Monday, January 5, 2009

So Many Idols

Today was a sight-seeing day. Pastor Ram had 3 young men guide us, who grew up in the orphanage and now lead: Amit, Vishnu and Silas. These are wonderful young men who love the Lord. They took us to see two temples that are huge tourist attractions, drawing people from around the world.

We have seen hundreds of idols and shrines on the streets of Kathmandu. Some are very small and some are the size of a small shop or kiosk. But nothing could have prepared us for what we saw today.

I would say that we saw over a thousand idols today. Our team is reeling with sensory overload. It is hard to put into words.

First we went to a Budhist temple on the top of a large hill. It is thousands of years old, and the legend says that this temple was not built, but appeared by itself. It can be seen on the hill (the high places of the Old Testament?) from far away. The central temple is very tall, and has the "all-seeing eye" painted on it (2 eyes with a question mark-esque symbol). The eyes are looking out over Kathmandu. Surrounding this temple are many hundreds (or more?) of smaller shrines, idols, prayer wheels, etc. The shrines are small indentions in the temple all the way around, each containing a carving of Buddha. Between each shrine are the prayer wheels. Worshipers will circle the temple, moving the prayer wheels with their hands while they pray. Some would light a candle and place it in the shrines, toss some rice in (offering it to the god) and we even saw some bow down before the idols. Inside the main temple was a large solid gold buddha idol.

Outside were monkeys crawling everywhere, and pigeons. There were merchants with tables selling souvenirs. The main souvenir was the singing bowl. People rub the outside of the bowl with a wooden tool and it creates a sound. Silas said, "Jesus is our why do we need a singing bowl?" All over the area you could hear the sound of a chant-like song being played on speakers. The young men guiding us said that the song was saying, "Worship the lord Buddha. He is the alpha and omega, beginning and end."

Afterwards, we went to the main Hindu temple. It overlooked a very dirty river that is supposed to be a holy river. Dead bodies were burning on the bank of the river on platforms. Fortunately, they were very burned and we could not see anything too graphic. But we were forced to breathe in the smoke of the dead bodies.

Again, there were SO MANY IDOLS all over the area and hilltop. Monkeys were everywhere, and Hindu holy men who wanted money to get your picture taken with them. There were beggars missing limbs.

I don't know what to say. What striking images have filled our minds today! What darkness covers and enslaves this friendly and beautiful people! Paul said in Romans that they "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things" (Rom. 1:23, ESV). We saw this today. He goes on to say that they "exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen" (v. 25).

Never in all my life will I forget what I have seen today. But I do not judge this people as worse than us. Their idols are out for everyone to see. Our many thousands of idols come in different forms. We worship sex, money, entertainment, sports, hobbies, material things, and SELF.

May God be pleased to break the power of darkness over this beautiful land, and draw out for himself a people in Christ, for the glory of God!! And may God break our hearts and so move in us that we turn from our own idols, and serve Jesus radically and faithfully. May that service to Christ lead us HERE with the gospel, and to all the ends of the earth.


Vicky said...

What a great (and convicting) update! You do a great job using descriptive language which makes it easy to "see" it for ourselves in our mind's eye! Thanks! I'm very envious of the amount of curry you guys are eating and fully expect Steve and Stormie to come over here with some curry when he gets home! :O)

We have been faithfully praying for the team and also for Ram's ministry/work there in Nepal.

You would be proud of your beautiful brides and how well they are holding up while you guys are gone...praise the Lord!

Praying for a safe, uncomplicated trip home for you guys! See you soon!


Godsword said...

That's an amazing account. I love how you related their idols with ours. So true.

Nicolle Fletcher said...

Cary I love your post! Thank you for keeping us posted. As I looked at your title I thought how easily we see the idols in other peoples cultures and fail to see them in ours. As you stated we too have idols and for someone from a different country they may be just as obvious and heartbreaking for them. As in Romans 1:23 and 25 the verses you mentioned...we are constantly exchanging to glory of the God for created things. GOD help us to see You as You are and be satisfied with our Creator above creation.

Thanks Cary

We are praying you all!

Steven Owen said...

How true it is that we have many idols. Especially in sports. Just drive down any street here in Conway and how many cars have a Razorback emblem on them. Not only that, but also the enormous amount of money that is spent on houses and buildings for our comfort.

Anonymous said...

Halleluja! I am blessed to read this and hear your heart Cary. My own heart has been so heavy here in the US, my eyes awakening to all the worship of Satan that fills my own home and goes on around me. I've been listening to Paul Washer quite a bit, using his stuff to test myself and the things in our home.

