Today’s guest writer is Nils Olson who has been ministering in Japan as a missionary with his wife Andrea for more than forty years.
About forty years ago a former missionary to Japan, Mary Beth Frazier, shared a very simple thought. This has got to be the solution to all our woes if we can realize that . . .
“An idol is something that can’t love you back.”
Idols. Hmm, let’s list some: money, sports, food, cars, jobs, travel, art, bad habits we can’t seem to stop, clothes, stamps, coins, books, pictures, statues, icons, customs, traditions, dessert, coffee, pottery, most all hobbies . . . and I think the list could go on and on. All of the above things are basically inanimate and show no signs of life, AND they cannot love you back.
In our English language, there are two words that are spelled the same, but one is animate and the other inanimate. Are you ready for those two words?
They are God and god. Most native speakers of the English language know the difference between these two lookalike words. The big God is all powerful, all knowing, all seeing, and exists everywhere. The little god is what the big God told us from which to stay away. Those little gods include images of things in heaven (luminary orbs), earth (trees, rocks, boulders, animals etc.) and under the earth (dead ancestors and famous people). The big God also told us we were to not bow down to them, or serve as a subject (a person who is under the dominion or rule of a sovereign) to them.
The common factor of all these things we were told to not serve or bow down is that they are not alive, so it is impossible for them to love us back.
BUT, but . . . the big God is alive and loves us back! Now isn’t that a statement that is full of awe? That’s what the original word “awful” actually meant, but over the centuries we have changed the definition to mean exactly the opposite.
So, saying “full of awe” takes us back to the original meaning where we can understand the statement —
—by an apostle named John who wrote and said, “God is love.” 1 John 4:8 and 16.
—by a prophet named Isaiah who wrote and said what the big God said, “ . . . you are precious in My sight, honored and I love you.” Isaiah 43:4
—by a king named David who wrote and said, “Your stedfast love extends to the heavens.” Psalm 36:5
—and by countless pastors, teachers and evangelists who continue to declare, “For God so loved the world (me), that he gave his only Son (Jesus the Christ), (for this reason) that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
So, the big God IS alive; He is NOT dead. He is NOT a myth. He is NOT a figment of imagination. He is NOT a legend. He is the big God; the One who made you in your Mama’s womb; the One who gave you your first breath when you came out of that womb. I wonder what your first cry upon birth really meant? Perhaps it was, “Praise the big God for giving me this life to live; for giving me a future; for giving me a family. Why, do you suppose, was that first breath given to us? Well, here’s the answer to that question, plus it’s the answer to those who may wonder “What good is this life, what is the purpose of my living?”
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Wow! We finally know the purpose of our being here in this life! We were designed and created by the big God to worship Him, to enjoy His Presence, in which there is fulness of joy, or in another word, “pleasures forevermore.”
God said of Himself, “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” Isaiah 44:6. No little god can do for you what the big God can and desires to do. No little god can love you in return for all the devotion you give it. Notice the word “it” — “it” is not alive, “it” is inanimate. You might want to go back to the beginning of this article and read the noted list of some inanimate little gods.
A guy named Paul, when he visited Athens for the first time, was walking around the city and observed countless idols throughout the city. He struck up a conversation with some of the religious folk one day and said,
“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’” Acts 17:22-27
You live and move because the big God gave you your life breath for the purpose of reflecting His life in the place where you are right now.
This short one-liner verse spoken by the Apostle John will surprise you — “Little children, keep yourselves fromidols. Amen.” 1 John 5:21. Idols here are defined as whatever represents the form of an object, either real or imaginary. Keep yourselves, guard yourselves; avoid, shun or flee from idols.
My simple definition of an idol: something that takes your body, soul or spirit from keeping the big God number one in one’s life. But, I think Mary Beth’s definition is easier to remember.
The pull of the world is becoming greater and greater as we near the end. Therefore, sing this song for your protection:
A Song of Ascents — Psalm 121
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let my foot be moved;
he who keeps me will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps ( your name )
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is my keeper;
the LORD is my shade on my right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike me by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep me from all evil;
he will keep my life.
8 The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.