What are you hungering after?

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CS Lewis writes something to the effect that if you have a desire that nothing on this earth can satisfy, then that unfulfilled longing points to a future fulfillment in another dimension, that is later when we have new bodies on a new earth.

He bases that argument on the simple truth of:

  • hunger pointing to food for satisfaction and
  • fatigue being remedied by sleep and
  • work as the antidote to the desire to make a meaningful difference in life.

I recently was re-comforted with Lewis’ explanation when I gazed out at the beauty of our Smokey Mountains here in Western North Carolina.  Sometimes my heart is stunned and unable to drink in God’s splendor.  I want to absorb it, holding on to it forever,but can’t. And then I feel sorrow and regret at having fallen short.

138 - Misty view of Smokeys toward TN

Per Lewis’ logic, however, one day you and I will have the capacity to take in beauty, to digest it.  But in these limited bodies, we can only gaze and marvel and leave what God has created outside of us, underused.

Moving from external beauty to the beauty of God’s word, I recently came across a glimpse into how pastor John Piper views Scripture.  His words gripped my heart because they were echoes pointing to my longings, too!

Early one Sunday morning my discipline was taking me through Luke 18. It was one of those times when God came near with unusual force. Christ stood out from the pages as irresistibly compelling. Every paragraph made my soul yearn to be radically obedient to Jesus. I felt that no one ever spoke like this man. No one ever lived free like this man. No one ever demanded what he demanded and gave what he gave. So I wanted to take this chapter with me all day and feed on it and fight unbelief with it. I didn’t have time to memorize it. What could I do? I decided to tag each paragraph and remember a key statement from each paragraph under that tag. I noticed that I could think of tags that began with the same letter…..

This man wanted to ingest God’s words just like we do when our hearts are pierced by nature.  When we know we can’t quite take it all in.  We lack the dimensions, the faculties, the capacities to do justice to God’s creation to His Word.  But if we apply CS Lewis thinking, we can reassure ourselves with THE FACT that:

  • If we have a longing that can’t be satisfied on earth in these bodies, then we can be confident that somewhere and at a point in the future, God WILL satisfy, fulfill and meet those good desires with what He created them for.

Our hungers are ultimately longings for God.

Can you wait?

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”  1 Cor 2:9

 

My seat….

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Ephesians 2:6

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

My Seat

Thank you, Father, for raising me from the dead and giving me new, different and everlasting LIFE. Thank you for the seat you have assigned me.

I didn’t pick this seat. You selected it for me.

I’m sorry for all the times I compare my seat with others’, longing for a different one. Forgive me for the many times I get out of my seat, just like those squirmy boys in my French class.

Help me to trust that You know just what I need in a seat.

May I practice sitting contentedly in my seat. After all, I’m going to be spending a long time next to my older Brother and knowing how kind and loving You are, I bet my seat will turn out to be just the one I would have picked out had I known all the facts. Amen.

Can we lose our salvation?

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Treasure

2 Cor 4:7

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Many Christians (regarding whom, I have NO doubt that they are authentic believers) fight the fear that they are just fooling themselves when it comes to the status of their eternal salvation.

Like a radio with antennae continually seeking strong signals, so too do I search out scriptural truth to bolster the hope and assurance of struggling brothers and sisters I love.

So when I heard John Piper talk about desire being the key to authentic Christianity, I saw something true and comforting that I might be able to pass on.

When we are born again through the Spirit of God it’s like we are given a new set of eyes. We begin to see clearly just what IS treasure and what is trash.  New desires germinate and start to flourish.  Yes, growth can be slow and seem irregular in direction and pace.  But the overall trajectory has been changed.

But what do we do when doubts like these below plague us?  (who do you think ‘might’ be behind these doubts? – not God!)

  • What if the Bible and how one is saved isn’t true?
  • What if I really haven’t believed?
  • What if I’m not a TRUE believer?
  • What does it mean that I don’t seem to feel as enthusiastic or sure as other Christians?

What do we do?  We look at the treasure!

Think about the man who stumbled upon buried gold or silver in that field (Matthew 13:44). Quickly reburying it, he sold everything he had (fields, house, furnishings, livestock) to put together enough money to buy the entire pasture.  Once he possessed the plot of land, do you think he moved on to other pursuits, ignoring the treasure?  No!  I can picture him digging it up and handling it, savoring it, thinking about what it meant to his future.  His imagination easily filled in the blanks.  He might have used some of it for the present, but the rest he protected as his inheritance or retirement fund.

