Category Archives: Personal Growth

Gods at War: The God of Money

money

In Matthew 19, Jesus shares a story about a rich young ruler. The young man is asking what he must do to receive eternal life. Jesus simply tells him to keep the commandments, but the man states that he has done so and questions what he is lacking. In verse 21, Jesus responds. “If you wish to be perfect [that is, have the spiritual maturity that accompanies godly character with no moral or ethical deficiencies], go and sell what you have and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” For those of you that know the rest of the story, the rich man left grieving because he wasn’t willing to give in all up for God. He treasured his possessions more that his relationship with Christ. Jesus then says this to his disciples in verse 23, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, it is difficult for a rich man [who clings to possessions and status as security] to enter the kingdom of God.” 

From “Gods at War” by Kyle Idleman:

Jesus My Provider

The god of money was almost irresistible. He spun tales of sports cars, luxury homes, and all the good things he was going to buy for us. Yes, we had heard the old refrain that money can’t buy happiness. We knew that. We had seen what it had done to people over and over.

But we were going to be different. We would know how to use the money without letting it use us. We didn’t want to buy happiness; we just wanted to rent a little pleasure. But somewhere it all went wrong. Somehow the god of money became a slave driver. 

He kept us running, following him, trying to keep him from getting away. We followed the green brick road until we longed to rest. We put our hope in what we might find at the end of the rainbow. We thought money would provide us with security, significance, and some measure of satisfaction. But strangely even when we had money we still felt broke. 

Then we chose Jesus and discovered that he is our provider. He provides everything we need. He provides us with security because he never leaves us or forsakes us. He provides us with significance because our identity and value are found in his love. He provides us with satisfaction because our souls were made for him. We discovered that God would meet all our needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 

I have personally lived in plenty and lived in need and I have to say that when I am in that place of need, I rely on God to keep his promises and meet those needs. He is my source. He is my focus. He is my everything.

Proverbs 30:8-9 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?”

 

Advertisements

Gods at War: The God of Success

Commit

How do you define success? Money? Fancy cars? A big house? Your position at work? The amount of stuff you have acquired? It is good to be driven, but are we driven for the right purpose? Who are we trying to make a success? Ourselves or God?

The author puts it this way: “success is when we achieve; blessed is when we receive. If we say “I’m successful,” we are giving the glory to ourselves. When we say “I’m blessed,” we are giving the glory to God.”

I want to give the credit to the one who makes it all possible. The one through which all blessing flow: GOD!

Jesus My Purpose

The god of success whispered to us, “Don’t you want to be king of the hill?’

“Which hill?” we asked.

“Any of them. All of them.” He smiled.

And we pursued a life of climbing, always climbing. Up hills. Up corporate ladders. Up lists. Up food chains. Up social registers. This god never had to make his case for what he was offering.

But along the way, climbing, working, earning, and achieving became ends in themselves. It was no longer about what we could do, but about whom we could out-do. 

If we were honest we would have to say that it wasn’t for the Lord or even for others that we worked but for ourselves.

And we had several unhappy surprises. One was that we hurt people as we climbed over them or elbowed them down the hill. Another was that we were always weary from the effort. Not to mention always wary of challengers to the throne. And the greatest surprise was that the top of the hill wasn’t nearly as great as we thought it would be. The top of the hill ended up being a pretty lonely and disappointing place. We wondered if maybe we had the wrong hill.

And then we discovered on last hill. But this hill already had a King, along with three crosses standing on it. And he extends us a simple invitation: “Come and follow.” And as we follow him he turns success on its head. The first will be last and the last will be first. The greatest among you will be the servant of all. Consider others better than yourself. To find your life you must lose it. 

And so now, we still care about success, but we define it differently. He has become our purpose. We live for serving him, knowing him, for pleasing him. That’s how we define success.

From Loss to Love

songs_of_loss_and_love

Experiencing loss is never easy. The grieving process alone can be torture, leaving one paralyzed in a state of sadness, loneliness, anger, and denial.

Late last year, I experienced the loss of a child by miscarriage. My heart broke into a million pieces as I held my baby, the size of a pea, in the palm of my hands. The days following that loss were filled with a desire to find comfort in the midst of extreme pain. I prayed for comfort and God provided. He led me to a song. A song that healed the hurt and gave me a peace that surpasses all understanding. This particular song blew me away. It was as if I had written it myself. My exact thoughts and feelings bleed out though the lyrics. I was so moved by it that I wanted to know the story behind why it was written. In my search, I found an interview with the woman where she stated that she wasn’t yet ready to share her story. She wanted listeners to have the chance to hear it through their own trials first.

One month after hearing it for the first time, the singer shared the message behind the music. Here is what she said. “I wrote this song in the middle of experiencing everything that comes with a miscarriage, so it was my most raw place that I could have been when this song poured out of me.” God sent me his comfort, his love, and his healing with the words of a song through the voice of someone who went before me.

My suffering today is somebody’s comfort tomorrow.

Gods at War: The God of Entertainment

Entertainment

Week three of defeating idols that battle for your heart brings us to the god of entertainment.

Jesus My Passion

The god of entertainment promised us a circus. And in our adult world, which can be gray and drab, filled with obligations and responsibilities, that sounded pretty good.

We looked for attractions and surprises and amusements to create in us a sense of wonder. Maybe we would find it in music or in movies or in games or in sports. The god of entertainment was hawking them all, like a carnival barker: “Step right up! Be amazed, be amused! Come one! Come all!

But in the end, the music was flat, the movies were formulaic, and the games were rigged. The circus would leave town and we wait impatiently for another one to take its place. 

