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Posts Tagged ‘idolatry’

It’s time to put some idols under the microscope. I get too complacent about my idols, thinking they have little power, after all, how bad could they be? I’m a walking believer, I study the scriptures, I pray, I go to church, I even fast . . .

I John 5:21
Little children, keep yourselves from idols (false gods)–[from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life]. Amen (so let it be).
{Amplified]

All faith-based disciplines are a help to the life of a follower of Christ. All of these practices aid the fuller indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But for every discipline and practice that is a help, there are “idols” that pull and push against us . . . me.

My idols (in no particular order):

  • Newspapers, News, Blogs, or just about anything on the Internet
  • Lattes and Loose Tea, brewed correctly
  • Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, FlickR
  • Sleeping late; pushing the snooze button 4 times
  • Being Busy, really busy, I mean really, really busy
  • Reading as many books at the same time as I can: current load is 8
  • Driving alone, so I can listen to an audio book
  • Smart Phone
  • Gadgets, or coveting gadgets, or reading about gadgets
  • Being funny
  • Being casual about money, a joke, since it’s in short supply
  • Writing anything: blog, book, reports, instructions, grocery lists
  • Photography, even without a good camera; or maybe it’s kvetching about that too
  • NPR (if I’m short on audio book) – silence not allowed in the car
  • Panera with a few special people (you know who you are)
  • Scheduling the family: even after age 18
  • Age lines, puffy veins, dry eye, sore feet, plus lots of extra pounds
  • Talking, a nice way of saying gossip
  • Being with and taking care of dogs & cats
  • Candles = ambiance
  • Pandora: Smooth Jazz
  • Work: librarian, manager, volunteer, parent
  • Workshops and Training – learn something else new
  • Children’s needs, Husband’s needs and all the needs they don’t know they need

Oh, come on, goofy right? Aren’t idols supposed to be like Mother Teresa or Brad Pitt? Aren’t they the rich and famous, the indulgences, the lofty or the lowly?

No, not really. I mean, I suppose those are issues too, but really, for me, it’s the “time suckers!” : anything that takes me away from my awareness of the Presence within, the marriage of Spirit, the inner life, Christ in me and me in Christ. That’s the very essence of what it means to be an overcomer in this world, this age, this culture. I know all this in my mind, but instead, I act out: I step on my scale and start another diet, I read too many posts, I play too much Scrabble or Words with Friends, I fill my time and watch the digital clock on my computer turn over, minute by minute by minute.

I occupy my mind. Ha Ha. Occupy Irmgarde. These activities, these mind numbing time wasters, they are all camping out inside me. And even if none are particularly bad, they draw me away from my center.

When I was in acting school, I learned a surefire remedy for hiccups: every time! Basically, it requires the person to “relax the diaphragm.” That’s all. But, to do cure usually requires silence, stillness, breath, and centering.

To cure idol pandering depends on the same practices.

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Becoming is a series of resurrections. In order to optimize the resurrections of the heart, soul & mind, there must be deaths–crucifixions, to be specific. But a number of hindrances to the deaths as well as the awakenings play out in my life. Categorically, the biggest obstacle is idolatry.

Colossians 3:3-5
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

This type of idolatry is not just worshiping a statue or foreign god, it’s putting Self up on a pedestal. The earthly nature illustrated in this verse (immorality, impurity, sex, evil desire and greed), is all about self-pleasure and choices made without concern or care for the other. Idolatry is another way of acting out extreme narcissism.

To crucify or “kill” these tendencies, desires, and controlling habits, I must first be willing. Jesus gave us the way to the cross. It didn’t seem very fair at the time. And it was a painful process, a breaking down of everything. His body was stripped of all protections. He was laid bare both physically and mentally.

Can I lay bare my own ego that wants to defy the Spirit and doesn’t want to understand or trust the paradox of faith in a Christ? Sexual behaviors and addictive pursuits are not the only features of an earthly nature. I have other consuming thoughts like ambition, notoriety, fame, power, wealth, and control. These too must be crucified before they can become the seed that dies and transforms into a thriving plant or tree. [John 12:24]

This remains unknown territory. I must willingly walk my personal “Via Dolorosa” and encourage my ego to let go of the survival skills I have developed over the years out of pain and fear and abandonment. They push people away. They block the free flowing release of the Spirit within. And what’s on the other side of crucifying the old ways? The old idolatries? I don’t really know. I only have a promise and a faith in the One within.

