Sunday, August 20, 2006


Preaching at Bent Tree often invites some wonderful and challenging conversations. Last week, I met with an alcoholic friend (13 years dry) to follow up some thoughts on idolatry from the Gideon message. As it happens, people in recovery often speak of addictions like obsessions and she wondered if obsession and idolatry were really so different and if the Bible had more to say here. We looked at Peter's mention of mastery in 2 Peter 2.19 and Paul's equivocation of greed and idolatry in Colossians 3.5, but then she added something really intriguing: her first sponsor many years ago said that if you're thinking about it before bed and if it's the first thing you think of in the morning, then it's an obsession, whatever it is. That covers drugs, porn, people and even depression.

We turned to Deuteronomy 6.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

These words were pretty important. They even have their own name--like the way we name the Golden Rule. They're called the Shema and are still considered the most important prayer in Judaism. Jesus affirmed as much in Matthew 22.37. Look closely at verse 7: When you lie down and when you get up.

That sounds like obsession to me. Perhaps the Shema is God saying, "You are designed for obsession, and here it is. Me. You are to be obsessed with me. I alone am God. All else is idolatry. Love me with the entirety of your soul."

I get to preach again on New Year's Eve (I've had to say no to any dates beyond that for now). I'm really tempted to teach on the Shema. If I do, I want to spend some time studying this idea. If it's true, I'm betting all of our recovery folks would relate. Actually, I'm betting all the sinners would relate. What's your obsession?

1-The Noah and Gideon messages are up and linked on the right.
2-One of our elders has a friend who struggled with depression and another who still is. We met for lunch last week and had a great talk about depression and a lot of other things (like authenticity and the church). Anyway, it got me wondering if depression is really so different. In the end, depression is very selfish and a way of self-medicating just like alcohol or pills or porn, but controlling it is a bit more nefarious. In one regard, it's an obsession. In another regard, it is a disease. Depression differs in that it was often never invited and yet those who struggle with it sometimes nurse it because it takes you to a place that is strangely comforting although despairing. It is repulsive yet one cannot leave until released.