Tag Archives: idolatry

Just Like The Greatest Showman

All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough
Never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough
Never be enough
For me”

If you’ve seen the movie, “The Greatest Showman” these words from the song “Never Enough” will be familiar.  If you haven’t seen the movie, go! I loved learning about the history of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The music was fantastic (been listening ever since on repeat) and the acting great. But it was PT Barnum’s self-discovery after chasing his dreams that stood out to me.

***Spoiler Alert***

Having grown up with very little, Phineas Taylor Barnum aspired to provide his family with the same lavish lifestyle of his wife’s upbringing. He didn’t want his daughters to lack anything in the way he had as a child. However as his dreams turned into reality, and his business began to enchant the masses, it only whetted his appetite.

When his circus performed for the Queen of England, he met famous Swedish singer Jenny Lind and signed her to tour with him. For Barnum the sky was the limit; the world at his fingertips. For his wife and girls, his presence and love all they wanted.

Though I’m uncertain if the movie’s portrayal of what happened next is factual, the scandalous onstage kiss Jenny gave Barnum as retribution for rejecting her advances is what led him to finally see his false gods. Money and fame ruled him. Despite all he was acquiring it was never enough. There was always more to be had. But never without great expense.

And aren’t we often just like him?

We look at others’ online feeds, stories and boards and determine what we have is not enough. We compare ourselves to those around us, and feel less than (or better than) based on what we have or don’t have. Just like Barnum we go chasing after what we think we need. What we think will bring everlasting happiness. What is it for you- Money? Fame? Appearance? Popularity? Comfort?

In our culture today it all seems attainable. With YouTube and Instagram, even fame is no longer limited to actors, singers and politicians. “Regular” people can become instant sensations, acquiring the following of masses, gaining contracts for product endorsement and earning thousands each month. Teenagers and adults alike, clamouring for “streaks” and “likes” and even buying “followers.” As if these numbers make us worthy.

Again like Barnum, we’ve lost focus of what truly matters. We’ve bought into the lie that “life” is found in something other than God. No matter how much success, accomplishments, recognition, extravagant trips, designer goods, bonuses, attention or followers, it’s never enough.

I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else’s dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more…(From Now On)”

None of it will ever be enough because these things weren’t meant to satisfy. They can’t. They aren’t big enough or valuable enough to give us worth, and they lack the power to give us lasting love and happiness.

The only thing that can bring us true joy and peace cannot be acquired. The hole in our soul can only be filled in Christ.

And from now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the light
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
It starts tonight
And let the promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on…
And we will come back home…”

May we see the temptations and traps for what they are. And find true life in the One who beckons us to come and graces us with treasures that will never rot.

“Come home! come home!
Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home! (Softly and Tenderly)

Before the Teen Years: Getting to the Heart of Sin with Our Kids

Last week my post, 8 Things Parents Can Do Now To Shape The Teen Years Ahead, was so widely read and shared that my supposition behind the article seemed confirmed: Parents of younger kids are fearful for the teen years ahead and want tips and guidance. While following steps makes us feel more in control, it does not guarantee smooth sailing. We, and our children are sinners, and we live in a fallen world so there will be struggles. But for the parent of younger children reading this, I hope this new mini blog series entitled Before the Teen Years will serve to shape your parenting perspective so you feel better equipped to walk into the years ahead.

And for those parents already in the thick of the teen years, it’s never too late to undo, redo or make changes if need be. No matter what your story, may you be encouraged to keep pursuing truth with your teen even when it seems easier to throw up your hands in defeat. Satan would love for you to buy that lie that “teens will be teens” and what you say doesn’t matter, but it’s not true!

So the first of this series: Getting to the Heart of Sin with Our Kids

In my previous post I said: “Create categories for understanding their heart. Talk about sin as idolatry- whatever rules their hearts is what they functionally look to for ‘life’ instead of God. Even if your child is too young to understand, remember teaching precedes understanding. If they already know the terminology and have been trained to think deeper about what is going on in their hearts, the conversations will naturally go deeper as they grow older.” Now I want to break this down.

Creating Categories For Understanding the Heart

We don’t like to use the word “sin.” Maybe in part because we think making them think they are “bad” will hurt their self-esteem. But I also think it’s because we don’t really know the depth of sin. Sin is more than bad behavior; it is a heart condition and without the contrary influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives it is our human default mode!

Romans 3:10-12, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Our kids need to know this foundational truth- and so do we. When we start with this premise, God and his grace become bigger. We see (and they see) how desperately needy we are of Jesus’ worth and work for us, and how amazing it is we can claim it as our identity!

Additionally, when we understand our natural bent toward sin, instead of being shocked by it (which leads our kids to deny it or hide it from us) we can enter in to theirs with compassion. When they see this as our response it makes it easier for them come to us and not cover from us. And isn’t that what we want, teens who talk?!

Talking About Sin as Idolatry

At the core of all sin is misplaced worship onto something other than God. Or you could say, turning away from God and to a false source for identity/worth/life. It’s the reason the first of the 10 Commandments is, “You shall have no other gods besides me (Exodus 20:3).”  Breaking all other commandments also includes breaking #1. So whether I steal, covet or bear false witness against another I am being ruled by something other than God. Perhaps its my desire to look better at the expense of someone else. Or, my looking to possession to give me status and acceptance. It’s the why behind my actions, which always points to an idol. Therefore we must connect these dots for our kids so they learn to trace their behavior backwards to uncover the lies they are believing to be true and false gods they are looking to for life.

