Thursday, October 28, 2010

Making Absolutes

Once again, great job on the articles girls. :)

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is one of my favorite books. It is based on the story of Hosea, a prophet commanded by God to marry a prostitute. After Hosea married his wife, the prostitute, ran away from him and went back to prostitution. Hosea, obeying God’s command, went after her and brought her back. The prostitute continued to run away from him and Hosea continued to bring her back. In Redeeming Love the first time Hosea brings her back he is furious with her. How could she leave him and go back to her profession after he had rescued her, and clothed, her and loved her as a wife. The biblical story was an analogy of Israel. God was showing Hosea, and those who would read His word, of Israel’s continual lust after idols of gold, silver and wood and His continual restoration.

What is the first commandment?

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; Do not have any other gods before me.” –Exodus 20:2-3

Notice how this commandment starts. “I am the Lord your God who brought you…. Out of the house of slavery.” If you think that this was just intended for the Israelites who had been rescued from Egypt I’m sorry to say you are grossly mistaken. We are all slaves to our sinful desires, and yet God has rescued us. He has brought us out of our slavery. He has saved us from eternal damnation. No wonder he commands us to serve Him alone.

So then what is an idol?

My mother and I have discussed the meaning of an idol countless times, and we were able to boil it down to two simple points.

            An Idol is either anything that you are willing to sin to get, or anything that becomes your absolute.

I believe the first point is pretty self-explanatory. Anything that becomes more important than following God’s command becomes an idol. However let me expound on the second. When something is absolute it means that it is “free from imperfection” (Webster’s dictionary). I find my worth, satisfaction, and purpose for life in something that is absolute, as I should, and as should we all. Something absolute will never let us down or hurt us. However when we place a thing or person in that position of being absolute we are now finding out worth, satisfaction, and purpose from that thing; whether it be money, food, or appearance; even a husband or wife can become an idol. As Lauren said, idols can be good things, but if we make them the most important things in our life, if we think of them as absolute, then they become our idols.

When you think of a “modern day” idol what is the first thing that comes to your head? Money? Love? Power? While all of these can be idols, I don’t believe that the objects themselves are the ultimate idols but rather, they are “surface idols.” In order to check idolatry in our life we have to rid ourselves of the “deeper idols.” Tim Keller introduced this concept of surface idols and deeper (or heart) idols in his book Counterfeit Gods. Think of it this way:

When you’re pulling weeds you don’t want to just cut off the part above the dirt, you want to dig, getting your fingers dirty, to the seed of the and pull it out by it’s roots. If you just clip the weed above the surface you are only getting rid of it for a short while.

As an example: I have made a certain guy in my life my absolute. If I try to stop thinking about him or having feelings for him in an attempt to rid myself of the idolatry, the idol will pop up in some other form; either as a different guy or as my own appearance. While this guy is the surface idol, the deeper idol is the need to be loved. God’s love isn’t enough for me; I need to find it in others. This is the heart idol that I need to deal with and fight. Again I want to stress the fact that this guy is not wrong, and my feelings for him are not wrong. Rather what’s wrong is making him absolute.

If you want to know more about the difference between deeper idols and surface idols I would highly recommend Counterfeit Gods. It is a fast read, but it is the book you can’t just read once.

We will never be able to completely rid ourselves of Idolatry in this life. It is a part of our sin nature. Back in the garden Adam and eve were willing to sin to get what they wanted and so the first seeds of idolatry were planted. However, there is hope.

“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

God has provided us a savior that has overcome every area of sin. He has died for us, and it is because of Christ, our absolute sacrifice, that we are forgiven. God gives us the strength to slowly pull up the roots of our idols. The deepest sins are always the most painful to uproot. Just like when Aslan peels back the scales on Eustace, turning him into a boy again in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so the Lord peels back the deepest layers and deepest roots of our sin, rescuing us from the bonds of slavery and enabling us to spend eternity with Him; The Only Absolute.
(Yours truly) Belle Schuler, Oregon 

Not Of Wood Or Stone

Here is my problem. I bite my tongue repeatedly. Not only does this cause a minor amount of self-inflicted pain to said appendage, but also it is proof of a significant issue in my walk with the Lord. The Bible is chock-full of verses related to idols, and how we are to treat them. I get it. Do not bow down to a stick that has been carved to vaguely resemble Buddha’s third cousin once removed. However, what we fail to realize is that it is so much more than that. Idols are defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “A representation or symbol of an object of worship.” Anything, be it something we are bowing down to physically, or merely placing on a pedestal in our head, is an idol if we put it before the Lord.

