Wednesday, July 11, 2012

the things we bow down to...

idol :: a person or thing that is greatly admired or loved; something used as an object of worship

it's the second part of that definition that gets us into trouble, isn't it?  there are many people and things that i love and admire in this world...and that's great.  when they become so important to me that i believe i couldn't live without them, and therefore put them on a throne, i find myself bowing down to a king that will never be a completely perfect ruler of my life.  that place must be reserved for the only crown-wearing One who has always proven faithful since the beginning of time.

as i continue to work through a study by kelly minter called no other gods: confronting our modern-day idols i keep uncovering important morsels of truth in a fresh and honest way.  as much as i have read about and studied the subject of idols over the years it is still something i struggle with...something we all struggle with.  in my own life i have found that the things i bow down to change.  just when i think i have been freed from one tight grasp something else grabs hold of me - my achievements, my relationships, my money, my husband, my children, my security...these are only some of the 'counterfeit gods' that have stolen my attention and affections in an unhealthy way. it's particularly tricky when the things we worship are good things...but they can never be the ultimate thing.

if you're wondering what you may be idolizing in your own life just consider the thing or person that consumes most of your thoughts.  what is your 'go to' thought, particularly when you are feeling weak?  is there some situation that you believe if it does or does not change your life will be ruined?  is there something that you deeply fear will be taken from you?  or maybe there is something you deeply fear will never be given to you in the first place.

this week i reread the familiar story of abraham and isaac in genesis 22:1-18.  i encourage you to read it for yourself but here's the nutshell version:
a man waits a lifetime for the son he's always dreamed of.  when that son arrives the father's world begins to shift and center around the boy.  one day the father is asked by God to do the unthinkable - sacrifice his child.  instead of climbing a mountain and presenting the traditional animal sacrifice the father is asked to lay his own flesh and blood on the altar to be slaughtered.

in reading back through this familiar account a couple of things struck me...
first of all - abraham's true obedience to God was indicated by his willingness to give the most important thing.  he withheld nothing from God.  i guarantee you abraham was not skipping up that mountain humming a jolly tune as he escorted his son to his death.  more likely he felt sick to his stomach and questioned whether or not his body and soul would stand up to the weight of his grief.  he was surely in a place of complete and utter weakness and despair...which is exactly where he met a strength and power he had never fully known before.  i can say the same for my own life.  what about you?  is there one thing or one situation that you say - 'anything but that, Lord.  you can have every piece of my life but that one thing i must hold on to.'  if so, you can be sure...that's what he wants most...because that's what's keeping you from Him.

secondly, i was really challenged by verses 17 and 18...
i will certainly bless you.  i will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.  your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies.  and through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed - all because you have obeyed me.
i love that last part - 
all because you have obeyed me. 

in case you don't know the rest of the story...abraham did just as God had instructed.  he got as far as tying the boy up and raising a knife above his body before God intervened.  again - i can't imagine what abraham must have been feeling...heart racing, tears falling, maybe even that awful suffocating panic attack feeling.  in that moment an angel of the Lord appeared to abraham and told him to stop.  when abraham looked up he saw a ram caught in a bush nearby and realized that God himself had provided the sacrifice that would free isaac...that would give him his son back.  sometimes the jesus storybook bible says it best...
and as they sat there on the mountaintop watching the embers of the fire die in the cool night air, the stars above them sparkling in the velvet sky, God helped abraham and isaac understand something.  God wanted his people to live, not die.  He wanted to rescue his people, not punish them.  but they must trust him.
getting rid of idols in our life is ultimately about trusting God.  trusting Him to be everything we could ever need.  trusting Him to care for us better than anyone or anything else ever could.  trusting Him to give and withhold, to take away and pour out when He deems it best for us {even though it may bring us temporary pain}.

and when we trust...we obey.
and when we obey...we are blessed.
and not only that...but, as with abraham, generation after generation will be blessed because of our obedience...because of our trust.  wow.

i leave you with a prayer that could have very well been the prayer of abraham's heart.  today i make it my own...
Father, i want to know thee, but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys.  i cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and i do not try to hide from thee the terror of the parting.  i come trembling, but i do come.  please root from my heart all those things which i have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that thou may enter and dwell there without a rival.  then shall thou make the place of thy feet glorious.  then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. 
{a.w. tozer}
{good morning girls link-up}