What is your golden calf?

The book of Exodus tells of how God took and made a people just for Himself and even as He was finalizing the wedding contract, the people were already in bed with a false god. The people were not really interested in the wife’s  role in that relationship. They loved the idea of being married to a God but they wanted to be the husband, and have gods on the side as spiritual lovers.

“You shall have no other gods before me” Exodus 20:3 ESV

Many take God’s command to “not have other gods before Him” to means that there are no other gods. That presumes that the word god always means deities of divine and eternal essence.

Regardless what that “other god” is, if they are Gods to us, then they’re no different than golden calves.

I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you”  Psalm 82:6 ESV

The word gods in both verses is translated from the same  Hebrew word, אֱלֹהִ֥֨ים (’ĕlōhîm). Anything and anyone can be a “god” to someone. All you have to do is place that person or thing as having the highest authority in your life. Ever hear of someone that is married to their work? That is a type of worshiper/god relationship. But here is the thing to note. God said to “have no other gods before Him”, not “there are no other gods”, nor “I’ve not placed other gods to have authority over you”.

That sounds heretical until you come to the understanding of what Psalms 82:6 is saying. If people can be called gods and Moses is a person with authority over God’s people, then Moses can  legitimately called a god. The people were to never place Moses, nor anyone else, above God.

God was not against having government, nor hierarchical authority. Our God is not a god of chaos nor confusion, but the God of orderliness and righteousness. Above all human authority there must be a God by which all human authority must be judged.

It is right to obey one’s boss in all things. The exception is any situation were that boss is in rebellion to the company, pursues employees to break the law to be broke, oversteps his authority, acts himself criminally, and the like.

The biblical stories of Daniel and his three friends, gives us examples of when and how to disobey someone with authority over us. We don’t protest nor raise a fuss. We are to simply refuse to obey all orders to disobey God, face the consequences, and trust God to save us. God will do the teaching.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7 ESV

I can’t count how many times this verse gets used to not use God’s name as a cuss word. While it is true that God’s name is not to be used in such a fashion, the word take does not mean speak. It is translated from the word תִשָּׂ֛א (ṯiśā), a variant word of the verb nasa. This word means to “take up” or “carry”.

If one uses the name of the Lord in vain, that is a sure sign of having a golden calf in one’s life. If God is not important enough to us that it is impossible for us to blaspheme by making His name a byword, then God is not our God.

Instead of being a rule agaisnt cussing, what this commandment is actually saying is “Don’t marry me in vain”. FYI, marrying God and using His name as profanity, is treasonous.

God wants to be the husband in His relationship wit us. If we don’t treat husbands as being over their wives, then it is no wonder that we don’t treat God as supreme. This business of egalitarian marriages being biblical, is heretical, as is this business of matriarchal marriages and churches.

Should teachers be taught by their students?

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. Matthew 10:24

So no. If a teacher can be taught be a student, then what is that teacher doing being a teacher? Furthermore, what is that student doing in a class where they are not there to learn? Either the teacher, or that student, is a worshiper of a golden calf.

This is not to say that a teacher can’t learn anything at all from his or her students. It is simply the principle of being the expert on the subject. If you have the required experience, education, and the appropriate licensing, then you’re supposed to know what you’re talking about. If you are going to teach English, then be an expert on the English language.

Being an expert is, of course, relative. Someone teaching basic English doesn’t really need to worry about Oxford commas. However, teaching college level English comp, one probably should have more than just an opinion on the subject. But the same thing would go for teaching from the Bible.

Kid’s Bibles are typically incomplete and mostly summaries of Bible stories. Just about any adult can teach kids from Bibles such as those. Adults, on the other hand, need the real deal. Anything else would be a golden calf. the book of Mormon or the Koran, those would be golden calves. Another golden calf would be to teach that homosexuality is okay by God. My point here is that anything contrary, or in competition, to what God’s Word teaches, is a golden calf.

Should pastors be led by their congregations?