For me, one of my subtler idols is this: men’s good opinion. “Should I witness to this surfer dude sitting next to me on the plane? I think we have talked about flip flop brands long enough. Nah, he’d probably think I’m really weird.” “Should I speak up when someone says religion is a crutch? I don’t want to come across as crazy.” It goes on and on. We are far too concerned with our good name, and reputation. Jesus said “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” 

If you don’t have children of the world hating you, you’re doing something wrong. You’re not taking enough of a stand, you’re not remembering the Lord’s wonderful mercies to you. When you do catch sight of all He has done for us, serving Him and living wholeheartedly for Him will be easier. And by easier I mean you will want to do it more, not that life will be fruit loops and rainbows. We are fighting a battle, and if we lose focus of whom our worship goes to, we’re going to lose. When you go to heaven, do you want to be told “I never knew you. Depart from me, evildoer!” or “Well done, thy good and faithful servant. Enter into thy reward.”? The choice on paper is obvious, living it out is harder. But I encourage you to press on and keep the faith.

-Darby Sproul, Florida

Monday, October 18, 2010

Finding Your Identity

Hello girls, 

My sincere apologies for the delay in articles this month. I have been pretty sick the past week, and life has continued to go careening by. The final three articles are finished and I will be posting them intermittently between now and the next two weeks. 

Idolatry is one of the most subtle sins. “I go to church, am involved in ministry, work hard at school, love my family. There aren’t possibly any idols in my life!” That’s the lie of idolatry. More often than not, idolatry grows out of a love for something good. Idolatry is when we make a good thing an ultimate thing.

Tim Keller defines an idol as, "Anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give."  An idol is anything, even a good thing, that steals your heart away from being all for Jesus. This doesn’t mean that if you spend more time on something other than reading your Bible or if you think about something more than you think about God that you’ve necessarily made an idol. Maybe how you’re spending your time and where your thoughts are going is an indicator of what your idol is, but not necessarily. Let me give you an example. If I spend 5 hours on school but only 30 minutes reading my Bible and praying, that doesn’t mean that school is necessarily an idol. If I think about a project on and off for 3 hours and only think about God a few times within that hour, I haven’t necessarily made that an idol.

An idol is anything that competes for first place in your life, anything you find your identity in. Your identity is anything that makes up who you are, defines you…if you achieve or have that one thing, then you have security and supposedly satisfaction. For me, it’s easy to find my identity in doing well in my speech and debate league, in my music, in my ministry, in my family, in what people think of me, and even in my spirituality.

The problem with finding our identity in these things it that if we fail to uphold them, we are heart broken, depressed, failures. But even if we are “successful” in achieving them, we’re either proud or unsatisfied. In their book “Holding Hands and Holding Hearts”, Richard and Sharon Phillips wrote, “Idols never satisfy, but always demand increasingly more, constantly adding to the burdens of our lives and in the end giving nothing of lasting value.”

Lindsey Vonn, after winning a gold medal for the US in women’s downhill skiing, was asked how she felt at that moment, to which she replied, “This was all I wanted” or “This is the happiest moment of my life.” While I don’t doubt that she was very happy, she was finding her identity in something that would prove to disappoint. It wouldn’t sustain her through the rest of her life.

So Paul presents an alternative solution to this dilemma—a change in identity. In Philippians 3, he writes of all the things he found his value in, all his idols. And then he goes on…

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ…For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from_________ [the law] but depends on faith.”