But I do know this: until that earthly nature loses its grip on my life, I’ll never know the truth of a truly resurrected life. They cannot live together.

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An idolater cannot see the inner way. The appeal of the outside world, where sensuality, lust for things and love of money prevail, blocks the path to the riches of God which are the inheritance of a believer: peace, love, joy, contentment, relationship.

Ephesians 5:5
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

It’s not so much that all these things and behaviors are “bad” per se, but they cannot coexist in the same space with the things of God, that’s all.

More about idols.

(FD 3)

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Do I do this? Do I participate, even unknowingly, in the rituals of the demonic? In the same way that idols are temptations, then couldn’t the foods that fuel evil be equally prevalent. It’s a type of consumerism and an attitude of entitlement.

I Corinthians 10:20-21a
. . . the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too . . .

I am not alone. We live in a culture of wanting it all.

The other day, I heard a talk show on WYPR Baltimore about the world’s dependence on oil (these conversations abound in the shadow of the BP gulf oil disaster). In this interview with Robert Bryce, author of Power Hungry, they talked about the unwillingness of the world’s consumers to stop using oil, which is comparatively cheap, relatively plentiful, and has the best energy density.

There are alternative energy sources, but none of them are as easy to glean from the earth. There would be a huge sacrifice to make this change and basically, the world’s population is unwilling to do it. Even with the new “green” initiatives, the transition will always be a painful one and most will not make the change willingly.

This is a drink we take every day. We drive fuel-hungry cars, we use plastics without a thought, we consume oil like candy. This drink has crept steadily into our lives and many can’t even see it.

Over the years, many people have pointed out how missionaries of the past have ruined cultures by imposing their belief systems on various native people around the world. And I cannot disagree. But I say, culturally, we are doing the same thing. We are introducing consumerism and dependence on oil. We are teaching them to “be like us.”

Oh yes, there is a price to pay when drinking with the demons of today.

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Tim Keller, in the book Counterfeit Gods, writes that idolatry is anything that isn’t God and yet, put in the place of God. That gives me pause.

I Corinthians 10:7
Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”

The author goes on to say that one of the central principles of the Bible is rejection of idols.

Makes sense. It also puts more light on another verse that appears to come out of nowhere in I John 5:21, the last verse of the book, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” With some thought, I realize it’s an amazing summation. And, like, Keller, I’m seeing the simple truth of this idea.

How many times do I say I don’t have “time” to do this or that for the building up my faith, you know, things like prayer, study, meditation, contemplation, service to others. Oh yeah, and why don’t I have time? Because other things are “more important.” Other things have taken place, taken root, in my calendar and my heart.

Our culture offers a plethora of idols. Take your pick: they all do the job. They all have the power (which we endow them) to suck up our time and our energy.

I used to think some of my post-millennial friends (or were they pre-millenial?), were being ridiculous as they identified things in our culture as a “Beast” from revelation–things like television. But, are they so off? I’m not talking about that kind of literalness, but doesn’t a lot of entertainment become addictive and consuming? How many people order their lives around watching a particular television show? (Apparently, they have not found TIVO yet.)

So what is my time suck? And why do I need it?

Internet. Facebook. Over-committed volunteerism. Hobbies. Old movies. Re-runs. Yard sales. Lattes. Reading. Work.

None of these things are inherently bad or necessarily “idols.” But I do fill up my day. I fill up my mind with planning.

There are 330,000 gods in India. How about me? How many do I have?

I have a friend who married an African man and recently, had his child here in the United States. However, in a few days, they will be returning to Namibia, with no real jobs waiting for them (they used to work at an orphanage we support which is how we met them). So, she will be entering into a much more rustic lifestyle, she will be living, truly, more closely to the norm of African families in small cities: a new simplicity. She will be confronting her personal “idols” soon.

Why do we need idols? I think it’s part of our culture. To let go of many of them would mean stepping back from the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.

“. . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus . . . [Hebrews 12:1b-2a]

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