Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tips and Tricks for Identifying and Casting Out Idols

   Once upon a time there was a girl named Caroline. She had a shelf full of idols in her mind and on her schedule but she had no clue that they were there. She didn't want them but she couldn't get rid of them. You see, she didn't want them so badly that she convinced herself that she was a great Christian and her idols were non-existent. I doing so, she unconsciously placed another idol on her shelf, herself and her reputation. She also built a neat little wall to protect her idols. Obviously, this was her fault but the sad thing is, she didn't even realize she was doing it. Do this sound like you too? 
    I carried on in the manner I described above pretty much from when I was a little bitty elementary schooler (I can't say exactly when but honestly it may of started in like kindergarten!) up to eighth grade. I heard countless lessons on idols over that time and often reevaluated my life, made plans to stop the idol problem and then didn't carry out those plans do to my laziness and the fact that I subconsciously thought I was to good of a Christian to have a idol problem. The very fact that I thought my goodness was preventing the problem should have been a major red flag that something was wrong but because my biggest idol was my own goodness, I turned a blind eye on that flag and all others. Due to my perpetual red flag ignoring problem, I decided to make a little quiz to help make red flags glaring and impossible to miss for myself and others. If you take the quiz below, answer honestly or you're wasting you time. Sometimes honesty is hard when you know the right answer and badly want the right answer to be true for you so I would suggest a prayer beforehand too.

1. What do you spend you most time doing? (work, school, ect)

    When you're doing this activity, you probably day dream a little. What do you day dream about?

(RED FLAG #1! If God is not part of your daydreams and/or they don't glorify Him, you a probably idolizing whatever it is that you're daydreaming about.)

2. Why do you do this activity so much? (If you're think, "what a stupid question, I go to work to make money Dumbo!" or "skipping school is against the law!" Please understand that you need to create more questions out of answers until you're specific. EX: Why do I want money? To care for my family. Why do I want to care for my family? Because I love them. Why do I love them? Because they're my family. And when you reach a clear stopping or circling point, you're done).

(RED FLAG #2: If you end up with anything other than God, you're idolizing something. This may sound ridiculous because even in my example I didn't end up with God but (hypocritical statement coming up although I do strive for and pray about this) we should love others because God made them and loves them, that type of love is much stronger anyway. So yeah, you could be idolizing anything from your family (putting there wellbeing and wants before what you know God wants from you) to the ability to provide for you family to college education.)

3. When you wake up in the morning, what are your first couple of thoughts? (or when you go to sleep)

(RED FLAG #3: I they don't revolve around Jesus, it's time for an idol check! Also, (just I hint from the experienced) if you wake up stressed or worried about something, you could be idolizing yourself and your personal ability to handle things since you're clearly refraining from trusting God. This one is super hard to recognize and get rid of and requires some major prayer and Bible time because the more you know God, the more you trust Him.)

In your free time, what do you gravitate towards and why? 

(RED FLAG #4: If what pulls you is completely apart from God, that's extremely problematic!)

   So there's my little "quiz." Hopefully you'll find it helpful in the identification process. Now, time for the tips and tricks for casting out idols! I'm no expert in this area as I'm not completely rid of idols myself but I figured I can share how I've dealt with them in the past. 
    Daydreams are the best method of recognizing idols for me. My daydreams range from preventing shootings by bringing the shooter to God at the last minute to being kidnapped and successfully fighting my way out with my incredible (and non existent) karate skills or being saved unexpectedly by a dashing warrior poet. Clearly there's a wide range but the just of it all is that in my daydreams I'm a perfect follower of Jesus and a brave young hero who surprises others with my awesomeness. This reveals that I idolize my strength and faithfulness. The problem is that my daydreams exploit these two qualities into something much greater than they actually are. It also shows that the way others see me is really important to me. Although my daydreams about bringing others to Jesus may seem fine, a major component of those dreams is being seen as someone who is clearly connected to God. I shouldn't want to be seen as connected to God, I should want to be connected to God. Lately I've been trying to listen to the Bible and focus on God so that those idolized desires slowly fade.

   And now, dear brothers and sisters one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
                                    Philippians 4:8

   Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.
                                    Ecclesiastes 5:7

   I once read something on daydreams where the author said that she often dreamed of her ministry and creating a big mega church and bringing lots of people to God and she didn't think that was wrong because it revolved around God. I disagree. Her dream revolved around her ministry and her being the creator of a huge church and her being the reason for other people's salvation. What we should dream about instead is the day when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus is king. About the day when He returns and conquers all evil for one last final time. We should meditate (focus our thoughts) on bible verses and ponder their meaning. We should recall what God has been teaching us lately. We must take control of our thoughts and make sure that even in our daydreams, God is in the forefront and we are in the background.
   For red flag #2 and #3 the only option I know of is prayer so I'm just going to leave it at that but #4 has some cool options. In my free time I love to read. Like I just made a summer reading list and counted the books on it only to discover there's over 50! (so it will be my reading list for a while!) I also have a slightly strange obsession with animated disney movies. A couple months ago, I started to feel weird about running to these things during times I could be spending with God but I didn't just want to ditch these things that I liked to do so much. Why would God give me a passion for reading if he wanted me to completely ditch books? It was then that I started seeing the connections. When I read/watch movies with God He shows me the connections between what I see in these secular works and Him and I can write about them and learn from them. I'm sure that there are things in you life you love to do that you could turn into Jesus praising experiences too if you pray about them and make the effort! But there are also things that just won't work. In my life that is regularly watching TV. A couple months ago, I watched a lot of TV shows and enjoyed doing so but was also taught what it means to have a "guilty pleasure" because the whole time I watched I felt guilty. Watching shows meant I'd go to bed later and be more tired in my quiet time the next morning. It meant I was often living a lie by taking "TV breaks" while I was supposed to be doing my homework. I meant I was more likely to neglect certain responsibilities and it filled my mind with nonsense instead of God. Others may not have this problem but for me it was clear that TV shows were not good in my life and it was necessary to spend my time in other ways. I no longer watch shows because I recognized that they could have a legitimate hold over me if I let them and that was not godly. If you feel like you are stretching to find ways to focus am activity on God, it may be one you want to end.
   Anyway, hope you learned something from my super long and rambling post that you can and will implement in your life! :)

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