Eternally Satisfied

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We see a pattern throughout the history of the Israelites in the Old Testament: They wanted to have all their bases covered, so they kept up the pretense of worshiping Jehovah, but they also added the idolatrous practices of the nations around them. It got pretty vile (see Jeremiah 2:23-25 as an example). 

These cravings for more than God had provided led to their punishment. As we quoted last week from Isaiah, they lost their “matchless, unbroken companionship” with God (Isaiah 30:18 AMP).

Craving for our self-created idols creates anxiety in our hearts that shows up in three nagging questions. 

(1) What will others think of me if they have things I don’t have?

Worrying about what others think of us has always been a trap. We play games, posture, and frequently hide the truth so that we “look right” to others. But this dishonesty only hurts us in the long run.

Dr. Tony Evans noted, “satan uses our legitimate need for acceptance in an illegitimate way that can result in us living under a false identity.” Jesus warned us not to show off to try to get others to think well of us (Matthew 6:1) and He lived this out in His own life. He said, “I receive not glory from men—I crave no human honor, I look for no mortal fame” (John 5:41 AMP). 

To avoid this trap remember: Recognition from God > Recognition from men. We should be living to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21, 23). 

(2) Will I have enough to survive?

Because the things of this earth pass away, it is natural to think that our supply may just <poof!> be gone in an instant. So we can crave the security of having our shelves fully stocked for the future. 

Jesus twice tells us that our Heavenly Father knows what we need (Matthew 6:8, 32). Then over a span of ten verses, Jesus tells us four times, “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:25-34). He can assure us of this because of this rock-solid reality: Heaven’s provisions > Earth’s provisions. 

(3) Will God accept me?

Just as satan tried to get Jesus to doubt that He was the Son of God, the devil will also try to get you to doubt whether or not you measure up in God’s sight. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasizes the Fatherhood of God thirteen times—usually calling Him “your Father.” 

This tells me that we can cling to this: Being accepted by your Father > Being accepted by anyone else. Paul uses a wonderful description in Ephesians when he tells us we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV). 

Isaiah told us that God longs to be gracious to us, and Jesus emphasizes that idea when He says, “Only aim at and strive for and seek His kingdom, and all these things shall be supplied to you also. Do not be seized with alarm and struck with fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” (Luke 12:31-32 AMP) 

Just as God craves to bless you, so you are to crave your fulfillment in what He alone can supply. You must crave the only One Who can eternally satisfy you, Who longs to reward you, and Who delights to give you the inestimable rewards of His kingdom! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Craving series, check them out by clicking here. 

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Watch Out When Wants Become “Needs”

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There is a mistaken belief that urges or yearnings or cravings that humans have are sinful and must be quickly squelched. To that end, many will deny themselves absolutely anything that brings them pleasure. 

But what God creates, He calls “good” and even “very good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). In one part of the Creation account, we read that God created “trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (2:9). Things used in the way God created them are both good and good for us. The Creator knows the best uses, and He shares these with us. He also knows the harmful misuses, and He warns us of these. 

Even Lucifer was created “perfect in beauty” until his craving for more than God had given him corrupted his goodness and turned him into satan (Ezekiel 28:12-19). satan’s craving perverted his heart because he craved more than what the Creator had given him. 

He still uses the same tactic today: he attempts to turn a craving for a legitimate good into an irresistible, entitled pursuit for more. This is what he did with Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, trying to get them to doubt God’s wisdom in forbidding them from eating that one tree (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6). 

Adam and Eve needed food, and God gave them a craving for good food. But they didn’t need the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—they just wanted that forbidden fruit. 

When wants become “needs,” “needs” become idols. 

Once again, satan tried the same strategy with Jesus. Jesus had a craving for food after 40 days of fasting, but His Father said, “Not yet.” Notice how satan again tried to get Jesus to question God’s wisdom with his “if” questions at each temptation. He even quotes a Scripture out of context to try to legitimize turning a want into a need (Luke 4:3, 7, 9). 

These longings may seem irresistible, but John counsels us: For every child of God can obey Him, defeating sin and evil pleasure by trusting Christ to help him (1 John 5:4 TLB). Jesus defeated the craving for wants-turned-to-“needs” by using the Word of God, and we would be wise to do the same (Luke 4:4, 8, 12). 

