Rich: Redefined.

This is what I’m learning today: So often, the theme of my life is not Christ. So often I lack faith because I am not convinced and assured that Jesus is best and has promised a secure, rich, hope. The hidden idol of my heart is that of materialism and greed. I have a lust for status and it is coming out in such ugly ways in planning this wedding. I thought I could try hard to hide it or be “open-handed,” but when my parents urged me to choose the less-nice, non-country club-esque banquet hall for my wedding, I lost it. And over what? Dated wallpaper and a parking lot instead of a golf course? I was so embarrassed by my response, humbled by weakness, and realizing the battle between flesh and spirit.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in my community who struggles to live at or below my means. For some reason we just really really want to come off as having more wealth or status than we really do. We covet those who have a more luxurious lifestyle, but instead of turning to Jesus, we try to put off the same kind of image. Or at least, that’s what I do. And I am reminded of lyrics like, “We have sought security, not the cross that bears your name…Worshipped beauty, courted kings, and the things their gold affords…we’ve become a talent show” or “Mistaken souls that dream of Heaven, And make their empty boast- Of inwards joys and sins forgiven, While slaves to greed and lust.” Today I just had to step back and ask, “what am I trying to prove? where is my hope found?”

So this is me fighting and trying to battle for redeeming love to be my theme. For Christ to be the thing I identify myself with. I don’t want the first day of my marriage to Kevin to be this mirage of luxury or wealth, struggling to live above my means to prove to people something that I’m not. I want to live a life at or below my means, claiming Jesus alone. And I want that to start now. If I am fully convinced by Hebrews 11:1, and seek the presence of a faith that is unshakeable and sure of the hope found in Christ, I wouldn’t grapple to be a talent show for someone to covet! I want to point people to the unsearchable riches of Christ; to the worth and glory of Jesus our Lord. He is to be forever praised and he makes us so so rich.

Tonight I am overwhelmed and humbled. In 125 days I will enter into covenant with a man who I deeply love. I have a great community of friends who love me and are fighting for faith alongside me (not to mention, who will make this wedding so so fun regardless of what I spend on it). And I have great parents who love me and want to give all that they can to be generous towards me. And more than that, I am a child of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and glorying in Jesus. I don’t deserve anything. We are unworthy servants and God is an abundantly good and gracious creator and sustainer.

I am pleading for us all to know how rich we really are. May we pray for the living faith to transform our hearts and minds. The Lord is our shepherd, we have everything that we need. (psalm 23:1)

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Conditional Love?

I am thankful for her voice in my life

Last night I had triad. Except it’s really a “di-ad” because Christie and I never found a third person.  To be honest, I’m pretty happy about that.  Christie is one of my best friends, and now that we don’t lead together, the time that we get to spend together and talk about our lives and the Lord is so precious to me.  Last night Christie challenged me to think about the way I give and receive love from people.  I am realizing that my love for people is not gospel-centered, but it is conditional.  I love people when I receive love back, but when I gain nothing from loving someone, my heart says, “You’re not worth it.” I attribute worth to people by how they benefit me! In loving people, I see my idol of entitlement and pride- that by my works or attempts to love and encourage, I deserve to be blessed and loved and encouraged back.

BUT THIS IS NOT THE WAY GOD LOVES! God’s love is perfectly unconditional.  He does not benefit from loving us- we CRUCIFIED Him and DESPISED his name! Even now, as children of God, we are so often faithless.  We can never give back as much love to God as he pours out on us.  God loves because he is love in all of its fullness.  1 John 4:10-11 says…

10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (like this). 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

Lord I long to have a heart that loves like this.  Bitterness sneaks its way into my heart as a fruit of me not loving people like this.  I hate that.  Change my heart Lord.  Give me eyes to see people in light of the cross- that they are worthy of love because you loved them.  I am me-centered, not you-centered, and I am a glory thief.  I repent lord and hate my sin, but your mercy is deep and I am thankful. As I abide in you, perfect your love in me. Amen.

What is the end of my idols?

This is what I’ve been thinking about today-

What is the end of my idols?