His joy would have remained and been stoked and even grown with every re-imagining and glorying in this treasure.  Had he started to doubt whether he actually possessed this wealth, he would have wasted no time pulling it out and savoring all that it represented.

That’s what we have to do with OUR most precious possession. As believers in Christ, we have:

  • forgiveness and peace with God
  • a new Spirit in us – no longer of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind
  • Christ’s continual presence THROUGH this indwelling holy Spirit
  • and a bright future to be lived in His presence where ‘fullness of joy’ is promised.

So what do we do either to ward off the doubts or deal with them?

We just need to ‘visit’ and ‘revisit’ our treasure every day, holding fast to it.

Whatever it takes to hold on to our faith, we must do.  Faith is our most valuable possession.  John Piper exhorts fellow believers to STRENGTHEN the gift by realizing that:

Little faith = Little joy

Stoked faith = MORE joy!

How do we fan the fires that heat up our faith?  By reading about this great gift in God’s Word and learning what it means for us to be partakers and heirs of God’s kingdom. Remember that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17).  I need to hear God’s truth every day, throughout the day.  And it’s MY voice rehearsing God’s promises out loud that help me most to HEAR.

LOVE the Treasure!

PONDER the Treasure!

PRAISE the Giver or the Treasure!

GET TO KNOW the Giver!

Look at this concrete advice to early Christians battling unbelief:

Hebrews 3:14

We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the assurance we had at first.

Food and the Kingdom of God

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Gluten-free, slow foods, farm-to-table, organic, paleo, real food, vegan – who knows HOW or WHAT to eat anymore!

The Table Comes First

I just finished reading a compelling book The Table Comes First.  Adam Gopnik explores the history and philosophy of meals and restaurants.   At the end, however, he reveals that he belongs to that segment of the population who doesn’t worship God.  Therefore, in lieu of the salvation paradigm of Christianity, he makes the assertion that the elevation of the pleasures of dining and sharing a meal can provide meaning, purpose, depth and a sort of rescue to otherwise unmoored humans.

If I look at my own idolizing of ways of eating, I also plead guilty to seeking ‘salvation’ through food.  But with Gopnik’s bold claim, I was struck by how unnecessary it is to place food and Christianity into opposite camps.

Consider the following tangible examples:

  1. Human history originates in a garden with an abundance of fruitful trees for the sustenance and pleasure of God’s image-bearers.  The other bookend of the Bible and the human story are set as a heavenly feast with the host of the Party Himself!
  2. The resurrected Jesus asked for a piece of broiled fish to eat. (Luke 24: 41-42)
  3. A fair number of Jesus’ signs and miracles produced, transformed or multiplied food and drink.  Think of the wedding at Cana and the fine wine.  And the two accounts of the feeding of the 5000.  And manna and quail for the wandering Jews in the desert, accompanied by water from a rock.
  4. Honey revived King Saul’s son Jonathan after a long battle. (1 Sam 14:27)
  5. Gleaning in the barley fields led to Ruth’s marriage, the great-great grandma of King David from whose line Jesus came.
  6. Jesus dined with women and the marginalized segments of society, to the shock of the elite and rule-following average Hebrew.
  7. And let’s not forget the setting for the inaugural New Covenant of Grace, a Passover meal.

And if the above are examples of material food and drink, then there are all the image passages that point beyond food qua food:

  1. We are commanded to, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Ps 34:8)
  2. Jesus likened himself to the staff of life. “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35)
  3. Paul himself chose covenantal wine to symbolize his final days when writing to encourage Timothy – “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” (2 Tim 4:6)

What good news that we don’t have to choose either secular society’s view of food and drink or an ascetic version of Christianity!

My husband reminded me last night of one of CS Lewis’ main teachings about human desires.  These ‘hungers’ are NOT ends in themselves, but signposts to something greater that can only be satisfied in a better and deeper way.  So if we find that we are hungry for earthly food, then we were created for a more satisfying food that will be provided us upon receipt of our inheritance.  The desires ARE real and they WILL BE fulfilled, but in ways that we cannot begin to imagine.

My take away in thinking this through is to be BETTER prepared when describing true Christianity the way it really is to a world jaded and blasé about life.  This world doesn’t satisfy.  And it never was MEANT to.

Recall the excitement you might once have lived when you were very little and Mom and Dad treated you to one of your first outings for lunch or an ice-cream.  Or think back to one of your initial dining experiences as a young adult on a date in a fancy restaurant. The way they thrilled you can never be quite the same.

