One God, One Undivided Heart

It sounds so simple, but it’s really an impossible demand: Put God first. Place him above all other things, all other people, and all other powers.

Don’t be afraid of anything else as much as you are afraid of God. Don’t respect anything more than you respect God. Don’t love anything, and don’t trust anything more than you love and trust God.

The Israelites never got the hang of it. Even under the best of leadership — Moses, Joshua, the Judges, David, Solomon — they just couldn’t make it happen.

What about when the leaders — the not-so-great kings — worshiped other gods? Well, the people followed their example very well. By the time we get to the disintegration of the kingdom of Israel, neither the kings nor the people are anywhere close to keeping God first in their lives.

And that “have no other gods” thing? They wouldn’t be able to reduce their gods to a dozen. They had become typical of their day. They were polytheists.

It’s maybe not so visible nowadays, but many of us are polytheists as well. We might fear, respect, love and trust Jesus. But it’s nice to have a healthy bank account too. It’s good to have a solid position at work, one that makes us feel safe and secure. It’s a confidence boost to have a solid family around us, and friends who will have our backs when we need them.

We are willing to listen to the Bible. But we want to listen to our own reason too. And our culture. And our family and friends.

It’s not that any of those things are wrong or spiritually unhealthy in and of themselves. It’s just that our hearts love to take good things and turn them into ultimate things. We build our identity around them. We see our destiny springing from them. We find our purpose in them. We build community around them. And we see our possibilities as arising from them.

God was always ready with the Israelites to have them rid their hearts of their false gods, and simply return to him as the One and Only.

And God is still more than ready today to have us rid our hearts of our secret idols and false gods too. The one and only truly “Ultimate Thing” is the Triune God. And there is nothing better than to worship him alone through Jesus, his Son.

“When the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: ‘Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies'” (2 Kings 17:35-39, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, July 8, is 2 Kings 16:1 – 17:41, Acts 26:24 – 27:12 and Psalm 81:8-16.

Lord, I repent of being a closet polytheist. Forgive me for my sins of secret idolatry. Send me your Spirit that my heart may be undivided and worship you alone. I want my identity, my destiny, my purpose, my community and my possibilities to come only from Jesus.

Header image based on "Temple of Baal at Palmyra, Syria" by Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, CC By 2.0

The Source

Idolatry is the root of all sin. We are constantly on the watch for something — anything — that we think will give us life, peace, joy, contentment. In some way or another, all of life is a hunt for these things.

Our pursuit of them is the reason that we worship idols. Whatever idols we pursue, we pursue them only because we hope that they can bring us one of these — life, peace, joy, and contentment.

Our idol might be money. It might be possessions. It might be a relationship. Or it might be chemicals. Or sex, or power, or respect, or education. Some idols are idols not because they are bad things in themselves, but because we see them as ultimate things.

We pursue them for what we hope they will deliver to us. We chase the thing we hope will give us the THING.

It doesn’t work. Not in the long haul, anyway.

And there’s a much, much better way. Pursue Jesus. Listen to him speak. Adopt his angle on life. Follow his commands.

The way to do this is to absorb his words into your heart, deep inside of you. And post his words as reminders all around you. Post them even on your hands or on your forehead, if need be.

Jesus is the one and only true Source of life, peace, joy and contentment. He is the Ultimate.

“Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (Deuteronomy 11:16-18, NIV).

Lord, help me to seek you, pursue you, find you. My heart naturally does the opposite. I am a sinner and and idolater. I look in every place but you for what only you can give. Please forgive me. Turn my stubborn and rebellious heart to you. Fix your words on my heart and mind. Give me a clean heart. Grant me a heart that trusts you above all else.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, April 9, is Deuteronomy 11:1 – 12:32, Luke 12:35-59 and Psalm 43:1-5.

Header image based on "Source of the Mississippi" by Randen Pederson, CC By 2.0

Too Many to Count

David knew that there was nothing and no one that could compare to the God who had so graciously protected him over the years.

We are always tempted to find our peace and happiness in other people, or from other places. And David had his moments too. Moments of sin and idolatry.

But a repentant heart always turned him back to God. To the God who had always blessed him abundantly. And who always would provide for him beyond measure.

David’s eyes looked to the God who would sacrifice even his own Son for him. Ironically, this Son of God — Jesus — would also be a descendant of David.

He would be David’s Lord. And David’s Savior.

The kind of God who does this — who loves beyond measure — gives blessings too many to count.

To David. And to you.

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwho does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare” (Psalm 40:4-5, NIV).

Lord, help me to always remember your goodness. Your blessings are too many to count.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, April 1, is Numbers 31:25 – 32:42, Luke 8:40 – 9:9 and Psalm 40:1-8.

Header image based on "Mountains, water and flowers..." by Els, CC By 2.0

The Lord Is One

Ultimately, the answer to peace and joy in life is figuring out the answer to one question: How many gods are there?

Some people’s answer is, “Many.” Other people’s answer is, “Zero.”

God had made sure the Old Testament people of Israel knew his answer to that question. Many, many times over God repeated this to them: “There is only one God. And that is me.”

When Jesus arrived, he wanted the people around him to know this truth, too.

So when the opportunity presented itself through the question of one of the Jewish teachers of the law, Jesus made sure that he — and those around him — knew this truth as well.

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one'” (Mark 12:28-29, NIV).

There is only one God. And the greatest commandment is to love him with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength.

Anything else, anyone else, is the sin of idolatry.

One God. He loves you with everything he’s got. Even to the point of forgiving you after you have allowed an idol to stand in his place.


Our Bible reading for Thursday, March 5, is Leviticus 13:1-59, Mark 12:28-44 and Proverbs 6:20-29.

Lord God, help me to remember always that there is only one of you. Remove from my heart every temptation toward idolatry. I am truly sorry for the idols that threaten to displace you in my heart. Please forgive me, and fill my heart until you crowd every idol out. You have made me the singular object of your love. May I make you the singular object of my love.

Header image based on "one" by Chinn, CC By 2.0

Placed in the Fire

When we go through periods of testing, when life takes us through the fire, this is a time to call on God’s name in prayer. And we can do that remembering that God uses those trials to refine our faith.

No matter how serious the trial, no matter how critical the test, God hears and answers our prayers. And Jesus walks with us in the fire. Even if the fire is very, very hot, we can be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3:13-20) and say, “The God we serve is able to deliver us. But even if he does not, we will not serve your gods or worship your man-made idol.”

Rest assured, because of Jesus, God hears both our bold prayers and the confessions of faith that accompany them. When we hear God say, “They are my people,” our Spirit-inspired response is to confess boldly, “He is our God.”

As God says through the prophet Zechariah, “This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9, NIV).

Lord Jesus, walk with me through the tests and trials. Refine my faith in you, so that I confess you boldly as my God and my Savior.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, December 30, is Zechariah 12:10 – 14:21, Psalm 149:6-9, Proverbs 31:1-9 and Revelation 20:1-15.