When wants become “needs,” “needs” become idols. And when “needs” become idols, our unfulfilled cravings create anxiety. And when anxiety persists, sin is usually not too far behind. 

So any anxiety in our hearts should alert us to the idols of wants-turned-to-“needs.” In other words, make sure what you are calling “needs” aren’t just wants in disguise. 

How can you do this? By asking yourself these four questions: 

  1. Is this an earthly craving or an eternal craving? Cravings for earthly things will ultimately fail because this world is temporary (1 John 2:17).  
  2. If I don’t get this thing, will I die? If I answer “no,” it’s probably a want. 
  3. Will this craving bring me closer to God? Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). So let’s ask ourselves, “If this longing is fulfilled, will it make me more dependent on God?” If the answer is “no,” then it’s probably a want. 
  4. Will this craving glorify God’s name? Jesus taught us to begin our prayer with an attitude of longing for God’s name to be glorified (Matthew 6:9-10). We can definitely spot wants we’ve turned into “needs” when we are looking for personal gain. Check out this verse from the prophet Isaiah— 

And therefore the Lord earnestly waits, expecting, looking, and longing to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed—happy, fortunate, to be envied—are all those who earnestly wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him—for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship! (Isaiah 30:18 AMP) 

God longs to be gracious to you, so He puts cravings in your heart that can only be satisfied by His presence. Lucifer and Adam and Eve all lost God’s “matchless, unbroken companionship” when they tried to appease the wants-turned-to-“needs” idol. It doesn’t have to be like that for us! Ask the Holy Spirit to help you spot those wrong cravings and turn them into cravings that only God can satisfy. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called Craving, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Idolatry

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Right at the beginning of his book of prophecy, Micah asks four penetrating questions—

What is Jacob’s transgression? Is it not Samaria? What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem? (Micah 1:5)

Idolatry is the elevation of anyone or anything to a place of adoration. Any place, person, or practice can become my god if I give it more attention than I give Jehovah. 

In Micah’s prophetic warning, idolatry had become symbolized by the capitol cities of Samaria and Jerusalem. The people were looking to the leaders and cultural practices in those cities instead of looking to God. 

I wonder if we do the same thing today?

  • Do we look to Washington DC for political help? 
  • Do we find our financial wisdom on Wall Street? 
  • Does the culture of Hollywood inform how we should live? 
  • Does the music of Nashville determine the song in our hearts? 
  • Do Harvard, Berkeley, or Stanford tell us how to think? 

When I’m in trouble, when I need answers, when I’m looking for comfort, where do I turn first? My first reaction—my go-to source—is a good indication of who my deity is. When Micah became aware of the idolatry of his people, his response was to weep, wail, howl, and moan over their sin (v. 8). This should be our response as well whenever we see idols replacing Jehovah in our heart or in the hearts of others. 

May God’s people repent of the idolatry of looking to other places, people, and practices instead of looking to Almighty God! 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—When God Seems Distant

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

When God Seems Distant 

     You may possibly be in such a condition that every promise scowls at you as though it were transformed into a threat. When you turn over the pages of the Book once so full of comfort to you, it seems withered into a howling wilderness. … 

     Even those promises that you have been accustomed to offer to others in their time of need appear to shut their doors against you. ‘No admittance here,’ says one promise. Unbelief puts its burning finger right across another. Past sin accuses you and cries, ‘You cannot claim this word, for your transgression has forfeited it.’ So you may look through the whole Bible and find nothing upon which your souls may rest. … The fault is not in the promise but in us. …  

     Why does our gracious God permit this? Perhaps it is because you have been living without Him, and now He is going to take away everything upon which you have been in the habit of depending. Another reason may be that He wishes to drive you to Himself. … The prodigal was never safer than when he was driven to his father’s bosom, because he could find sustenance nowhere else. And, brothers and sisters, I think our Lord favors us with a famine in the land that it may make us seek after the Savior more. …

     When everything goes well with us, we frequently run a long way from God, but as soon as we are overtaken by trouble or see a lion in the way, we fly to our heavenly Father. I bless God for the mire and for my sinking in it, when it makes me cry out, ‘Deliver me, O my God, out of the deep mire, and let me not sink.’

