Gods at War by Kyle Idleman – Book Review

gods at war kyle idleman

Occasionally I read a book that turns my world upside down. This is one such book. In Gods at War, Kyle Idleman defines and explains idolatry at its deepest level, yet uses down-to-earth language, heart-felt stories, and humor to connect with his readers.

Idleman introduces the subject of idolatry, worshiping false gods, by using case studies to help define it and explain why it’s necessary to identify idols in our lives.

“A god is what we sacrifice for and what we pursue.”

The author asks pointed questions to help us spot gods in our lives. These aren’t surface questions like: Do you worship money? Instead he asks the reader to look at bank statements to analyze spending habits. He also asks questions like:

“Where do you go when you’re hurting?”

“What worries you?”

Idleman helps readers see how the past and the culture influence which gods we worship and explains that God is jealous and does not want to share His throne with other gods.

After laying this groundwork, Idleman pinpoints nine different gods classified into three categories, the temple of pleasure, the temple of power, and the temple of love.

What I found eye-opening was the level to which idols root and where they can be found. For instance, I already knew food was an idol. However, I was unaware that, at times, food is a means to a different end, pleasure. For more on this, read this post.

Moreover, I unearthed other idols in my life. In an earlier post, I wrote, “I have been feeling frazzled, stressed, and agitated, an indication that something is amiss.” My schedule has been tight and I haven’t accomplished the goals I set for myself. I knew there was a problem but couldn’t identify it. Then I read this:

“Goals can become gods. You start to serve them, live for them, and sacrifice for them.” (Gods at War)

I allowed my schedule and goals to rule my life. In the midst of a hectic summer, I have been kneeling before a false god, the god of achievement.

At the end of each of the nine “god of . . .” chapters, Idleman reminds us that:

“Idols are defeated not by being removed but by being replaced.”

“Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes his rightful place, you will not have victory.”

I highly recommend this book. It will change your life. For more information or to order this book, click here.

gods at war

A Message That Requires a Response

It’s hard for me to read a book centered on idolatry without food coming to the forefront. I have kneeled at the throne of food on and off for almost thirty years (I know you are thinking I can’t be that old); so I was beyond thrilled to see Kyle Idleman included an entire chapter on food in his book gods at war.

I wrote a blog entitled Food: Lies We Believe and Truth That Sets Us Free for several years. During that time I explored lies we tell ourselves to justify eating improperly and attempted to dispel the lies with biblical truth. So food idolatry is not a new subject for me. Unfortunately, I recently had to confront this ugly god once again. I had allowed it to slither back into my life and needed to face reality. Therefore Idleman’s thoughts on idolatry were timely and required a response.

What I found interesting was the placement of this particular chapter—first in a list of three (the god of food, the god of sex, and the god of entertainment) under the section entitled the temple of pleasure.

Food can be misused or worshiped for multiple reasons: to pacify a talking stomach, to stuff a feeling of rejection, to quiet loathing self-talk, to induce pleasant memories of the past, because it tastes irresistibly good (emphasis on irresistible). The list is endless. Most of these excuses (read: lies we believe) are born from a desire to be comfortable—physically, emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically. A synonym of comfortable is pleased. I think we seek pleasure in order to feel comfortable or comforted. As Idleman points out, there is a reason we call it “comfort food.”

This isn’t the first time God has talked with me about my obsessive need to be comfortable. In general, I do not like to be cold . . . or hot. I don’t want to be wet (unless I’m swimming) or have wind blowing on me. I don’t like to feel restrained or constrained. I don’t want my children to misbehave in public or for someone to pull a prank on me. I don’t like to be thirsty or hungry. And I really don’t want to be in pain. I will go to great lengths to alleviate physical or emotional pain.

It’s natural for us to seek comfort when faced with disagreeable situations. Sadly, we look for it in the wrong places—food, new gadgets, the opposite sex, etc.

“But think about this:” Idleman states, “Comforter is what God calls himself. He is the God of all comfort and he is ready to talk with you about your day. The Prince of Peace waits to give you his gifts and strengthen you. He wants to be your satisfaction.”

Is food an idol in your life?
Are you inappropriately seeking pleasure from food (or some other idol)?
How will you respond to this message?