But Christians don’t have to be wearied with this present world.  The best truly IS yet to be.  We won’t miss out by being a Christian.  We get it all with Christ.

Bon appétit!

Bon appétit

Longings and Disappointments

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Are you disappointed in how life has turned out so far?  If you are honest with yourself and are over 40, have you flirted with the scary thought that maybe your most intense dreams/desires just won’t be fulfilled?

Dreams - unfulfilled

 

 

 

 

I’m thinking of friends who:

  • have yet to find a spouse, but desire to be married
  • are not able get pregnant
  • long for a family member to come to Christ
  • struggle with chronic overweight, out-of-control spending or other addictions and feel locked into unhealthy patterns
  • can’t seem to find their vocational calling and have it line up with paying work

I have such a dream. When I was a teenager living in Europe thanks to a military dad, I discovered what a rush it was to speak another language and live immersed in a different culture. I reveled in speaking French and German. I often thought that my ideal job would be to work as a clerk in a shop, never mind what it sold, and have that daily interaction with the public be IN another language.

Vendeuse dans une boulangerie

My fantasy, then,  as a young girl was to marry a Swiss and raise our children to be at  least trilingual. This was before I was a Christian and knew about the blessing of being wed to another believer. Thanks be to our God who sovereignly guides our lives. He overrode my young girl’s top 5 qualities in a future husband and brought Michael into my life at the age of 22.

And He gave me a few bites of my dream during the first 10 years of our marriage.

But it’s been years now and that dream of living in Europe and conducting our daily lives via another language has yet to be fulfilled. I often wonder if it will.

Yet, I am beginning to grasp a longer view of life. CS Lewis argues that longings are not in vain.  Given how our normal every-day desires like hunger, fatigue or the need for sexual and social fulfillment can be met in healthy ways, one can argue that there is no such thing as a true unfulfilled desire.  If God planted a desire in us, it is because He intends to fulfill it.  A thorough essay exploring this argument can be found here: Argument from Desire

I’ve begun, now, to quiet myself and let go of potential disappointment.  God is not One to waste anything. It’s been argued that He uses even our suffering.  Why should He then NOT use our longings?  In fact, my theory is that He plants those desires, gives us talents and experiences/practice to hone the skills with the plan to make use of EVERY ONE OF THEM! God has the long view and is not impatient.

And it could just be that those plans are not meant for THIS phase of life, our 80-90 years in a fallen world.  But they are intended for the life to come – the one that is more permanent.

  • So to my friend who has two nieces who long both for a godly Christian husband AND children – maybe those gifts for homemaking and interaction with children are going to be used LATER!
  • And to my dear husband, who would love to sing again from that Anglican repertoire with a group of professional musicians, keep looking forward to that day!
  • And to my departed dad who dreamed of running again with the full energy of youth, I pray to see you doing just that one of these days.

As for me? With my love for languages and learning, I think God has given me THOSE gifts for joy-filled purposes that I can only glimpse.

Best is yet to come - CS Lewis

So how are they working for you? your New Year’s Resolutions?

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Well, we’re well into 2014.  Are you feeling stronger and more fit from that new habit of hitting the gym 3 x a week?  What if I told you about a sure-fire way to gain strength WITHOUT going to a gym?  And it wouldn’t cost you TIME or MONEY.

Too good to be true?

Well, it’s a fact. God says that if we meditate on all His qualities and  His promises and past deeds, we will grow strong.  And why is that?  Because if anyone is a bona fide adopted child of God, he has God’s spirit living in him permanently.  And that supernatural, immaterial but VERY real substance gets FANNED into action in direct proportion to our enjoyment of God.

Nehemiah 8:10b –The joy of God is your strength!

So how do we apply this?

Everyone struggles with trials on a regular basis.  The circumstances vary, but the potential for

  • worry
  • anxiety
  • fear
  • uncertainty
  • frustration
  • depression
  • dread
  • hopelessness
  • pressure ………

are very present.  The Christian, however, is equipped with the ability to draw supernatural strength to bear up under the trial and see it to its end, however that may turn out.

What I am learning in the #1 trial of this season is that there is a direct correlation between my GAZE and my FEELINGS.  If I look down/inward into my problems, I feel all the above.

But if I start thinking about how awesome and consistent and reliable is our God, then I feel better.  I get stronger!

