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, searchforme.info 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.)

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Economic Uncertainty–What an Opportunity!

Photo by endiaferon - Creative Commons 2.0 License

Did you hear about the rioting currently taking place in parts of Europe? Governments are trying to cut back on their massive debts by imposing austerity measures such as cutting salaries and workers benefits. This all takes place while those in power continue to grow in wealth. Such economic disparity creates a breeding ground of extreme discontent from which all sorts of violence (including terrorism) draw their strength.

Here in the U.S. recent census results show that the income gap between rich and poor has now increased to its widest margin on record, double what it was just 40 years ago. Considering the continued growth of our national debt, it’s simply a matter of time until we face even more extreme circumstances than we see today.

I certainly don’t see myself as a fatalist resigned to accept a dark foreboding future for the western world, but I am convinced that we need to confront the realities of our day through the eye of faith. I speak not of an ignorant, self-imposed blindness, but of a confidence in God that looks through and beyond very real circumstances. Natural circumstances are not unimportant, but an eternal perspective carries far greater weight.

Ours is a living hope found only through our relationship with Christ. If our hope is focused elsewhere, we will be severely disappointed—especially in our current economic times.

Hope springs eternal through identification with Christ. Hopelessness will ever bear the dark fruits of discouragement, depression, cynicism, hardness and eventually violence. It’s in this vein that I am so touched by the heroes of the faith who have gone before us. Read what Hebrews 11:8-10 has to say about Abraham:

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, and he went out without understanding where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land as though it were a foreign country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (NET)

Abraham was so characterized by an eternal hope that he was unwilling to see even the Promised Land as home! Abraham’s real promise was God Himself. As a result all of heaven holds Abraham in the highest regard.

Photo by cohdra - MorgueFile

Abraham looked beyond his natural circumstances and fixed his gaze upon an eternal land of opportunity. The political and economic rumblings of our day compel us to do the same. How privileged we are to live in an era that will not allow us to firmly place our trust on the ever shifting sands of human design!

We are immersed in a course of world events that supersede our individual wants and desires. Life as we’ve known it is coming to an end, while both the kingdoms of light and darkness steadily rise. Ongoing economic uncertainty will continue to challenge us to evaluate the focus of our trust. What an amazing opportunity to pursue Christ and to lay hold of the eternal, living hope found only in Him!

Wondering in the Wilderness – Part II

I’ve decided to change the title of this blog mini-series to “Wondering in the Wilderness” because that’s what we tend to do upon finding ourselves in desolate territory—wonder what happened to God and his promises. It is this very tendency toward doubt that God is trying to kill off from our lives.

Photo by Omar Omar - Creative Commons License 2.0

Our heavenly Father never intends a wilderness to be a destination. It is simply a territory that we must pass through on the way to a promised land, flowing with milk and honey. But for us to go from desolate isolation to sweet fullness, something must die. That something is our unbelief.

By design the wilderness is constructed as a test our faith. How will we respond when we see fierce giants, when we lack water, when life is dull and mundane, or when we don’t like the direction our leaders are going? Yes, God wants to test and prove (establish) our faith! Our ability to trust Him is that important. We, however, often have our own agendas, thereby finding ourselves completely ignorant of God’s intended purposes. In such cases, we prolong our wilderness experience as we fail to align ourselves with His plans and purposes.

After their exodus from bondage in Egypt, the nation of Israel should have spent about two weeks crossing the desert into the promised land of Canaan. In the end that journey took 40 years (over 1000 times as long as intended) as an entire generation of unbelieving Israelites died in the wilderness. Do we see it? God designed the wilderness as a place for unbelief to die.

Deliverance and faith aren’t just about heaven! Like that generation of wilderness Israelites, many of us suffer from unbelief in the form of misplaced trust. We have this uncanny tendency to only trust what we can see or think we clearly understand. For them it was a golden calf and the consistent provision of Egypt. We tend to put our confidence in ourselves, our bank accounts, the security of our jobs, friends or family, etc.

Make no doubt about it—misplaced trust is unbelief clothed in idolatry, and it surely leads to spiritual desolation. In other words, the dryness of our external wilderness environment quickly infiltrates our internal spiritual state. If, however, we learn to trust God in the wilderness, our hearts are well-watered regardless of what’s going on around us.

“The Lord says,

Photo by beglib - MorgueFile

‘I will put a curse on people

who trust in mere human beings,

who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength,

and whose hearts have turned away from the Lord.

They will be like a shrub in the desert.

They will not experience good things even when they happen.

It will be as though they were growing in the desert,

in a salt land where no one can live.

My blessing is on those people who trust in me,

who put their confidence in me.

They will be like a tree planted near a stream

whose roots spread out toward the water.

It has nothing to fear when the heat comes.

Its leaves are always green.

It has no need to be concerned in a year of drought.

It does not stop bearing fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NET)