Food, like most things in life, requires the proper amount of attention. If you find yourself thinking about it more than necessary, it may be an idol in your life. “Idols are defeated not by being removed but by being replaced.” (Idleman) Replace your idol/god with the one true God, Jesus Christ.

*For more of my thoughts on eating issues and food, wander through the posts at Food: Lies We Believe and Truth That Sets Us Free. I recommend starting here and working your way backwards through the posts.

food idolatry, joy of cooking

Household Harmony

At times I feel like an orchestra conductor. Each musician (family member) sits in his/her section of the orchestra pit while I stand in the front frantically waving my baton to guide each musician. I hope each plays the correct note at the correct time so the instruments harmonize and make music.

Let me illustrate. Yesterday, I raised my baton and began my day by delegating a task to each of the musicians, uh, children. “JT, vacuum the downstairs. Kevin, clean the shower. Melinda, bring your dirty clothes down. Kenneth, unload the dishwasher.” (sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat)

conductor calendar

Between assignments, I scheduled necessary appointments. I pulled out my sheet music, uh, calendar, and made calls. I fit Melinda’s eye appointment in between her piano lesson and supper on Tuesday, wedged a hair appointment between school and church on Wednesday, and squeezed in a dentist appointment Friday afternoon—all while continuing to keep each child on task.

Later, as I stirred supper, JT called and asked me to pick him up from school and drop him at work. I turned off the burner, grabbed my keys, and headed out the door. As I drove, he asked to borrow the car Saturday. I consulted my planner and concluded he could have the car for 53 minutes—after Kenneth’s football game and before Don and I went out with friends.

Back home, I responded to the blinking light on the answering machine and heard out-of-town relatives state they would be arriving in a few weeks. I marked the calendar and deduced we would need to cram extra school work in the day before their arrival as well as the day after their departure. Additionally, I need to re-schedule three dentist appointments and miss a home school event.

As moms, it is our job to keep our households running smoothly, just as an orchestra director ensures the musicians know their parts and play on key. But while I am the conductor, God is the composer. He writes the music. I read it. I decipher the score and teach each child his/her part.

1 Corinthians refers to the gifts each member of a church has and the role each plays. We should carry this principle over into our homes. Every child is gifted differently and plays a distinctive role (instrument) within the family. It’s our job to make certain the music sounds the way the Author intends. That means leading each child in the direction God wants (character building) while keeping the music flowing (in the midst of life).

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men” (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

*This piece was originally written and presented to Enlightened Home School Group in fall 2011 but is more accurate today than it was at the time.

Greek gods: Not so Ancient

Greek gods: Not so Ancient

I don’t know when or why I ordered the book Gods at War by Kyle Idleman from the library, but it arrived two days ago. I am only on page 24, and have had to stop, ponder, and discuss parts of the book with my husband a few times already. It’s one of those books—one requiring digestion and prayer.

gods at war

Gods at War is about idols, mini-gods we pursue in our lives.

Coincidentally, I am reading next year’s curriculum books for my children and started D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths last week. The opening paragraph of this book reads:

“In olden times, when men still worshiped ugly idols, there lived in the land of Greece a folk of shepherds and herdsmen who cherished light and beauty. They did not worship dark idols like their neighbors, but created instead their own beautiful, radiant gods.”

Most of us have at least heard of a few of the gods D’Aulaire writes about: Zeus, Pandora, Aphrodite, etc.

Book of Greek Myths

As I read both books, the parallels became apparent. The Greek gods symbolize the gods we worship today. There is Athena, the goddess of wisdom, Aphrodite, goddess of love, Nike, spirit of victory, Apollo, god of light & music, Artemis, goddess of the hunt, and Dionysus, god of wine. We don’t worship Aphrodite, but do we worship love or sex? In other words, do we allow the pursuit of love (or victory, wisdom, food, or alcohol) to become the reason for our existence? Do our actions suggest that our real god or gods are love, wisdom, victory, food, or alcohol and not the One True God?