Recently at an Oaks Woman’s study, my friend Audrey was encouraging me as I processed through my idol of people and their approval of me.  I explained how it is one of the biggest reasons I am apprehensive to share the gospel.  But this idol comes out in more than just ministry.  It comes out when I am struggling but want to come off put together because I fear people being burdened by spending time with me.  It comes out when I don’t get invited somewhere and feel worthless and unwanted. When this idol is not being satisfied, I am easily consumed with despair. But when I have that idol at bay and people are including me and approving of me, I can easy forget that I have a problem at all. In this season, however, the idol is not at bay.  God has been rocking and tearing down all means by which that idol could hide.  I want to say that Jesus is better, I want to keep my hand on the plow and look straight ahead, but lately I’ve been looking at God, with all of my idols taken away, and I am so prone to say, “you know God, I’m just not sold out for you.”  I think that I’m content with Jesus and satisfied with him when things in my life are comfortable, but when he takes my toys, I become bitter.

So Audrey asked me this question- “What is the end of your idols? If Jesus gives you over to your idols forever, where will that lead you?”

Psalm 135 speaks into this-

15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
16They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
17they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
18Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them!

Where will my idols lead me? The scripture says I will become like them-deaf, dumb, and blind- and ultimately, I will die.

How will my heart feel when I get to that end?

I will not feel happier, satisfied, loved, or validated.  These are promises my idols tell me that they cannot deliver.  In the end, I know I will feel let down. My idols are not able to save me and can never communicate to my heart the love that I wish to be filled with.  This will lead me to demanding more from my idols, only to continue in the downward slope to enslavement.  This is bitter disillusionment.

What is the end I was created for?

Piper says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying him forever” (Desiring God). Ephesians 1 clearly says, we were created and we were redeemed FOR THE PRAISE AND RENOWN OF GOD’S GLORY-

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

So how will my heart feel when I am caught up in the Glory of God and when he is my greatest treasure above all else? Joy. Piper says that “we will be most satisfied when he is most glorified” (Desiring God).  God’s grace unblinds me so that I can see the glory of God and be satisfied in it.  By God’s grace, I can stand before God, without the comforts I used to trust in, and can confidently say, “I am sold out for you God!” By God’s grace I have been made a child of God.  I have a new identity in Christ and in Christ I will find all the approval, acceptance, love, and validation I could ever find. Ray Ortlund, an Acts 29 pastor in Nashville, recently wrote in his blog, “Only he communicates to my heart the love that keeps me alive.”

Hallelujah. God you are worthy of praise for your abundant mercy to us who are foolish idolaters.  Change our hearts so that our ends can be you and your glory. Thank you for your patience in times when I don’t see you as all-satisfying. Jesus, I recognize that you received death for my sin and faithlessness and I am thankful and humbled as I sit here in view of your holiness. Amen.


“Idols will not be worshiped in God’s Kingdom. God alone will be worshiped. The worth of every idol, no matter how seemingly great, pitfalls against the GREATNESS OF GOD.” (Meg Rigano- Take Hold)


Our Idol of Choice: People

Our idol of choice?

People.

“They love the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” -John 12:43

The fear of Man: the controlling concern about what others think of us; desire for human approval or fear of rejection; desire to be respected, esteemed, admired, loved, included, invited in, with the accompanying fear of being overlooked, mistreated, neglected, ignored, disrespected, excluded, or victimized.  These are legitimate desires and fears. They keep us from sinful and destructive behaviors.  When the desires go unmet or the fears are actualized, there is pain woundedness, and sorrow.  When desires are met and fears are escaped, there is happiness and a sense of pleasure and safety.  The problem is when these natural and legitimate desires become inordinate or excessive and controlling.  We become consumed about what people think about us, having an excessive fixation on people’s opinions.  We feel we need the approval of someone or anyone, and we fear their rejection. We begin to define ourselves by how others are responding to us or how we preceive their perception of us.

We use people to heal us, to validate us, to restore our glory, and to save us. But people are broken and if you look to broken people to sure up your sense of self or for the restoration of your glory you are asking glory deficient people to satisfy you with the very things that you lack. This is futility and will crush others and leave us empty.

How do we escape this fear and futility?

The Answer: There is a glory and an honor and approval and acceptance that is GREATER than that of people.  It is the glory that comes from God.