There’s another verse that came to mind this morning as I was battling fear and dread.  Paul reminds us (and God is commanding us) to

That exhortation to fix our thoughts on permanent, eternal, God-things comes right after Paul tells us to set our HEARTS on the same.  Hearts and minds cover both our FEELINGS and our THOUGHTS.

Seems like we have a true EITHER/OR choice.  And these are two, mutually exclusive possibilities.  We have to do one or the other, not a little of each.  We will either meditate regularly (i.e. make ourselves at home) about our earthly circumstances OR we will focus and live in anticipation of all that is awaiting us in our heavenly home.  The gutsy question then becomes, Which one do we WANT to make our default? Since we’re flawed, sinful children of God, we will slip up even if we DO choose to set and reset..and reset…our minds to things above.  But God promises to help us obey him.

Jesus set His face firmly toward Jerusalem, making that final journey to the cross.  He chose His direction AND He cried out to his father for help to follow through.  There was no shame in that.  No surprise that Abba – Father came through.

Question:  Which trial are you currently struggling under/with?  Can you see how going round and round in the problem(s) or difficulty actually drains you?

Waiting as worship

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Last week I took up the topic of decision-making…

and claimed that there were 2 categories. The first kind I developed had to do with reliance on a subjective FEELING to guide a choice.  I shared how our son stressed over 2 ‘good’ choices: stay at the current college or transfer.  He couldn’t decide off the bat, so as a new Christian, he tossed the decision into God’s lap and asked Him to give him a sign.  This divine nod would be a sense of knowing or perhaps peace about one path over the other. The second category of decisions involved one in which I had made up my mind to LEAVE my current school.  What I was asking God for concerned timing, when I would  budge.

I’ve been reflecting about our most current set of decisions that faced my husband and me.  As I have written about before, we decisively chose to leave Virginia, after raising our boys and burying my dad. We actually had TRIED to move multiple times once my care-dependent father died in 2006.  Mike was gazing at 6 1/2 more years of civil service in a joy-less, energy-sapping environment.  And God kept shutting those doors, by NOT granting Mike a civil service job elsewhere.

(The ‘un-success’ of 3-5 job applications over a period of several years is actually encouraging. It tells me that God intervenes when our prayerful attempts to move in a direction are NOT His plan)

But when we chose to move to Western North Carolina, the doors did swing open.  We took our time, studied the situation, prayed continually, fixed up our house, did a job search for a French-teaching job for me and looked for a mountain cabin we could afford.  In addition, Mike prepared and launched a consulting business that would combine his skill set, his experience, and his contacts over the previous 38 years since he matriculated into West Point.

The decisions were made – the waiting began.

Here’s is what I’m learning:

All of life is waiting.  As obedient children, we ask God for something (He commands us to pray for what we need!)…we wait…the waiting comes to an end, one way or another.  We move on to the next need(s).

But there is a godly way to wait and a sinful wait to wait.  We can be SO focused on what we are waiting for, that IT becomes more important to us than God!  Not only does that profoundly insult God and reduce Him to a blessing machine, it robs US of fellowship with Him and much joy.

A beloved friend wrote this about waiting:

Who would’ve thought that “waiting” is part of God’s plan and is for our excitement and pleasure!

Hundreds of books have probably been written on prayer and waiting, but I’ll leave you with one thought as I close this piece, (and by the way, God DID sell our house, procure me a job and lead us to a perfect cabin up in the hills- we’re still waiting for Mike’s clients as he faithfully does all he can!).

Waiting has to do with patience.  And the New Testament often uses the term, ENDURANCE, to mean patience. Strong’s Greek #5281 (hypomone) can be translated AS : “a patient, steadfast waiting for”.  Now with that in mind, read this verse from Luke 21:19: By your patience, you will gain your souls.

God wants us to develop that permanent part of us, our soul,  that moves into eternity.  Doesn’t that put a different spin on our decisions, our prayers, our waiting?  All of life is waiting because all of a Christian’s life is soul-development.  But waiting doesn’t have to preclude enjoying God’s presence each moment on Earth.  Why not seek Joy in God daily? Isn’t that what awaits us in heaven – closer and more multi-dimensional fellowship with God, joy IN His presence?

I believe that ALL our prayer requests, whether they have to do with trials or desires, are meant to grow our patient trust in Him.  And that quiet confidence grows our souls.  So whether I’m waiting for this or that, I pray that the Holy Spirit will remind me that I can worship God NOW, in the moment, in the midst of waiting.  I don’t want to miss a single gift.  I want my life to SHOW that HE is what I value most, NOT the thing I’m waiting for.

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