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Contents Introduction.......................................................................................................2

Segment One: IDOLS OF FAITH Episode 40 Episode 41 Episode 42

Identifying Idolatry........................................................ 6 Church of the Past....................................................... 10 Church of the Future................................................... 14

Segment Two: IDOLS OF CULTURE Episode 43 Acceptance and Applause........................................... 18 Episode 44 Money, Power, and Control......................................... 22 Episode 45 Living the Dream......................................................... 26 Episode 46 Politics......................................................................... 30

Segment Three: IDOLS OF SELF Episode 47 Self............................................................................... 34 Episode 48 Chasing Fairy Tales..................................................... 38 Episode 49 Relationships............................................................... 42 Episode 50 Image........................................................................... 48 Episode 51 Entertainment and Celebrity....................................... 52 Episode 52 Fill in the Blank........................................................... 56 Feature Little Shop of Horrors................................................. 62 Daily Bible Readings ..................................................................................... 64

Faith Café Editors: Kristi Cain, Laura Derico    Writer: Chris Maxwell    DVD Video Producers: Charles Powell, Michelle Wheeler Faith Café is a registered trademark of LifeSprings Resources and is used with permission. Licensed adaptation Copyright © 2008 Standard Publishing. All rights reserved. Published by Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio. Printed in USA. Scripture, unless otherwise indicated, taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Scriptures marked The Message taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. When passages are paraphrased by the editor for the sake of clarity, they are consistent with a commitment to the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible. Cover photo © Simon Marcus/Corbis. Interior photos from Dreamstime.com: p. 2 © Zoom-zoom, p. 6 © Rosmizan Abu Seman, p. 10 © Tomasz Slowinski, p. 14 © Pmphoto, p. 18 © Miflippo, p. 22 © Viktoriia Kulish, p. 26 © Tom Schmucker, p. 30 © Aleksandar Radovanovic, p. 34 © Constantin Opris, p. 38 © Wrangler, p. 42 © Marcin Balcerzak, p. 48 © Adam Radosavljevic, p. 52 © Kheng Guan Toh, p. 56 © Crni_arapin, p. 64 © Boguslaw Kupisinski; from Bigstockphoto.com: p. 3 © Dirk Paessler; from istockphoto.com: p. 62 (top) © Achim Prill, p. 62 (bottom) © Christoph Ermel, and p. 63. All Web site addresses were accurate at the time of printing. Any corrections can be sent to Standard Publishing, www.standardpub.com.

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Introduction

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ach time we begin a new topic for Faith Café, I try to read one book on the subject in order to help me get immersed in it. So as I headed out the door for the airport one morning, I had intended to pick up Bob Hostetler’s American Idols but, almost by accident, I instead grabbed Madeleine L’Engle’s book on idols, Penguins and Golden Calves. The more I read, the more I knew I would not be able to put this book down. One of the most challenging themes was her observation that an idol is seldom some terrible sin or vice. More often, it’s the good blessings God has given us that we allow to take his place. When I think of the term idol this way, I am compelled to acknowledge that L’Engle’s thesis is true. For example, in my attempt to be the “perfect” mom, I can give my boys so much of myself, my time, my energy, and my attention that I have very little if anything left to give the other things and people in my life, including God. Should I be concerned about being the best mom I can? Absolutely! Does being a great mom mean giving them so much of

myself that I have nothing left over? No. In fact, my children will benefit more from a healthy mom who has enough energy to take care of herself, her marriage, and her relationship with God. Basically, I have two options: I can worship my children, making them the ultimate priority in my life, or I can worship God and love with the magnified, wonderful love that God gives me for my children. It’s a simple choice, really. As you study and discuss idols of faith, culture, and self, be a little introspective about your relationship to the good gifts from God in your life. Do you value any of them too highly? Spend some time in prayer the next few weeks and ask God to examine your heart and show you the things you need to surrender. Then be honest and authentic with your group. Share your struggles with one another, and grow as together you learn to place a priority on letting Christ be really the Lord of your life.

ENTER In our gatherings we do not want you just to sit back and listen. Faith Café invites you to enter into an environment where it is safe to ask for and seek answers. Phrases lure your mind toward deeper paths; quotes dare you to stare into your real self; questions give you a chance to talk to yourself and your friends about what is relevant in your lives.

    Faith Café

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I n t ro d u c t i o n     

DRINK

WALK

This segment highlights portions of Scripture to help you gain a better understanding of truth, while friends beside you voice their own reflections about how the biblical story inspires them to believe in new ways. Your soul can be refreshed by drinking in the living water of God’s Word.

