The Mountain of Desire

•December 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I don’t think most of us in the Western world have any clue how deep and sick our selfishness is. We do not understand how much of our lives are actually focused on ourselves. Unfortunately, the American way results in a depth of selfishness that is blind to the trials and tribulations of the world around us. We do tremendous amounts of harm to people all around us in the pursuit of selfish gain, never acknowledging the trail of wreckage we leave behind. I have seen more of this truth in the last few years than I care to admit or even acknowledge. We are a selfish people. Sadly, we’ve been trained to live that way.

The culture we live in today is obsessed with who we are and what we desire. We eat foods that comfort and soothe our appetite for even more food. We sit mind-numbingly watching shows, movies, and programs and playing video games that we herald as something we deserve after a long day of work, all while subconsciously being taught to live for ourselves. Those games, shows, and movies teach us selfish thought patterns all while entertaining us and removing our awareness that they’re harming us. Our children are taught to be the best in school, sports, and activities that interest them. They’re taught to excel in these activities, and to pursue the life they desire, not the life that God desires for them. Parents work countless hours in hopes of giving their children the desires of their hearts, all under the guise of “giving them a better life”. We go to school to pursue what we want from our lives. We take hours of classes to go out and become something, but that “something” usually becomes further obsessed with feeding his/her own selfish desires. We pile up debt to pursue the things desired, all in the name of “living the dream.” We “go to church” on our own terms and if the service isn’t just what we needed, we walk out irritated that we got nothing out of it. We get married to the man/woman we “love” and then when that “love” runs out and we’re sick of serving their selfish desires and not getting our own needs met, we divorce and separate what God brought together and pursue the next desire. This list could go on and on. (Of course I understand that every single thing I’ve listed in this paragraph has exceptions that are not wrong…but don’t let the exemption be the point in your own mind.)

We are truly obsessed with ourselves. We want what we want and that’s all there is to it. That’s been engrained into our hearts from most every side of our lives. Frankly, it’s been happening since the fall of mankind. Adam and Eve were fed with a selfish desire for more than what God had already given them and a desire for something he commanded them not to eat. They were tempted to want more than He gave them. We have a mountain of desire in our hearts as well. It’s a mountain of immense and even unquenchable danger. Its edges are sharp and dangerous. Its walls are steep and full of consequence. I want to be clear, though. This mountain of desire is one that can be climbed. It is and we all climb it. It wouldn’t take any of us very long to list off tons of people who have been able to climb high on their own mountains of desire.

The hard part is that there is no finish line of accomplishment with desire. It’s only end is death. Solomon said that after pursuing all that his heart desired, he found it to all be vain. It never proved to be profitable. This man was wealthy beyond measure, having any and every thing his heart found pleasure in, and called it all striving after the wind. The mountain of desire in our hearts is a mountain we climb constantly, but it’s a mountain that’s highest point is found when we’re laying dead upon it. It is frivolous.

This unquenchable desire within us for more can never be met with created things. The hole within our hearts can never be filled with the physical things that surround us. Solomon said in the next chapter of Ecclesiastes that eternity has been set in our hearts. When we left eternal things to pursue our own desires, we left a hole in our hearts that could be not be filled by the things of this world. It’s impossible. When we left eternal life with God, we left the heartbeat of our lives. It’s why we crave, so indulgently, the things of this life.

This desire can only be met with the Creator Himself. The Psalmist said it best:

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4 NIV

The delight of our lives must be the LORD. When He is our delight, the desires of our hearts will be God and His perfect will. The desires of your life that consume your thoughts, time, and energy will only drag you up the mountain of desire further, where you will die hanging on a lonely cliff of wanting more, if those desires are not allowed to be filled by the eternal God who can fill the eternal hole. It is when, and only when, we give up our desires and pursue Christ that we really begin to experience true fulfillment.

Jesus called himself the “Bread of Life”. Think about the depth of that statement. Jesus was claiming to be the only thing that could truly fulfill us. To those outside of the arena of faith, such a statement is a bold statement exposing the depth of Jesus’ pride and representing what only a narcissist could believe of himself. Either Jesus was a narcissistic ego-maniac or He was right. If He was right, then our desires for validation, love, encouragement, etc. could be met only in Him. He didn’t  describe Himself as a piece of the bread of life, but as THE Bread of Life. Jesus knew and said that He was and is the true bread that comes down from Heaven to feed the nations. He was/is true fulfillment. While most come to Jesus looking for temporary fulfillment, He is THE fulfillment. Life comes through and in Him.

