Are You Spiritually Parched?

photo credit: thephotographymuse via photopin cc
photo credit: thephotographymuse via photopin cc

The advent of global warming has resulted in some crazy weather conditions across the globe. Throughout the course of history, famines have not been uncommon, but some geographic areas are now seeing droughts of record proportions. Only a few months back, for example, shippers were fretting over the mighty Mississippi River as it slowed to a near trickle. During this current era, our natural circumstances appear to run concurrently with those that are spiritual—our world is parched!

I am not sure how we arrive at such conclusions, but it is common for Christians to believe that God leads them into spiritually dry seasons. As subtle as the difference may seem, we would do well to make a distinction between traveling through a dry environment, and being dry within our hearts.

Just as God led the nation of Israel through the desert, so He will sometimes guide His children through dry, desolate places. The Bible, however, is absolutely clear: He never wants us to be dry in our hearts! If we are spiritually parched, He is not to blame. The only wise option is to take personal ownership of the issue rather than blaming it on the mystical work of a sovereign God.

We must wonder, then, what causes our spirits to wilt with barren dryness. In most (if not all) cases, I believe that the culprit is misplaced trusta reality much more dangerous than it sounds.

Idolatry—a spiritual condition detestable to God—amounts to putting someone (or something) other than God on the throne of our hearts, either as an act of adoration, or in trust as the source of our provision. Because God is invisible, and idols physically tangible, we are tempted to look to idols to meet our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc
photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

What are the primary idols of our day? It’s difficult to find many that compare with materialism and entertainment. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with a large bank balance, or a good movie for that matter, but those who keep material goods and the need to be entertained at the core of their beings will pay the steep price of spiritual famine.

Thus says the Lord,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
“For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit. Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NASB)

The contrast is all too clear. Yes, God may indeed lead us through dry environments, but if we are dry in our souls, the problem is ours and not His. Someway, somehow, we are placing the weight of our trust in someone or something humanly tangible. Our Father promises that those who cultivate faith toward Him will always be “well-watered gardens”, overflowing with abundant life (John 7:37-39).

photo credit: the_tahoe_guy via photopin cc
photo credit: the_tahoe_guy via photopin cc

We are all alike in that we each have the tendency to put our confidence in that which is visible instead of in our invisible God. Thus, in those unpleasant seasons when we find ourselves spiritually parched, the best first step toward a solution is to honestly examine the focus of our trust. This may not be the feel-good answer you are looking for, but I can assure you that it is a highly effective way to get those dry springs flowing!

(This post is based on the content of my new book, Champions in the Wilderness, which will soon be available for sale. Also, when our new SfMe Media website is complete, our blog posts will be switched our new ministry website, and this blog site will be phased out. You can subscribe to by entering your email in the subscribe panel on the right-hand side of the new website.)


Dancing with Who?

Original Photo by liza31337 - CC By 2.0

Did you know that Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team is doing really well right now on Dancing with the Stars? Baltimore Ravens fans are upset with his success and launching a vote against Hines campaign. Go Hines!

I’m on top of all of this, but not because I watch the show. The Pittsburgh area news stations provide an update just about every evening. To be honest, it all really bugs me! My real concern isn’t about how well Hines is dancing or whether Ravens fans despise him, but why a trivial entertainment issue garners so much attention on the nightly news. But there it is–right up there with earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns and global conflict!

As a culture we are losing our ability to identify what truly matters and what doesn’t. We struggle with understanding how key issues relate to one another. More and more, people are critical of others, but not critical thinkers for themselves. Through it all we lose the value of individuality and set ourselves up for mass deception.

I’ve also noticed some other interesting (and somewhat frustrating) trends over the past several months. Readership peaks when I post about finding personal security in the midst of a crazy world, or about the ideal of Christian unity. But when I speak of the concept of covenant and some of its powerful ramifications, interest drops significantly.

This tells me that we are grasping for an ideal which we don’t have a clue about how to achieve. Don’t we get it? One is a prerequisite for the other!

