Monthly Archives: November 2015

Craving

Proverbs 13:4 – The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Have you ever felt your soul craving and craving something, but never seeming satisfied? I know I have. Particularly in the area of relationships. Throughout my struggle with depression I’ve craved friends who really cared about more than just the surface stuff. Friends with whom I could open up and share my struggles with, who would be there for me and give good advice. Not that I haven’t had those friends. God has given me quite a few amazing friends who have been just that and more to me. But what I’ve found is that so often I turn into a leech and cling to them, sucking the life out of the relationship. And in the end, I feel just as though I got nothing.

There’s a direct relationship between blessing and action. When we actively strive to invest in other people, the blessing levels of those relationships skyrocket; and when we take all we can get without giving in return, they wither away to nothing, no matter how amazing and kind and loving the people are.

I don’t like discovering that I identify with a “sluggard”, but apparently I’m a long ways from being diligent in my relationships. It’s easy to only write letters when someone else writes first, or to only chat when someone else comes up to me first. It’s easy to wall myself up with my projects and the internet and forget that my family needs my input too. It’s especially easy to be too exhausted to bother.

But you know what? That’s what craving does. It exhausts you and keeps you from doing anything worthwhile, because it knows that you’re letting it control you. It can happen if you’re moaning around because you’re single, or if you’re just a lonely introvert who’d like some friends. Maybe cravings are a test to see how important the thing is to us – are we willing to do what it takes to fix the problem, or would we rather sit back and crave, getting nothing out of the blessings we have?

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Open Me

 

Father, open me.
Open my eyes.
Open them to see Your mighty hand in every circumstance.
Open my mind.
Open it to grasp the lessons You teach through Your word.
Open my ears.
Open them to hear Your voice saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Open my hands.
Open them to give up my desires, plans, passions, and possessions for the sake of Your kingdom.
Open my mouth.
Open it to spread Your love and encouragement to those who need it.
Open my heart.
Open it wide to accept the pain that comes from loving like You do.

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Molehills

Have you ever noticed that there is an inverse relationship between talking and listening? The more you talk, the less people listen to you. My dad has found this to be true in the legislature also. Some legislators always have an opinion on the matter at hand, and they always have to be heard on it. They talk and talk and talk, but it only takes so long before most of the people in the chamber are playing solitaire or calling home instead of listening. On the other hand, if a legislator is not known for getting up and talking much in front of everyone, whenever he actually does people sit up and listen. What caused him to decide to get up and say something for once? They want to know.

The same holds true for life in general. The more opinions you have and insist on broadcasting, the less people are likely to listen to you, whether it’s in a meeting, from the other side of the coffee pot, or online. Which leads me to wonder, is it worth having such strong opinions on so many topics? Do we honestly need to stake our flag on every molehill that comes up?

Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

Maybe we need to prioritize what we spend so much time and energy having forceful opinions about. There are some issues that do deserve to be examined (respectfully) and discussed. There are topics that we do need to take a stand on. But the number of them is significantly fewer than Facebook would indicate. Before you go out and stake your flag, I encourage you to take a step back and consider – Does this subject really matter in the grand scheme of things, or is it just another “cause” that Facebook people decided needed broadcasted all over the face of the internet? Remember that there is never any lack of opinions on any given topic. What is it about what you have to say that makes it unique and necessary to share? Maybe it’s something that’s better kept to yourself unless someone asks you about it.

And remember what Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”

Let’s face it. Sometimes the molehills just aren’t worth the bother. But what we say and how we say it is incredibly important to God. Let’s try to keep our speech to the things that are “good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

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Grabbing for Desires

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” ~ James 1:14-15

Maybe we could define temptation roughly as “the act of being lured and enticed by desire.” Interesting, but the verse doesn’t say “evil desire” or “desires of the flesh”. Which begs the question: is it possible to be “lured and enticed” by good desires? Say…the desire to get married? Uh, yes. From experience, yes. My desire to get married someday lured me into letting wrong thoughts overtake my mind instead of focusing on my relationship with God. Basically that counts as idolatry, because something took priority over God, and thus, it became a sin. Is it wrong to want to get married? No. And yet it was able to trip me up just as easily as wrongful desires. So no, desires don’t have to be bad in order to tempt us.

What makes even good desires turn into snares? Well, what does James say the desires are doing? “Luring and enticing.” When you lure a fish with a worm on a hook, what does it do? If it’s a stupid enough fish, then it will grab for the worm without any thought as to the consequences. Its desire lured and enticed it to its death. It’s the same with us when we grab for our desires, trying to grant them ourselves. That’s when the desire “gives birth to sin”. Why?

Let me back up a bit. Who is supposed to grant our desires? (Clearly granting our own desires doesn’t go so well!) The right to grant or withhold desires belongs to the God who created both us and the things we desire.  So if we’re trying to grab them for ourselves, it makes sense that the result is sin, whether or not the desires were evil to begin with. When we usurp God’s position, the result is always sin.

Alright, so if we are’t supposed to grab for our own desires because the right to grant them only belongs to God, what are we supposed to do? How can we get to a point where God will grant our desires? You may have noticed that Psalm 37:3-5 is one of my absolute favorite passages in the Bible. Well, I think it has some pretty good advice on this point.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.”

I love verses with obvious steps. Here are five actions we can take instead of grabbing for our desires:

  1. Trust in the Lord – Trust that God’s incomprehensible timing is better than the timing you think should happen, and choose to wait patiently for Him to work it out.
  2. Do good – Find ways to bless other people, even while you’re waiting to receive your own longed-for blessing.
  3. Dwell in the land – Focus on what’s right around you, rather than what you wish was there. Jim Elliot is quoted as saying “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
  4. Befriend faithfulness – Practice serving God with what you already have. Develop a character of faithfulness in the little things, and you will also be faithful with the desires that He grants.
  5. Delight in the Lord – Learn to love and delight in spending time at His feet. Make your relationship with God your priority, and seek His will.

The result? The psalmist says that the Lord “will give you the desires of your heart”. Those good desires that otherwise become a snare? When instead of chasing them down ourselves we turn to God and focus on Him, He will grant those desires because they no longer have the power to lead us into sin. And the desires that weren’t good to begin with? Well, they will begin to fade into nonexistence under God’s hand as He slowly reshapes your heart according to His will.

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