Again, no. What leader in their right mind follows those they are leading? Only leaders worshiping  golden calves do. For those pastors, their golden calves are their own congregations. The same goes for congregations that seek to pastor their pastors. They are like those Israelites that insisted that Aaron make them a golden calf.

Now, if that pastor is leading people astray, then of course don’t follow him. But here is the rub. If you know that this is what your pastor is doing, then why are you not a pastor with your own congregation? Do you lack credentials or education? If so, then how on earth can you claim that you’re pastor is off base? You’ve neither the knowledge nor the authority to determine this.

I’ll grant you this. Perhaps God has placed you were you are in the congregation of a pastor that has been led astray. You’ve got the same problem Jesus had with the priests, scribes, and pharisees. You’re the lawless upstart fighting the establishment.  That’s how Jesus was taken by the religious establishment of His time. Take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Should preachers be told what to preach by those to whom they are preaching ?

And, yet gain, no. The same things that apply to teachers and pastors applies to preachers, too. Too many preachers only preach to the choir. Yet, being in the choir, they’ve already heard the gospel preached to them.

Why do preachers preach to the choir? I can only surmise that this is due to preachers believing that it’s the choir’s job to go outside the church and preach. This is the “do as I say and not as I do”, attitude. But who is the choir going to preach to except other choir members? After all, that’s the only example that they’ve ever been exposed to. Instead of reaching the lost, all too many choir members proselytize choir members of other churches. This is the deck being shuffled, not the church growing.

Why to preachers preach what their congregations want to hear? It is because their congregations worship golden calves, and those preachers would rather give them golden calves so they don’t lose attendance counts and tithes.

All too many preachers make a career out of controlling people from their pulpits. They prefer controlled chaos to being lead by God. They study ways to control and influence people, rather than God’s Word.

Is your “golden calf”, YOU?

How do church leaders learn to Win friends a influence people? What many Bible colleges and seminaries teach is to study secular books like Psycho Cybernetics, What color is your parachute, and Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. On the church side of this, there are books out there like the Prayer of JabezPurpose Driven Church and church without walls.

While there is nothing wrong with any of those books, what these books end up being are cookie cutter recipes for revival, encouragement to be self interested, and lessons that teach being a CEO, running your church like a business, and telling people what they want to hear.

An excellent textbook I had in seminary was Lead like Jesus, and one my church studied together was Experiencing God. Of course, the best book of all to teach from is God’s Word.

How does one rid themselves of golden calves?

Actually, there are many things we can do. Here is a list of some of those things:

  • Prayer
  • Read God’s Word
  • Corporate worship
  • Confess our sins to one another
  • Firm but compassionate church discipline
  • Follow through with what God’s Word teaches
  • Chase the money changers out of the Temple
  • Tithe
  • Worship God in spirit and in truth.
  • (Responsibly) submit ourselves to one another
  • Love one another
  • Be like the Bereans (don’t just read, but also study, God’s Word)
  • Be (responsibly) teachable

No, this list is not everything we can do but it is a start. A lot of this hits us in our home life. What do we allow in our lives at home? I have no intention to point fingers, nor step on anyone’s shows here. A number of things that come to mind are:

  • porn
  • movies
  • secular music
  • news/gossip
  • non-Christian TV
  • sports
  • politics
  • social media
  • relationships outside our families

These things are the normal everyday stuff of life. Because of this, I’ve often wondered is the Amish aren’t right about insisting on a plain, simple, technology-free, home and community life. Its’ one thing to completely segregate ourselves from the world, but are we not called to go out into the world to preach the gospel? That is something the Amish cannot nor will they ever do. They desire to live righteously, not evangelize the world. Ironically, their righteousness and clean living is a type of golden calf. It’s called being so heavenly bound to be of any earthy good. I believe this may be born out of a paralyzing fear that His grace is not sufficient.

Some believe that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was sickness or otherwise health related. But as God said no to relief, and that His grace was sufficient, I came to believe that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was probably sin. Do we need grace for our health issues? No, but we do need grace for those golden calves still resident in our lives.

This is the key to getting those golden calves out of our lives.  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

And to help do that, remember that “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23