In Jesus, I have a hope and a joy that aren’t worth trading with all the rubbish of my former identities and idols. Like Paul said in Galatians 4, “Now that you have come to know God…how can you turn back again…?”

And this, I believe, is the key to destroying the idols in our lives, namely, focusing on the gospel. The gospel is the primary place where we see God for the glorious God that He is and we see our worthless idols for what they are. Milton Vincent, in his book “A Gospel Primer” wrote:
“The gospel reveals to me the breathtaking glory and loveliness of God, and in so doing, it lures my heart away from love of self and leaves me enthralled by Him instead. The more I behold God’s glory in the gospel, the more lovely He appears to me. And the more lovely He appears, the more self fades into the background like a former love interest who can no longer compete for my affections.”

Preaching the gospel to ourselves everyday, whether by digging into God’s Word and rehearsing passages like Romans 8:31-35 to ourselves or by using tools like the Gospel Primer to remind us of the good news, is the primary way to shift our focus from ourselves and our ambitions to the glory of the true God.

One day, Jesus will come back. And when He does, all the things we’ve set up as idols, the things we’ve made ultimate in our lives, will be torn down and exposed for the pointless ambitions they are. And King Jesus will be displayed for who He really is. Zephaniah 2:11 describes this day: “The Lord will be awesome against them; for he will famish all the gods of the earth, and to him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations.” Is the thing you’re striving for and finding your identity in going to survive that last Day? Lord, reveal now the things that we’re treasuring other than You. Crucify those old passions and desires. They are but rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing You.

Lauren Reavely, Oregon

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Deep Darkness

What picture comes to my mind when I think of idols is this:

            I’m focused on God. I’m thinking about Him, worshiping Him and living life in the joy of the Lord. But then it’s like a darkness comes between me and God. At first you can ignore it because it doesn’t quite block your view of God. But, slowly you stare at the darkness and can’t stop looking at it. Then it makes a barrier between you and God. You can’t see Him anymore. And, even if you can see Him, He now somehow seems uninteresting. Strange. Oh well, now you have the darkness to look at!
            Yes, that was a drawn out picture. But, this is what happens when you let idols take over your life.  1 John 5:21 says it plainly: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” That verse could seem so simple. Here is verse 20, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” It seems like these two verses aren’t really related. But, they are! Verse 20 is saying who God is! That is the key to not letting idols overcome your life. Idols come into your life when you think God isn’t enough. When I first heard someone say that I thought, “No! Of course I think God is enough for me!” But, if God is everything and you are focused on Him how could you think of anything else? You have to keep your focus on God.
            One of the many idols in my life is laziness. I let doing nothing get in the way of doing things! I easily quit and I easily don’t even try. Many times I don’t even care. I’d be completely happy to let life just pass me by. But, God is so gracious! A few years ago God gave me the desire to keep going, make a difference and live for Him! Of course, my life didn’t suddenly become wonderful that day. I had to respond to that! My laziness problem is definitely a work in progress. I still have many horrible days when all I want to do is... nothing! But, I’ve found that when I have those bad days (and also when I have good days) I pray and worship God, He gives me the strength to keep going. You can’t just stop idols from coming into your life. You have to constantly keep your eyes on God. He is more than enough!

- Elizabeth Morphonios 
North Carolina

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Idol time!!!!

Hey Girls!

I apologize for the delay in posting the October topic. It's been a very busy week for all of us. :)

I would like to once again thank Darby, Lauren, and Elizabeth for writing such winsome articles on their opinion of college. Remember, if you ever want to contribute by writing an article, or even a short summary of your thoughts don't hesitate in sending us an email.

Remember: Our email is located under the "Write For Us" tab on the website. :)

Without further ado, I'd like to introduce this month's topic:
October: When you think of idols what is the first thing that pops into your head? Gold or bronze images? Money? Power? Love? Have you ever thought about your "household" idols? The every-day things in your life that you set above spending time with Lord? What are some common idols that we as girls are sometimes unaware of? How can we combat an idol's control over our life? 
Looking forward to hearing from you all.

Love you all dearly,

God Bless