As we examine society’s trends and scrutinize Christianity’s core beliefs, we choose not to leave it there. We offer suggestions to walk out with the truth you’ve explored and straightforward strategies for declaring doctrine daily to those around you. Actions such as writing letters, serving meals, or visiting hospitals will allow you to take your faith and share the delight with desperate people. Every session includes an invitation to experience the truth you’re studying on a regular basis. Spiritual disciplines such as intercession, silence, worship, study, and journaling help move you toward transformation. Your heavenly Father can guide and change you as you evaluate your habits and lifestyle.

SAVOR You will savor the stories of the struggles, musings, and triumphs of imperfect people like us who are journeying into a deeper relationship with Jesus. You will get a taste of ancient reality as it touches our fast-paced culture. And these bites of life will help to guide, challenge, and focus you.

EXPERIENCE Faith Café also offers statistics to investigate, books to read, video clips to watch, Web sites to peruse, and thoughts to ponder. The discussions of our society today will provoke groups to enter and experience lessons together. You’ll create community and in doing so, learn more about yourself.

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You are invited to taste and see, to drink and be refreshed. By reflecting and exploring, by examining and investigating, by meditating and applying, you just might discover a way to know God more and to get closer to the person he created you to be. We have no doubt you’ll be glad you decided to sit, sip, and talk about life at Faith Café.

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A Word for Leaders

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hanks to cell phones and the Internet, communication has never been easier, yet many people suffer from spiritual loneliness. But what if a small group created real community? What if the group’s members confessed their worries, hurts, and fears in an environment where hope stays alive? What if friends sat beside friends seeking ways to develop deep, real, alive relationships with their maker? What if people joined together and began a journey of Christian spiritual formation? Faith Café curriculum was designed for the person seeking this kind of experience. Real growth with real community. Authentic souls seeking to serve others. Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus saying, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching. . . . Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:14, 15). Just like the Ephesians, we were never meant to receive Christ’s salvation and then sit back and do nothing. We were meant to know Jesus and, as a result of getting to know him, to be changed. We believe that Faith Café will help you and your group to grow up in Christ together.

FAITH CAFÉ FEATURES Faith Café has been designed with leaders in mind. Though we’ve called this a Leader’s Guide, we know that you will want to be a part of this group, not just a face on the other side of a podium. To that end, we provide you with tools

to facilitate honest connections and encourage lively, thoughtful discussions. Here’s some of what you’ll find useful in the five parts that make up each Faith Café episode: ENTER, DRINK, SAVOR, EXPERIENCE, and WALK. Quotes to think about Especially in the ENTER section, but also in other parts of each episode, quotes are provided from a variety of writers, performers, and thinkers. In the Consider it box, you’ll find a quotation that was selected in particular to allow the group to reflect on an aspect of that episode’s message or to engage in debate about a meaningful topic. Scripture support Though each episode in your leader’s guide handily contains all the text that exists in the participant’s guide, we’ve also added some material to be beneficial to you as you walk others through the Bible passages. In GO DEEPER, you’ll find insightful information that could help answer questions about or provide context for that episode’s Scripture. This section may also contain discussion questions to help you and the members of your group flesh out the message in God’s Word. Facilitating ideas Besides the Scripture supporting information, each episode is packed with illustrations, activities, media elements, and discussion options that will help to engage every sort of learning style. A Look into it box offers Web sites, books, and other suggestions for

    Faith Café

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I n t ro d u c t i o n     

further research. And there are no rigid rules or regulations in Faith Café: you may feel free to pick and choose from among the offerings, use none, or use them all! Adaptable design We’ve provided you with some fuel and flavor, but the particular experience is yours to create. Faith Café curriculum is written in a way that allows you to adapt the episode to your own group’s unique tastes. Maybe you’ll want to start with a bite of life from the SAVOR section one week, and end with a refreshing DRINK from the living Word the next. Or maybe you’ll want to follow the order on the page. You and your group can decide what best suits your appetite. Strategies for service We don’t want your Faith Café experience to end inside the walls of your meeting room. We provide you with simple actions and strategies for taking what you’ve learned to go—hoping you will make a difference in your community each week and by doing so, stretch and grow in your faith. Spiritual disciplines are also suggested, offering each group member yet another way to care for their souls throughout the week.