If those don’t apply to you, consider Hephaestus, the god of smiths and fires, who is hard-working and peace-loving. Pandora, whose insatiable curiosity caused her to release Greed, Vanity, Slander, and Envy. Metis, goddess of prudence. Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus. And Zeus, the all-powerful lord of the universe, who is controlling and conniving. I have to admit to bowing down to a few of these gods more than once in my lifetime (read: in the past few days).

Mix in a bit of Eris, spirit of strife, Ares, cruel god of war, moody and violent Poseidon, and Hades, lord of the dead, whom mortals fear, and you have a recipe for disaster. This family does not get along! They do not live peacefully together. Zeus overthrew his father’s throne and constantly looks over his shoulder to see if one of his children will do the same to him. Talk about gods at war!

Similarly, there cannot be more than one god in our lives. Like the Greek gods, they cannot play nice. They are in competition with each other, battling for control. It creates dissension, unrest, and uneasiness.

Idleman states:

“When we hear God say, ‘You will have no other gods before me,’ we think of it as a hierarchy; God is always in first place. But there are no places. God isn’t interested in competing against others or being first among many.

God will not be part of any hierarchy.

He wasn’t saying ‘before me’ as in ‘ahead of me.’ A better understanding of the Hebrew word translated ‘before me’ is ‘in my presence.’”

I must admit I hadn’t looked at it from this perspective before.

So what hierarchy have we placed God on?

What other gods are battling for our attention?

My curiosity is peaked, my ears are perked, and my knees are bowed—to God, the Creator of the Universe. In the midst of my hectic schedule, I have been feeling frazzled, stressed, and agitated, an indication that something is amiss. I am ready (at least today) to expose the false idols and put God in His rightful place. What about you?

Greatness or Goodness?

fruit of the spirit

In Oz the Great and Powerful, the main character, nicknamed Oz, is a con artist posing as a magician. His objective is greatness. Through a series of events much like Dorothy’s he is swept away and lands in, ironically, Oz (as in The Wizard of . . .). Ever the imposter, Oz pretends he is the Wizard they have been expecting and proceeds on a long adventure to capture the bad witch.

Toward the end of the movie, the good witch Glinda says to the Wizard, “I knew you had it in you all along.”

“Greatness?” the Wizard replies.

“No, goodness,” Glinda states.

Much like Oz, I think many of us pursue the wrong quality.

We desire greatness which is dependent upon our behaviors, attainments, and accomplishments. It requires acknowledgement from others and is derived from an external source. Dictionary.com defines a great person as “one who has achieved importance or distinction in a field.” The opposite of greatness is insignificant. None of us wants to be insignificant.

While greatness sounds like the better of the two traits, I would argue that goodness is far superior. The book of Galations lists goodness as one of the fruits of the Spirit; therefore, the trait comes from God. Dictionary.com defines Biblical goodness as: “not a mere passive quality, but the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all moral good.” It denotes kindness and servitude. It’s a virtue, an internal quality not earned by an outside source.

So why do we pursue greatness over goodness?

  • It’s easier to measure. We attended two track meets in the past two weeks. In each case the ones with the medals at the end of the day were the ones who threw their implements the farthest, not the ones who treated others the best.
  • It’s quicker to obtain (in some cases). Kenneth, my son, has worked hard and thrown at track meets for several years. But I would still say he has achieved relatively high success within a short timeframe. (He is only 12 years old.) At what point do we say someone has obtained goodness?
  • We enjoy rewards. Kenneth brought home one gold medal and three bronze medals from those two track meets. There were no medals distributed for the child who displayed the most goodness.
  • We enjoy accolades. At the National Championship track meet, Kenneth stood on the podium and had his name read over the sound system while everyone clapped. There were no fist bumps or pats on the back for the child who served others with excellence.

Why should we pursue goodness instead of greatness?

Oddly enough, goodness is an internal trait won by thinking externally (of God and those around us). This is in opposition to the pursuit of greatness, which is an external gift obtained by a selfish (internal) act. Those who pursue goodness may become great (think Mother Teresa), but those whose sole purpose is greatness typically fall short in goodness (think Adolf Hitler). Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 20:26 that if you want to be great, serve others (or be good).

Goodness is a God-given trait that defines who we are at our core and reflects who God is to those around us. It is long-lasting, adds to our internal peace, and earns us accolades from our Creator.

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, I want to hear God tell me, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”