From The Believer Sinking In The Mire

David said, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8). And in another psalm he elaborated on this by saying, 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:6-8) 

God allows shaking so that we will recognize that He is the only sure foundation. The only things that shake and prove themselves to be untrustworthy are those things not standing on God. So if God seems distant, ask the Holy Spirit to show you if there are any idols in your heart. If there are, repent from trusting those and return to God alone. 

After this, the next step is to silence the voice of the enemy. Jesus said satan’s native language is lies and slander. As Spurgeon said, the enemy of your soul would love to tell you that God’s promises aren’t for you—that somehow you are disqualified from claiming them. 

We need to take every thought captive, and if those thoughts don’t line up with God’s Word we tear them down with the truth in Scripture. Once again, the Holy Spirit is our Counselor to remind us of the truth and assure our hearts that the promises are still for all of God’s children. 

As the words of the old hymn remind us:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail
When the howling storms of doubts and fear assail
By the living Word of God I shall prevail
Standing on the promises of God

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10 Quotes From “The Knowledge Of The Holy”

A.W. Tozer helps us think long and deep about the greatness of God, opening windows of insight that many have not contemplated previously. Check out my full book review of The Knowledge Of The Holy by clicking here. 

“With our loss of the sense of Majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine presence. … The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go along way toward curing them.” 

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” 

“The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing then all the woes of the world piled one upon another. …

“But unless the weight of the burden is felt, the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroyed the gospel for all who hold them.” 

“Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. … The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” 

“The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.” 

“When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond the field of our knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism.” 

“An attribute of God is whatever God has in anyway revealed as being true of Himself.” 

“We might be wise to follow the insight of the enraptured heart rather than the more cautious reasonings of the theological mind.” 

“If we ever think well it should be when we think of God.” 

“The harmony of His being is the result not of a perfect balance of parts but of the absence of parts.… An attribute, then, is not a part of God, it is how God is…. The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. He does not possess them as qualities; they are how God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures.” 

Earthly Pursuits Can Inhibit Prayer

“To pray for ‘things’ without a heavenly end in mind is close to idolatry. Use your material wealth with holy fear, dear saint, lest earth should rob heaven, and your temporal enjoyments endanger your heavenly interests. … 

“Sometimes God lavishes us with things, not so we can hang on to them, but so we will have something to let go of to show our love for Him. … What enterprise will pay more lasting dividends than to invest what you possess in the cause of Christ? … You cannot labor for heavenly possessions if your hands and heart are loaded down with earthly pursuits.” —William Gurnall, The Christian In Complete Armour (emphasis added)

6 Quotes From “Do More Better”

Tim Challies has a highly practical guide to helping you learn how to be more productive for God’s glory. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to excel in living out your purpose.” 

“Your good works make God look great before a watching world.” [see Titus 3:8; Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Matthew 5:16] 

“What is productivity? Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” 

“The absence of productivity or the presence of woefully diminished productivity is first a theological problem.” 

“You do not exist in this world to get things done. You exist to glorify God by benefiting others.” 

“Idolatry: taking on the tasks that glorify us, not the tasks that glorify God.” 

Fight Or Flee?

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith… (1 Timothy 6:11-12). 

Psychologists tell us that when faced with certain situations our bodies instinctively prepared to fight or flight. Knowing which situations to fight and which to run from are crucial for living a long and productive life. 

It’s no different in the spiritual realm. 

Christian leaders must know which things are worth the fight, and which things they simply must flee. To flee from things we should fight shows a lack of courage. But to try to fight the things we should run from shows a lack of wisdom. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who knows what to fight and what to flee.

Three things you must FIGHT for…

  1. …the purity of the true faith (1 Timothy 6:12; Jude 1:3)
  2. …the disempowered (Proverbs 31:8-9; Matthew 21:12-13)
  3. …the devil (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7; Ephesians 6:11) 

Three things you must FLEE from…

  1. …idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14)
  2. …sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18; Genesis 39:12)
  3. …earthly riches (1 Timothy 6:9-11)

Don’t try to fight the things you must flee from, and don’t run away from the things you must fight for. Pray for God’s wisdom to know which is which. 