Teaching Precedes Understanding

Depending on the age of your child, the concept of sin as idolatry might be impossible to initially grasp, but it doesn’t mean we wait until they do. Our teaching is what shapes understanding. By creating the categories to explain their actions (the sin beneath the sin) when they are young, you are giving them the eyes to better see Jesus through a deeper understanding of what’s going on below the surface in their hearts. You are also setting in place the normal dialogue of these types of heart conversations.

I can tell you from life with my own teenagers, it’s not that having this understanding will prevent them from chasing false gods and buying into Satan’s lies; just as it doesn’t for us. But with the right foundation of who we are and who God is, coupled with an instilled belief that they can always come freely to his throne of grace (without condemnation and shame) the hope is they will have the eyes to discern truth and see their need. This is what I want most for my kids; not for them to always be happy or never to sin (because that’s not possible). But if they know Jesus is safe to go to, always forgiving and forever faithful, even when they are not, may they experience the realities of his love and desire to live for him.

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ABC’s 20/20 “Digital Addiction” Review

Who are we without our cell phones?  I know I’m as guilty of cell phone addiction as my teenagers at times! Like for many, my phone is my calendar, to do list, reminder, notes, contacts, music, photos and a plethora of other apps, including of course social media. And while it is convenient, I admit, my phone often distracts me from fully-focused face time interaction!

In addition to cell phones and social media, an abundance of other electronics – in particular obsessive gaming among adult men – are contributing to our disconnected, disengaged selfie-society. To this end,  ABC’s 20/20 aired a “Digitial Addiction” special highlighting the seriousness of technology’s effect on individuals and families.  Reporter Elizabeth Vargas followed three families’ intervention stories with their family member so addicted to a device it was destroying their daily lives. Through interviews and video diaries, we the viewers were given the behind the scenes look at the individuals’ obsessive behaviors.

Considering my own research on technology use among teens, I’m rarely surprised by statistics on the topic. However, I was quite surprised by the dad so addicted to his video games that he had checked out from his family.  It actually gave me a scary glimpse of possible future realities for a generation of kids whose day-long and into the night playing is something we passively accept. For this dad, it was his unwinding time; his de-stressor. Well, that’s fine in its proper place, but he was leaving his wife to solely tend to their four young children all evening, every evening before she retreated off to bed alone.

In another family the teenage son’s gaming addiction kept him holed up in his room. He got angry and was disrespectful to his parents whenever they asked him to get off.  This in itself signaled another alarming trend with detrimental future consequences, and that is: entitlement. The 20/20 special didn’t hit on entitlement, but in not telling our kids “no” or laying down/enforcing rules we have allowed them to take the reigns of control that leads to a path of being controlled by their idols. (As I’ve fequently written, when anything is elevated to a place in our lives that rules or controls us, it is an idol.)

The third featured family was dealing with a teenage daughter’s phone addiction that included sexting strangers.  While sending inappropriate pictures is happening waaaay more frequently than most of us realize, the constant checking her phone, fear of missing out, staying on her phone well into the night and anxiety without her phone that could describe amost any teenager today. So it struck me  that what was dubbed as “extreme”  behavior has actually been accepted as normal.

None of these individuals realized (or cared) how self-centered and disconnected from their families they had become. So to help them re-engage relationally and sever dependence, a device detox was ordered. Many times this is absolutely necessary. My own daughter at times has deleted her social media. And quite frankly I think it’s needed for more parents to enforce limitations and restrictions on devices for their good and the good of the family.

But at the same time for true heart change, we must address the root behind the ruling idols and addictions. On the surface a cell phone or play station (money or material possessions) may appear to be the problem, but eliminating it from our lives doesn’t change the underneath desires that point to what really rules a heart.

To get there we need to ask probing questions. For instance…

  • Why did the girl have to have her  phone? Because of her fear of missing out and not wanting to feel disconnected.
  • Why was she so afraid of missing out? Perhaps it was a fear of looking bad, experiencing rejection, or not getting the attention she craved.
  • Could it be the reason she wanted attention – to make a name for herself – was in order to feel her worth? What she needed was to hear who Jesus is for her. In him she is perfectly accepted, valued and loved.

For the two consumed with the video games, one sought to escape from life, not wanting to deal with the chaos and responsibility of his household; basically an unwillingness to die to himself. He was looking for “life” in his own pleasure. For the other, he turned to his games as an escape to a virtual world, perhaps out of fear of engaging in real world relationships, or being known.

So we can take away social media or a game console (again, at times necessary), but whatever it is at the core will likely resurface in a new or more extreme way later if we don’t deal with the heart – whatever the ruling desires driving the behavior.  Otherwise, we will only be putting bandaids on the real issues.

Uncovering the sin beneath the sin is not easy, but it is good.  It takes seeing our sin as the idolatry it is in order to see our deep need of the One who rescues us from slavery and sets us free. Only living dependent on him (and nothing else) will we find the true life we seek.

Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World comes out Monday! To receive it next week, click: here. Link to 20/20 Digital Addiction special here.