So, how do we turn this page in our selfish lives? How do we leave behind the desires of the “old man”, as scripture calls our old lives of sin, to pursue the only real life?

In the midst of a sad prophecy by Jesus to His disciples, Peter challenges Jesus’ words that He must go and die. Peter thinks this is ridiculous and begins to challenge Jesus and even says he won’t let that happen. Jesus scolds him and says:

“You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Mark 8:33-38 NIV

Jesus makes it very clear that our thinking and God’s thoughts are not the same. Even while our desires, like Peter’s, may seem innocent and noble, they still may not be the will of the Father. This is so overwhelming for our feeble minds to conceive. How many of us would have done the same thing as Peter? I certainly would have thought something similar to Peter, desiring that Jesus be allowed to stay with me and not suffer. However, God is holy and His thoughts are on things above. My thoughts are on the things of man, and my life has proved this to be true all too often. I, like Peter, would have been thinking about what I wanted in that moment.

Last night was our last night as a family staying in the camper trailer. We played games with the kids and made a great night of it together, but it was a sobering evening for Lisa and I. You might think we’re rejoicing to be moving out of the camper. However, I think we’ve learned a lot about the desires of our hearts in here. I’m sitting in the camper this morning after two years of pretty challenging living, but also beautiful experiences that have drawn us together in Christ. I’m thinking back over the last two years with this camper and what I thought I wanted. I never wanted to live in a camper trailer. I never would have chosen to live like we have for the last couple of years as we traveled and served. But, what I wanted and what my Father wanted for me came face to face two years ago. I had different plans and dreams for my life, but my gentle Father had a better plan. It was a plan that drew me out of my comfort zone and made Lisa, the kids, and myself all give up a lot of our ideas about what our lives were going to look like. I don’t regret it for one moment. I have lost more of my life in the camper, only to gain something much greater from it all.

As I lay in bed last night, I realized how much I had learned about my own desires. I was thinking on the events of the last couple of years and realized how much more I trust our Heavenly Father than ever before because of this life. He has become our “daily bread” in way I never could have imagined. We have found ourselves welcoming His will into our lives instead of trying to find a way around it. In fact, I believe our own will has become His will in more ways than I probably even realize.

This progress of faith and trust has come at a price, but oh what a beautiful scene it has been to lose our lives for His sake. We have left behind that mountain of desire for more only to get more than we ever imagined. We have found that He is good enough. His promises are true and the life He promises is not a life of going to church and attempting to follow each command of not doing this or that. The Life He promises is in being the church, His body. The promise becomes so real when we see He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is nothing greater than just knowing Him and being with Him. He is our daily bread.

I’ve come down off of that mountain I used to call my dreams. That mountain of desire consumed my life with selfishness, anxiousness and fear. It was a life that pit me against my family. It was a life pursued for me and my pride. Those rocks that once seemed so exciting to climb, have now become a distant memory of who I used to be. Praise Father for that beautiful change!

I want to encourage you to get down off of your own mountain of desire. I want to challenge you to re-examine your life through the eyes of God and consider His will instead of your own. It may be that He’s calling you to live in a camper trailer as well. I kind of doubt it, but maybe He is. Maybe He just wants you to stop on your way home from work today to help the struggling guy changing his flat tire. Maybe He wants you to spend a lot less money this Christmas in order to help others whose needs are much greater than the selfish extravagancies you’d choose to spend your money on. Maybe God’s calling for a change in your actions at home. Maybe He’s calling for you to turn the T.V. off so that you can spend some time on your knees tonight. Maybe He’s calling you to repentance. Can you hear Him calling you or are you still climbing the mountain?

I challenge you to sit still for a moment. Sit quietly and consider the steps of your life up till now. Is this the life you wanted or the life He wanted for you? Are you allowing Jesus to live through you or are you still pursuing the life you desire? No one but you can answer those questions, but you have to be willing to slow down, ask them, and listen to His answer.

He’s calling you off of the mountain. Will you listen?