SETTING THE SCENE You may be wondering, OK, I’ve got the tools, now where do I start? We believe that creating a certain kind of environment is an important part of this experience. Think about your favorite coffeehouse or café. What descriptive words do you think of? Inviting. Relaxing. Warm. Now imagine how you could recreate that setting for your group. It may be as simple as bringing in a couple

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of lamps for softer lighting, or arranging the seats in a circle so everyone can see each other. What resources does your group have available? Maybe you can find comfortable chairs and cozy couches at your local thrift store. Will you have a large group? Maybe you can use a tall stool to speak from instead of standing. Make it a multi-sensory experience. Have music playing as group members arrive. Don’t forget the necessary equipment for playing the Faith Café DVD clips! And finally, think about bringing snacks, drinks, and of course, coffee, to complete the scene. See www.standardpub.com/faithcafe for more ideas on creating a Faith Café space in your church. It’s important to remember that community will happen only in a trusting and authentic atmosphere. This may take a few weeks to cultivate, but know that people are hungry for a place where they can truly be known and know others. Be willing to share your own struggles, doubts, or dreams with the group to demonstrate the importance of honest dialogue. Be sensitive to the questions or pains that others share by taking time to talk through issues and pray, even if it means leaving out a portion of the lesson. Be patient with those who are quiet or shy by giving them time to get comfortable in this new environment. Finally, pray. Pray that God will bring about dramatic transformation. Pray that he will build relationships that go deep and stand strong. As you can see, Faith Café is more than a topical curriculum that happens once a week. It’s a place to create a community that can change lives. If you’re interested in designing a space in your church, Faith Café is for you. You’re invited to taste and see, to drink and be refreshed. Come on in—everyone is welcome.

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E P I S O D E 4 0     I D O L S O F FA I T H

Identifying Idolatry SUPPLIES NEEDED Country or community flag Faith Café DVD

ENTER G-O-D. The one who made us and offers hope to us in this life and for eternity. God is also the one who demands first place in our lives. Idolatry refers to the worship of any object as a god, such as the worship of stars, planets, and oceans. It can also refer to the act of bowing to animals or ancestral representations. We often think of such things as being from a different time, in a more primitive society. But what about us? In this series of lessons, we ask you to evaluate your desires. Determine what matters most to you. And ask, Is God what really matters most to me? Place your nation’s flag in a visible location. Take time to sing or listen to the national song. Talk about other national symbols. What do they represent? Think about some negative perceptions other nations may have of your country. What images feed into these perceptions? What are some symbols of your church that speak to the community (in good or bad ways)? What idols might Christians be guilty of possessing? How might these idols contribute to a negative perception of the church? As followers of Christ, we must identify our idols and remove them. They are robbing God of his rightful place in our lives.

In a modern world filled with freedom, diversity, beauty, and technological achievement, does idolatry exist? Think about these questions: n What idols do you have in your life? n What idols have you? n To what things are you particularly devoted? n At what point do you think devotion can become idolatry?

Consider it “The prophetic task was twofold: to name the idols and to call the people back to the Lord. In order to free the captives, the captivity had to be named. The prophets pointed the way of return to God by restoring the collective memory of the people.” —Jim Wallis, from “Betraying Jesus” Divide the group into two or three smaller groups. Ask each group to consider the above quote. Do they agree or disagree with this description of the job of the prophets? If a prophet came to their house, church, community, or country today, what might they say?

DRINK Remember to let group members participate in the reading of Scripture and story sections whenever possible. Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

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e n e n e

S e a s o n O n e  E p i s o d e 4 0      Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. —Psalm 96:1-5

GO deEpER Psalm 96 is a song of praise to our heavenly Father, and it provides the mood and focus we want as our study enters an investigation of idols. If we are allowing other things to take God’s place, what is it about God that we can highlight and remember as we attempt to establish him as the priority in our lives? His salvation. The psalmist draws attention to the Lord, our deliverer. We should never forget how God has saved us, and what he has saved us from. Marvelous deeds. Those two words emphasize God’s character in action. Who God is and what God does should never be in competition with an idol, which does nothing. His greatness. God is great in the sense of the great love he gives us, the great blessings he has created for us, and the great wisdom with which he guides us. But God is also great in the sense of being great with power, full of amazing force, able to create and destroy with his great will. So though we may readily praise God for the great things he has done for us, we should also fear his greatness and respect him for it. We rarely integrate praising God and fearing God, but to remind us of the character of our Creator, those actions need to merge. Any rival, any pretender, any false god, and any habit robbing us of a true relationship with God must be destroyed. Verses 4 and 5 make the point clearly. This is what we hope to learn in these thirteen lessons.

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For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Yes, we seek to identify idols in our world. Why? For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. Only the Lord made the heavens. Only the Lord should receive such credit. In an ancient culture in which many people considered nature herself to be a god, this truth was relevant. Throughout history, this psalm has been quoted and prayed and repeated as a reminder of God’s goodness and the falseness of all idols. In our culture and in our country today, this truth still carries weight. So many idols compete for our attention, it is important for us to continue to pray and meditate on these verses now. Pray that God guides our country toward a season of spiritual renewal when idols die and true Christian community comes alive—not by force but through love and grace.