He bestows glory on you, a claim on you, accommodation upon you, and approval upon you.

There is a glory hunger inside of us and we will either go to glory deficient people cannot satisfy us OR we will have to look to the God of the universe.  He gives this to us in the Gospel.  The only commendable one (Jesus) becomes condemned so that the condemned ones (us) can become commendable.  All that we are is laid upon him so that all that he is can be imputed to us!  When this happens, the God of the universe hands a verdict to us that says, “WITH YOU I AM WELL PLEASED.”

The deepest awareness of yourself is that you are accepted by God & when this settles in, it will displace all other definitions you have been trying to achieve or escape.

And when we are liberated from the incessant need to be accepted by people because we have been accepted by the Ultimate person, we will be willingly governed by a ruling desire to love and honor the Father.  Now we are able to focus on loving people instead of using people as fig leaves to cover up our shame and give us worth.

“Freedom from the Fear of Man” by JR Vassar.

(http://fm.thevillagechurch.net/resource_files/audio/201002281115FMWC21ASAAA_JRVassar_FreedomFromTheFearOfMan.mp3)

Love is not all you need.

Today I was reading Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods and I was overwhelmed by how much it spoke into the heart behind my idols.  If you were to ask my closest friends they would tell you that I hate being alone and even more than that I hate not being included in something.  I have always struggled with needing a best friend or a boyfriend.  Until recently, I have always had that one person who I spent the majority of my time with and whom wanted to spend time with me over anyone else.  The problem was that I became dependent on these people in my life.  When one would go, I quickly filled the position and continued on feeding my idol of acceptance and comfort.  The real problem: I was worshipping and serving the creature, rather than the creator (Romans 1:25).  I exchanged the truth of God- that I was created to know and treasure the glory of God above all things- for a lie and instead believed that my meaning for life was to find companions who would love me and accept me.  Instead of believing that God showed his love for me by sending Jesus to die on my behalf so that I could receive the highest status-acceptance before God (Romans 5:8, 2 Cor. 5:21), I started believing that God’s love wasn’t good enough and I needed to find my worth in having some person show undivided attention to me.  People became my counterfeit Gods.

Here is what Tim Keller says about this subject:

  • An idolatrous attachment can lead you to break any promise, rationalize any indiscretion, or betray any other allegiance in order to told onto it. It may drive you to violate all good and proper boundaries. To practice idolatry is to be a slave.
  • Because the secular world did not see fit to acknowledge God (Rom. 1:28) and believes that we are here by accident, we instill a sense of significance in our lives through “apocalyptic romance”- We look to sex or romance to give us meaning we were meant to get from God.
  • When we elevate the partner to a position of god, we simply want redemption- nothing less.
  • The love object is God.  No lover, no human, can be qualified for that role; no one can live up to it. The inevitable result: bitter disillusionment.
  • If you are too afraid to love OR too enamored by it, it has assumed godlike power, distorting your perceptions and your life.
  • Our fears and inner barrenness make love a narcotic, a way to medicate ourselves- and addicts always make foolish, destructive choices.

This plays out in Genesis 29 in Jacob’s pursuit of Rachel:

16Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. 18Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. 21Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” 22So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. 23But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. 25And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”

Jacob was so obsessed and caught up in getting Rachel that he was distracted and deceived.  He didn’t know and trust in the love of God and thus sought to place Rachel in a position God should have been. no person, not even the best one, can give your soul all it needs. You are always going to think you have gone to bed with Rachel and wake up and it will always be Leah. This cosmic disillusionment and disappointment is there in all of life, but we especially feel it in the things upon which we set our hopes.

This is my struggle.  I elevate people and expect them to meet my needs by adoring me and setting me apart. When this happens, I see myself become like an addict, desperately needing his fix, but finding no narcotics to ease his time of pain.  In withdraw, I can turn to Jesus, my redeemer.

“I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason: that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Tim. 1:13-16)

This is a good promise: “There is there for now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)

Lord, by the power of your great and powerful mercy, release me from the enslavement of idolizing the comfort and approval of man and help me reorient the entire focus of my life toward you. You love is all that I was ever supposed to long for and it is enough.