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

Philippians 3:7-11 NIV

Eyes That Can See

•December 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

When was the last time you considered just how much the LORD has done all around you? Have you stopped to just see the blessings? The power? Have you stopped to watch the perfection of creation? Have you enjoyed the sunset? Have you stopped your car long enough to watch a hawk soar above you? Have you watched the squirrels working and playing? Have you watched your finger blister to protect the wound you just received from burning your hand on that pan? Have you stopped to thank God for your tired eyes that worked hard all day to keep you alert and focused to do your job?

We’re surrounded by more beauty than we’ll ever recognize. There is wonder to be found in the trees, the grass, the water we drink, our bodies, our children, and everything else around us. While scientists boast of their accomplishments and understanding of life as we know it, they’re constantly learning how little they actually know. While we are still discovering the perplexities of His creation, He upholds them all with His word alone (Heb. 1:3 & Col. 1:17).

“O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions.”

Psalm 104:24 NASB

Unfortunately, the sin that so easily entangles humankind seems to blind even those of us who call ourselves His people. We become so blind with our own desires, our own understandings, and our own will, that rarely do we see the Almighty for who He is. We’ve been far too busy making the works of His hands our idols and never seeing the One who made it all. All too often, we’re seeing Him through the lens of our own selfish desires as we sit in bounty and ask for more. This has drastically affected many things, but specifically I’m focused on how it’s affected our trust in Him.

We aren’t alone. Since the beginning of creation, men and women have been exchanging the glory of God for things (Romans 1:18-32). This exchange has corrupted our ability to see and enjoy Him. What began with Eve and then Adam, has turned into quite a mess for all of us. “We all like sheep, have gone stray and turned everyone to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).

As I’m sitting here reading and meditating on some changes I need to make, I was drawn to one verse in Paul’s letter to Philemon. Paul writes to Philemon with a challenging request, but his request isn’t what stood out to me. It’s the statement he makes in verse twenty-one that is so startling to me:

“Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.”

Philemon 1:21 NIV

Paul had a special trust in this servant of God. He recognized a pure heart and a sincere desire for things that were true and right. He knew it was a desire that would manifest itself in Philemon’s works of obedience. Philemon had eyes to see something different than others around him. Philemon would do what was right. Philemon would obey God and go all of the way.

Paul saw a pure heart in Philemon and knew that he would obey. There was such a hunger for truth in him that Philemon would forgive the wrongs and extend the same grace he had received in Christ.

What about you? Would Paul be able to write this same phrase to you? Or, frankly, would you be too busy to read his admonition to you? Would you be so busy working, playing, and fulfilling your own desires to see the need for a sacrifice of  your own life to honor your Heavenly Father?

I fear that in the complicated mess of our lives, we’ve lost sight of the will of the LORD. We whine of the injustice of God and the lack of His presence, all the while closing Him out through our own selfish disobedience. We’re so busy with the things our own flesh desires, that a consideration of the will of God and the needs of others isn’t even a consideration. We’re already living such disobedient, selfish, and broken lives that stopping to consider a transformation of character and lifestyle isn’t a possibility.

As I drove back from California recently with our new van, I stopped to take a break in Wyoming at a retail store to just walk around and stretch out. I slowly strolled through the store after 16 hours of driving, looking and aching for three more hours of energy to get through the night to get to the other side of the state. It was about eight o’clock at night, and I wanted to get into Cheyenne, WY before I stopped. I had just driven through some treacherous mountain passes in Utah and was pushing as fast and as far as possible. I asked the woman working at the register what Wyoming was like, since it was now dark. She said, “It’s boring.” Shocked, I said, “Really? I thought there were mountains and beautiful scenery all around here.” She responded, “No. It’s flat and boring. You’ve passed the mountains and for the rest of your drive, there is nothing to see.”

I was so discouraged. Of all of the drive, Wyoming was the part I didn’t really want to miss. I had always believed it was covered with beauty. My heart sunk within me thinking that this drive of majesty across the West was now at an end. I felt the energy and excitement of this amazing trip come out of me. I ended up driving another hour and stopping at a motel to sleep because my body was so exhausted. I laid there in the bed thinking about how disappointed I was and decided I wouldn’t lose hope. I set my alarm for early and got ready to see Wyoming at sunrise.

I rushed out the next morning determined that Wyoming wasn’t flat and that the glory of God was there for me to behold. I was right. I was surrounded by mountains on every side. There were rock formations and miles of my Fathers majesty. It was fantastic!