SAVOR The television was Tom’s “fix” for the evening. His family had left for the weekend to visit relatives. His job had dominated his time all week, so he hardly knew they were gone. Arriving late, he had made it home each night just in time to climb into bed. Leaving early, he had had breakfast meetings scheduled with important clients each morning. He had called his wife a few times throughout each day to check on her and the children. Each time he’d called, he had been in a hurry. Rushing here, racing there, discussing here, and debating there: such was Tom’s week. Tonight was different. Tom was home alone. A reclining chair was his throne; television was his entertainment; the channel selector was his control; food was his drug. He opened the bag of burgers

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he had picked up on his way home and flipped the channel to ESPN, where he knew they’d be showing the sports news show he had been waiting all week to watch. Plus, he remembered the cable company had given them free movie channels this month. Ahhh . . . Tom needed—actually deserved—a night like this. The show brought a little laughter to Tom, his first of the week. Two men debated about which high school basketball stars would play college ball to follow through on their scholarships and which ones would go straight to the NBA. Tom knew what he would do if he had been one of those talented teenagers. He didn’t think about what he would want his son to do if he turned out like those the analysts discussed. He stood up to get a little more soda during a commercial. Tom recognized the patriotic song he heard playing and he sang along as the ad lured observers to purchase a particular vehicle. Tom thought back to the commercial that had convinced him to change cars last year. Everybody always smiled on commercials. They always looked happy: no problems, no sadness, and no issues. Though Tom knew life isn’t really like that, he enjoyed the fictional life for a night. Tom sat back down just in time to watch one last plastic commercial smile before the show returned to the ongoing debate. He shook his head, smiling again as the men discussed success, possible contracts, and potential shoe deals for these tall, young, financially poor-for-only-a-little-longer athletes. Tom looked to his left and noticed the lottery ticket he had purchased on his way home. Samantha would never know. He knew his wife disapproved of his small gambling indulgences. But what if they won? How would she feel then? Tom held the ticket, looked at the number, and grabbed a handful of french fries. When his cell phone rang, he didn’t really want to answer. The caller ID showed it was Samantha. He lowered the TV volume, put down his lottery ticket, and said, “Hey, honey.”

Direct the participants in a discussion by using the following questions: n Describe Tom’s mood. What words come to mind? n When have you felt the same way? n What is dangerous about times like that? n Use your imagination to guess what Samantha said on the phone. Do you think she had any worries about Tom? Do you think she might have felt he was allowing other things to take her place? To take God’s place? Was he? Explain your response.

EXPERIENCE I remember a conference in New York City. The topic was social justice. Assembled for the meeting were theologians, pastors, priests, nuns, and lay church leaders. At one point a Native American stood up, looked out over the mostly white audience, and said, “Regardless of what the New Testament says, most Christians are materialists with no experience of the Spirit. Regardless of what the New Testament says, most Christians are individualists with no real experience of community.” He paused for a moment and then continued: “Let’s pretend that you were all Christians. If you were Christians, you would no longer accumulate. You would share everything you had. You would actually love one another. And you would treat each other as if you were family.” His eyes were piercing as he asked, “Why don’t you do that? Why don’t you live that way?” (from Jim Wallis, The Call to Conversion) Play the Episode 40 (Lesson 1) clip from the Faith Café DVD and listen to it as a group. At the conclusion of the segment, discuss Ginny Owens’s song and today’s topic. Ask: n How do songs like these help us reorient ourselves so that God comes first in our lives? n This song could be characterized as a song of worship to God. What does it mean to worship God? What are the various ways we worship him? n What types of things do we sometimes find ourselves unintentionally worshiping?

    Faith Café

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S e a s o n O n e  E p i s o d e 4 0     

Look into it  Bob Hostetler, American Idols n Madeleine L’Engle, Penguins and Golden Calves n Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus n www.boundless.org/features/a0000905. html n www.somareview.com/betrayingjesus. cfm n

WALK What do you own that in some ways actually owns you? Spend some time in prayer this week honestly asking God if any material possession has become an idol to you.

Assess your idolatry potential: n Keep a chart of how much time you spend each day in various activities. How much time do you spend with God? n Choose to give away something you are very attached to. How much will you miss it? Give it to someone who needs it more than you.

This week’s spiritual discipline is praise: Read Psalm 96 every day this week as a discipline of giving thanks to God. Pray the words to God as you read. Praise him for what he has given you and for what he has kept away. Praise with song, reverence, silence, shouts of joy, and honest confessions. Rewrite your own version of this ancient song. Let the discipline of praise help you enter these sessions with an open, thankful, humble heart toward your heavenly Father.

NOTES

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