This is part 29 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 10

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 10

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 10.] 

     The ungodly disposition in a man makes him worship beings or things or ideas in order to render them powerless, and the same idea is apt to creep into the worship of God amongst Christians if not watched—“God will never let this or that come to me; I am a favorite of His.” Jesus Christ’s life is an illustration as to how God will deal with us, He will not shield us from the world, the flesh or the devil, they are allowed to do their worst because God has staked His all on what He has done in us (see John 16:33; 1 John 4:4). Trials and tribulations are trumpet calls to the witnesses to God. …  

     One moment’s realization that Almighty God is your Father through Jesus Christ, and I defy anything to terrify you again for long. If we realize, what these prophets realized, that nothing can happen without God’s permission, we are kept in peace. Worrying is wicked in a Christian. “Let not your heart be troubled.” How dare we be troubled if Almighty God Who made the world and everything in it, is our Father? … 

     We have got to be holy someday, why not be holy now? … No matter how moral we may be, every domain of our life that is not regulated by the direct application of the wisdom of God is brutish in God’s sight. … 

     The greatest obstruction to the working of God comes from those who give themselves to interpreting the words of God rather than doing them. … Obedience is superbly easy because we have Almightiness on our side. Acknowledge God’s voice, take the step in the right direction and obey, and you will be backed by omnipotence in every detail. 

From Notes On Jeremiah

We go wrong when…

  • …we try to make God in our image, telling others what God will or won’t do 
  • …see trials and temptations only as bad things 
  • …allow our fears to paralyze us to God’s strength
  • …think we are unworthy to call God our Father 
  • …worry obsessively 
  • …block the Holy Spirit from continuing to make us holy
  • …keep God out of certain areas of our life 
  • …hear God’s Word but don’t obey it

I love this question—“We have got to be holy someday, why not be holy now?” Well, why not?! 

10 Quotes From “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”

As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a collection of 49 sermons from Eugene Peterson. Check out my full book review by clicking here. Below are a few quotes that caught my attention.

“The Christian life is the lifelong practice of attending to the details of congruence—congruence between ends and means, congruence between what we do and the way we do it, congruence between what is written in Scripture and our living out what is written, congruence between a ship and its prow, congruence between preaching and living, congruence between the sermon and what is lived in both preacher and congregation, the congruence of the Word made flesh in Jesus with what is lived in our flesh.”

“Science and religion are opposites, the way your thumb and forefinger are opposites: if you are going to get a grip on things, you need them both.”

“Friendship is not a way of accomplishing something but a way of being with another in which we become more authentically ourselves.”

“Naming an event a miracle doesn’t mean we can’t understand it. It means we can’t anticipate it. It means we can’t reproduce it. We cannot control it. There is more going on then we can comprehend.”

“There are people today who mistakenly look at those [Ten] Commandments as restrictive, not realizing that for those who first heard them—and for those who hear them still, in faith—they provide for and preserve the values of the free life. The reality and truth of God is protected from commercialization and manipulation. Human life is honored. The dignity of work is protected. Close personal relationships are preserved. Truth is respected. Each of the commands articulates a reality and a value that protects a free life.”

“Aaron made a god, a golden calf. At that moment Aaron quit being their pastor and became their accomplice. There are some people who are always looking for a religion that makes no demands and offers only rewards, a religion that dazzles and entertains, a religion in which there is no waiting and no emptiness. And they can usually find someone like Aaron who will help them make it up, some sort of golden calf religion.”

“Acts of love cannot be canned and then used off the shelf. Every act of love requires creative and personal giving, responding, and serving appropriate to—context specific to—both the person doing the loving and the person being loved.”

“Our habit is to talk about God, not to Him. We love discussing God. The psalms resist these discussions. They are not provided to teach us about God but to train us in responding to Him.”

“The Christian life is not, in the first place, something we do. It consists of the healthy and mature formation of our lives by the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Christian living goes off the rails badly when it is conceived as a program or routine that we engage in or skills that we master.”

“In prayer we do not act. God does. In prayer we do not develop a technology that sets the gears and pulleys of miracle in motion. We participate in God’s action. ‘Not my will but Yours.’”

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