I sat there in awe of that poor woman’s words as I drove through the incredible views in Wyoming and kept thinking about perspective. It became clear to me as I drove in the silence of that cold morning there in the West, that we all have a different perspective on things. Unfortunately, the woman’s perspective was stopping her from seeing the incredible scenes of grandeur that were all around her. If she thought Wyoming was flat, I wanted to invite her to Indiana to help her with perspective.

To bring my point home, Christ wasn’t just coming to save us from our sins. He was coming to awaken us. He was coming to offer us perspective. In taking us away from the grasp of sin, He was offering us the freedom to enjoy the moment with God and to walk in obedience to Him. He was taking off the shackles of sinful living and allowing us to see His glory. He was allowing us to live in that glory. In fact, He was allowing that glory to live inside of us.

He asked those who would come and follow Him to lose their lives to get them back. He asked them to give up their own will to pursue Christ. He knew that a surrendered life would mean a changed heart. He knew that a changed heart could experience things that a selfish and stubborn heart could never consider. He freely offers His presence to those who would come and take of it. Will you let go? Will you leave?

The glory of God is right in front of you. Can you see it?

Alive Because He Lives

•October 10, 2008 • 1 Comment

I’ve been reading through the Bible since I was little child. Growing up in a preachers home, I learned about God from a young age and was fortunate enough to have parents who practiced what they preached. I saw first hand what it meant to live holy and Godly lives from parents who did their best to do so. As a result, I do and think certain things without really thinking and take them for granted. Unfortunately, one of those has become the resurrection.

I’ve lost sight of the power of the resurrection. One of the most defining moments of Jesus’ life and ministry have somehow gotten lost in the mix of “being a Christian”. I believe that at times, I’ve stopped worshipping the Word and begun worshipping the word. I really want to make that distinction clear; I have exalted the word of God above God himself and begun serving the creation rather than Creator.

I was reading through John this morning through the death and resurrection of Jesus and it hit me how powerful those moments had to be between Jesus and his disciples after he rose from the dead. To see the fulfillment of everything that had been prophesied and to see the one you have loved so intimately standing in front of you after dying in such horrific fashion…wow. What went through their minds? The joy. The fear. 

He’s alive. He lives. The Savior lives. And because He lives, so do I.

No Fear

•August 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Over the past few months, I’ve had some incredible challenges come across my path. Actually, both Lisa and I have had a tremendous amount of them. I’m constantly amazed at the weight of them.

I want to write this testify that I serve a God far bigger than any of them and it doesn’t phase me. There’s no need to be upset or worry. He promises that if I cast my cares on him, he will shoulder the load. He also promised Joshua, just as he promises you and me, that if we believe in him, we can have great courage.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” II Timothy 1:7

“Stop being afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” Matthew 10:28 

It Is Amazing…So Do Something About It

•August 22, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I shared the gospel with a young guy over lunch yesterday and after I finished reading through several passages in Romans, I stopped and asked him what he was thinking. He said, “Wow! That’s amazing!”

I said, “I know. Do you want that?”

He said, “Yeah, I just don’t think I’m ready.”

What? Seriously? He had just heard the greatest love story of all time and didn’t think he was ready to accept that kind of love.

We live in a country where there is no sense of urgency about anything except for our own selfish gain. What about you? Do you get it? Do you get that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you?

Go, sell all you have. Deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Him.

Good & Perfect Gifts

•April 22, 2008 • Leave a Comment

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

James 1:17

What have you received in thankfulness today? Remember and be thankful.

Letting Him Speak

•April 20, 2008 • 2 Comments

The Spirit has lead me through some very uncomfortable conversations recently. I don’t particularly enjoy saying blunt things and especially the way the Spirit convicts me to do so, but I’m understanding more and more why Paul said “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. God does some amazing things and convicts people in some very uncomfortable ways when I shut up and let him talk.

Try as hard as I may, I just can’t seem to say or do the right things. I’m amazed at how simply accepting and obeying the Spirit he’s given me as a gift, can change things drastically. Conversations, questions, problems…all of it. They’re all changed in a moment if I’m still and listening.

We, as the body of Christ, have done a pretty good job of squelching the gift within us. My great friend and brother-in-Christ, Steve, awakened me to his presence and showed me a side of God I had never experienced several years ago. To say I’m thankful would be a drastic understatement. 

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

I Corinthians 3:16

I’d encourage you to stop and just listen for a minute. He’s speaking. Are you listening?