An idol isn’t something we think about much in the modern world these days. We usually think that is part of a primitive culture with a stone or wooden god that is worshiped and has nothing to do with us. But according to Colossians 3:5, covetousness is idolatry so it’s more than a statue. Some friends and I were talking about how we can make an idol out of many things. One friend said the way our kids behave or dress, as it reflects on us, can be a form of idolatry. We can idolize the kids and/or our reputation in that way. Another said we can even make an idol out of getting out of debt. I think I’ve offended God in all these ways and more besides.

What? Offended God? Why, isn’t He kind and loving and forgiving? Yes, but we do need to recognize our sin at some point and even continually. Sin? That’s something that some preachers won’t talk about. We have probably all heard about the one who told Larry King it wasn’t for him to say if Jesus is the only way to heaven. And guess what? Not talking about the existence of sin and the need for forgiveness is one thing that leaves us wide open to idolatry.

Today I listened to White Horse Inn’s May 31, 2009, broadcast titled “Smooth Talk and Flattery”. They said that even Time Magazine has noticed that Jesus is talked about in our churches but not in the context of His glory, His holiness or His atonement. Sermons are about how to live life and full of pragmatism and moralistic teaching but not about the cross. There is a new definition of the gospel that we need to be careful of.  It is about God making our life better. About making us feel better about ourselves. The old definition, the authentic one,  has to do with “the depth of our sin and the greatness of Christ’s blood” as was said on the broadcast. God doesn’t exist to meet our needs. We exist to serve Him. Seek first the Kingdom and all these things will be added.

If idolatry is going after something else or, elevating something else too highly in our thinking rather than God, how does thinking on sin make us less open to it? Because this leads us to the cross. We are reminded of His holiness as it contrasts with our un-holiness. We think of His atonement for us and our inability to live through the experience of the wrath of God that only He could bear for us. That leads us to worship Him regardless of what our circumstances are or, what we own or, what others think of us or anything else, really. It leads to the joy of the Lord that gives strength.

When was the last time you heard a good sermon on the cross? Easter? Unless Easter was last week, it’s been too long. Many churches believe in the cross but it’s not mentioned because it may offend a visitor. Is every sermon supposed to only be evangelistic? No, but it should have that element in it and also meat for the believer. The cross is meaty and if we are bored with it, we are in danger of looking for an idol. If our evangelism consists of ‘what Jesus did for me’ and ‘how He made me happy’ and not what the person needs most – repentance, forgiveness and good doctrine to help them grow, we’re off track.

I know it’s not fun digging around in this stuff. Somehow, this reminds me of when I was first a Christian and people would tell me not to pray for patience because I would be put in situations that were difficult and would require patience. So, was I supposed to put my comfort ahead of the need for sanctification? This world has always been and always will be an uncertain place. Fads come and go in the church but the real gospel is the thing that never changes. The God who made us and has rights to us is where we find rest but, only as we seek Him and not idols.

My Caterpillar Nursery and God’s Purposes

One day last week my dad was showing me what he had growing in his garden. He pointed where the parsley was and it really was where the parsley HAD been. Wasn’t much left and the muncher was still at it. It was a caterpillar that I knew had to be some kind of butterfly in the making, but I couldn’t remember what kind eats parsley. I brought it to my house and looked it up online.  It was a swallowtail caterpillar. There was something on the page about tomato hornworms becoming moths and I thought if I found another one of those in my garden, I’d keep it, too.

I set up a nursery in a jar for this pretty little critter and began feeding it parsley from my herb garden.  The next day I found a hornworm and set him up, too. The swallowtail caterpillar needed a stick to attach to and the hornworm caterpillar needed dirt in the bottom of the jar. It was a job feeding the hornworm.  It’s amazing how much he eats!

After a couple days the caterpillar got on the stick but not on top like he had done before. This time he attached to the bottom of it.  And he tucked his head under. Later in the day, he was only holding on with his feet at both ends of his body. Then, later he was only holding on by one end, with his head totally away from the stick.  I have no idea how he did that. About that time the hornworm had disappeared and I knew he had to be under the dirt. According to what I read, he was supposed to be making a cocoon. I could tell he was moving about since every so often the topography in the jar looked different.

The next day the caterpillar on the stick was about half chrysalis going from his head to the middle of his body. The second half still looked like a worm. There were two strands of really fine material that looked like spider web attaching him to the stick. I thought he was probably dead. He wasn’t, but the only way I could tell is that he gradually totally changed.  A few days later the hornworm caterpillar had moved to a spot at the edge of the jar and I could see him. I didn’t see what I expected. I thought he would be spinning a white cottony cocoon but he was turning brownish-red and it looked like a hard covering that started at his head and went about halfway down his body. I thought he might be dead till I saw him flinch. Later, he was completely brownish-red.

While I watched this process (I’m now waiting for them to hatch) I thought about how sometimes I make plans and I think I know what I want to do and when I want to do it. It can get frustrating when the process seems to be taking longer than I wanted it to or even gets derailed.  Sometimes it looks like nothing is happening but just as I couldn’t watch the changes to chrysalis and cocoon happen by minutes but only by hours, God doesn’t always move quickly either. There’s this thing, this pride thing, that says, “Can’t you make it happen?” and there’s this other thing that kicks in – this deep-down thing – that reminds me that man makes his plans but God guides his steps. God doesn’t measure success the same way we do and sometimes it looks like it’s all over. Well, sometimes the plan I made may be all over. I expected the hornworm caterpillar to be making a white cottony cocoon, but I was wrong. I thought those guys were toast a couple times, but they weren’t. I don’t know how that fellow stayed on the stick holding on by two toes, but he did.

God knows what He is doing.  He’s the King of the Universe, after all. Just because I plan something or start something that either doesn’t happen or has a different outcome than what I wanted, doesn’t mean there was no planned purpose in my planning or doing. God has a purpose in it. He numbered the hairs on my head and He guides my steps even as I am unaware sometimes of His presence. He’s always with me, and He’s good, and He loves me and is doing what is best for me. What He’s doing that is for my “good” as it says in Romans, is forming the image of Christ in me.  My purpose is just as it says in The Westminster Confession – “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” That takes me to the next thing I’ve been mulling over. Life is an adventure and God is to be trusted. More to come….

Of Wasps and Worms, Pt. 2

I wondered if the lack of wasps this year  – fewer than ever! – had anything to do with the worms in my garden that were chowing down on the tomatoes.  Oh, they were eating leaves, too. Anyway, yesterday I saw a wasp on a tomato plant and guess what HE was chowing down on? A worm! Yea, wasp!

Now, I wonder if the lack of wasps this year has anything to do with the extra spraying the county has been doing to kill mosquitoes? They are spraying more because when Hurricane Ike blew in last year it brought more mosquitoes to our area. One question always seems to lead to another.