Do you want to find personal security in the midst of an ever unstable and chaotic world? It comes not from some wishful thinking about some far off God who maybe, hopefully might actually care. Personal security is a byproduct of understanding the nature of our covenant relationship with the Creator of our universe.

Do you want to find deep, rich fellowship with other people–relationships in which you are loved and accepted for who you are regardless of appearance, money or status? The substance of such connections is established in the foundation of covenant.

For a long time I mistakenly thought that an understanding of covenant was lost to the western church due to some quirk of history. I’m slowly beginning to understand that we want it to be lost. Real love is expensive! We long for the unconditional and sacrificial love of God to be shown toward us, but like bugs scurrying from an uncovered log, we flee from extending that same form of costly love to others.

Photo by Adam Zivner - GNU Free Documentation License

As a culture we selfishly grab at the sweet fruit of Christianity while ignoring or rejecting its true substance. We’re left grasping for nebulous concepts of love and peace that we will never be able to achieve.

All that we truly desire is found in Christ, but our faith will remain shallow and hollow if we do not adjust our thoughts and actions to His paradigm. God will not yield, not even for a moment, to a human manner of thinking. For Him to do so would mean the destruction of all that is good. No, it falls upon us to search out the ways of God and to align our lives with His divine order.

How does all of this apply to the unity of the church? Unity is possible, but only on God’s terms. If we choose to ignore those terms, we will tremble with the fear of abandonment as this world continues to shake—all while He brings His faithful church to a peace-filled maturity in these last days.

I Hate Hype!

By Daveynin - CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

Were you one of the 111,000,000 viewers who watched the Super Bowl on Sunday? I was. Not a bad game. Of course, it would have been better had the Steelers won, but overall we were entertained.

Professional football is now a multi-billion dollar business. Gone are the days of leather helmets and crumbling stadiums!  Let’s take a minute to peer into the reality of this football phenomenon.

As you read, please note that football is my favorite of all professional sports. I really do enjoy the games. My problem is that so many of us invest so much for such a small return.

How many hours of national media coverage do you suppose were devoted to Super Bowl XLV? How about local news time? How much money was spent on hats, jerseys and other paraphernalia? What did it cost the tens of thousands of fans who journeyed to Texas to watch the game? How many tons of shrimp, wings and nachos did those 111,000,000 million viewers consume? (I think I was personally responsible for eating about 50 pounds of shrimp!) Without question there was a massive amount of attention given to this GAME!

So what’s my gripe? All of the pregame glitter and hype promise the universe, but what’s left when the smoke clears?

From start to finish, a football game consumes about 3 hours of our time, but there’s an awful lot of filler involved. Did you know that the actual playing time amounts to only 11-12 minutes? Think about it! All of that time, money and effort for 12 minutes of Super Bowl action!

Hype promises us the world, but delivers little of substance. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

By theilr - CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

How does all of this relate to my current Harassed at the Border blog series? Opposition isn’t the only enemy to change. Deception and distraction are equally effective at hindering our journey toward transformation.

But hype isn’t limited to just the world of sports. Plenty takes place within Christian circles. Each next great fad promises to provide the answer that will fix our ills and restore the luster of American Christianity. Too often smoke and mirrors with no real or lasting substance!

Now, I didn’t write all of this simply to air my gripes, or to condemn football fans or to bad mouth the American church. My point is that hype distracts us from the real power of transformation—God’s grace.

Grace lacks so many attributes of hype, but delivers the substance of change and fulfillment like nothing else can. We can’t boast in the unmerited favor of grace, but we can be transformed. Grace carries with it the ability to do all that God has called us to do.

Our problem isn’t that the Gospel is flawed or somehow lacking. We have simply allowed the hyped-up fads of our day to divert and distract us from God’s everlasting power of transformation—grace.

Looking for real and lasting change? You’ll never find it in a game. Learn to abide in God’s amazing grace!

Watch my clip on Vimeo to learn more about grace.