series (Official Edition) (Chronicles of Narnia Book 2) (pp. 79-80). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Article “Law” in Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, general editors, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998, p. 491 (emphasis supplied).