Both Amy and Kerri have also come under conviction about several things in their own lives, to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you were talking of the prayer wheel I began to think of something God was showing me this morning. I was praying and thinking and the idea of shrines came into my mind. I began to think of different things I've seen in Asian countries. About ancestral worship and the little stone or wooden shrines that they lovingly put bits of food on and burn incense to honor the dead.

Then I began to think about the idol of television that has dominated my own life. I thought of the elaborate entertainment centers and ornate cabinets I've had to house my precious tv and the thousands of hours I've spent devoting my mind and emotions into movies and shows (this could quite easily be a solid year or more!).

I can vividly recount my oft practiced ritual of opening the entertainment center doors and lovingly looking over my collections of lies and illusions, inspecting the great stories that allowed me to escape reality for awhile, making sure each was in its place as I rifled through and stole back precious memories from each one. I would open the cases, read the inside pamphlets, deliberating whether to watch some sci-fi, or romance, or a WWII flick. I would lovingly inspect the discs to insure that they weren't getting scratched up and smudged.

It was my lifestyle. I planned my life around the television shows "Lost" and "the Office" and the newest movies, making sure that my time in the evenings wouldn't be hindered by Amy or Sam needing something. I would go to movies alone, because it seemed that others always ruined the romantic escape I got with their presence (Satan loved to have me alone!).

This thing has owned me all my life. When I was 10 or 12, the movie store down the road had a special: 5 movies for 5$ for 5days. My best friends and my brother and I loaded up every weekend, sometimes 10 at a time, with Schwarzenegger, Stephen Segal, and Van Dam. We watched smut and horror, romance and mystery, cartoons and war movies, just about everything in the store.

I probably watched the "Star Wars" trilogy 2 or 3 hundred times, it was literally my life for several years. And it didn't stop with the films, I read nearly every book in the Star Wars universe.

I was owned. After Christ set me free from sin this year, saved me by grace before the foundation of the world, my heart began to change radically towards this idol in my life. Even as I write I am realizing what has happened (part of why its so long! I'm discovering as I write). On the way to Georgia, I listened to a Paul Washer message you gave me, "The Gospel of Our Salvation," and he spoke of the sin we "drink in" as Americans. He spoke about how difficult it was to be a Christian in America because of all the idols we worship and have no clue about. I was wondering exactly what he meant when God began to show me all the idols in my own life. The television was one of the first. Education a close second.

I listened to that message 3 times on my way to Georgia, and then again on the way back. As I cried out to God in the car (and Amy and Kerri wondering a bit bewilderedly if I was crazy!) he began to show me a vision I had never seen. He showed me a memory of my childhood.

My parents had just gotten divorced and we were living in a homeless shelter. My dad had allowed a little tv when I was younger (teenage mutant ninja turtles) but my mom always hated it. When we moved to Warren after the divorce, mom was distracted and frantic trying to care for us and keep us in school. And in the process she allowed us to watch tv whenever we wanted.

I found a new companion here, and spent every day after school watching cartoons and any science fiction I could find. I still vividly remember seeing a man's penis on "Planet of the Apes" when I was 7. This had a huge impact on me throughout my life, somehow connecting sexuality and science fiction through this medium of Satan.

But the vision God gave was this. My mother was concerned with my free reign with the television. She decided to take this from me, and did not allow any of us to watch tv while we lived in Warren. I was furious that first night, but all my life I have thought myself vindicated because that is just mean to do to a kid, right? No, in his infinite mercy, God let me see myself at age 7, face twisted in rebellion and hatred towards my mother, and it horrified me. He showed me how much I deserved an eternity in hell just for that one sin alone!

When we got home, I didn't want to do anything rash, but God was heavy on me. The first thing I did when I came in the house was to kneel down on my knees in front of the television. I was worshipping the true God now, the Revealer of mysteries, and I prayed that I would be obedient to what He desired of me.

I stood up, and gently pulled the plugs out of the vcr and the dvd player. I stacked them on top of each other, and walked to the door and dropped them out over the edge of the deck (quietly because of the neighboors of course!). Then I did the same with the tv, easing it out of its shrine (I didn't want to frighten Amy either).

Then I gathered up my collection of "incenses and food," those offerings I had so many times given up to Satan (although limited to this time frame, he gets the glory in my selfishness), gathered up my wife's too, and threw all the movies out on the deck, out of our home.

I have written much, and it has been good to write. This may not be the place for this post, it's so long; but it is where I have written it and it is where I'll post it. Have I let my right hand know what my left is doing? Perhaps, but that isn't my intention. I give all the credit, glory, and honor to Jesus Christ, my creator and savior. He is the reason I worship now, He is truth and all the escape I need, so I boast in Him. This is a testimony to His greatness, evidence to His sovereign work in my life. I praise Him as Daniel did:

"Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him."

Stephen D.