Then we found our passion in Jesus. If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, I get that it sounds ridiculous—how could a dusty old Bible character compete with big budget movies or action-packed games or soulful tunes? But once you know Jesus and passionately pursue him, it seems ridiculous that we thought we could ever find what we wanted on a movie screen, a website, or a playlist.

Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

In this section of the book, the author breaks down the word amusement and what it actually means blew me away. It is the lack of inspiration, the lack of reflection. The actual definition is a pastime, play, game, anything which pleasantly diverts the attention. So we seek amusement because we don’t want to think.

I encourage you to dig deep in this area. Do you find yourself seeking entertainment to simply divert your attention away from things causing you stress? If the answer is yes, maybe it is time to turn to God, letting Him walk you through the process of healing things you prefer not to think about.

Gods at War: The God of Sex

Don't Trade

Welcome to week two of defeating the idols that battle for your heart. The following writings come from Kyle Idleman’s book, “Gods at War”. I encourage you to read this book for yourself to dig deeper into areas God may be wanting to pierce your heart, creating in you a clean heart.

Jesus My Satisfaction

The god of sex promised us satisfaction, yet he left us lonely and ashamed.

He lured and enticed us by distorting what was designed to be a gift and a blessing. He made it seem as if nothing could be more satisfying than the quick release of physical urges. Yet nothing could have left us feeling smaller and weaker — as if those urges defined who we were, as if we were beasts of the field and no more.

Then we came to Jesus, who offers the greatest joy imaginable — so much greater and fuller than any physical impulse. We could see for the first time that the pursuit of the god of sex was never about love at all. It reduced others to mere objects to be used for our personal pleasure. But the love of Jesus finds its greatest satisfaction in service rather than use of others. It exalts them. It affirms them as children of God. It connects with them in body, soul, mind, and spirit, rather than simple base instinct. 

Jesus is our satisfaction. All along, it was intimacy we really wanted, and he gives us that. When we have a love relationship with him, an unending honeymoon commences. Christ grows more wonderful to us every day.

Not that sex is put aside. On the contrary, it takes on a beauty and resonance we never could have imagined — the opposite of shame. We have been designed so that the level of intimacy we can have with our spouse is directly related to the depth of intimacy we have with Christ. Sexual intimacy as God designed it takes a human relationship to a whole new level, because we’re not using one another; we’re delighting in one another. The god of sex dehumanized us; Christ restores our wholeness and makes the two of us one flesh — so much the greater than the sum of our parts — as we seek him together.

The god of sex offers a counterfeit joy that becomes more elusive through time, ever harder to please, ever closer to emptiness. But the love of Christ only opens up to deeper joys, becoming ever greater.

Sexual pleasure, rightly viewed, is a rich gift that shows how much God loves us. But its ecstasy is only a foretaste of divine glory, a hint of the eternal pleasure of knowing, loving, and serving Christ. He is our true satisfaction.

 

Gods at War: The God of Food


For the next nine weeks, I will be sharing the closing statements from one of the most eye opening books I have ever read on idols. Gods at War by Kyle Idleman digs deep into becoming aware of and defeating the idols that battle for our hearts. I encourage you to read this book for yourself to take a closer look and discover what areas in life you could be making an idol. Kyle states, “Idols are defeated not by being removed but by being replaced.” Isn’t it time to replace the things that are devouring our souls with the very God that is the lover of our souls?

Jesus My Portion

The god of food promised us a feast, but we came up empty. He invited us to consume until it consumed our lives. We tasted everything until nothing had taste anymore.

And so finally we came to Jesus. We discovered that he offers the one true feast. He fills our every need. Every hunger ultimately leads back to him.

David wrote, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure” (Psalms 16:5).

Jesus frees us from abusive, dysfunctional relationship with food because he is our portion and in him we discover what we were searching for all along. If we seek joy and meaning in food, then the source of our joy always disappears and always must be found again–a consumable god. It is different with Jesus.

Nothing tastes better than the joy and satisfaction of knowing Christ. Nothing nourishes the soul as he does. Nothing feeds and strengthens and renews us like the time we spend with him each day.

He bids us to take and eat. He bids us to come to the well where he offers living water, so that we never thirst again.

Think of a time when you’ve come in from the hot sun, drenched with sweat and with a parched throat, and downed a cool glass of ice water. Did anything ever taste better?

Such a moment is no more than a vague hint of what it feels like to be spiritually starving and to be given the bread of life, to have a thirsty soul and to drink deep from his living water.

Ironically, it is only when we find our meaning in Christ, when he takes the throne of our lives, that earthly food recovers its taste, its delight. In its right place food is a great gift from God.

Comparison Kills

comparison

We live in a world that defines our success, our importance, our worth, etc., by what we possess externally. So it comes as no surprise when I have a conversation with someone and find that they are consumed with comparing their life to those around them. As I sat and listened, I realized that most people don’t see that the very act of comparing is a trap the enemy uses to destroy us. It takes our focus off of the blessings God has given and leads to jealousy. God blesses each and every one of his children in unique ways and by comparing what God gives us to what he gives to someone else is not healthy. It takes us down a road of destruction and destroys our hearts from the inside out. Once the heart is affected, our actions follow suit and we become consumed. It is a fire that destroys everything in its wake.

I have sat back and watched people lie, cheat, and steal in an attempt to gain something they think will make them happy, yet lose everything important in the process. What good is it to gain the world if you lose your soul? To Satan, it is the greatest victory. To God, it breaks his heart.

So how do we protect ourselves from falling into the comparison trap?

  1. Set boundaries. For example, if you know that by looking at someone else’s Facebook page you will compare their life to your own, leaving you longing for what they have that you don’t, stop visiting their page. Remove them from your news feed. We can control what we put into our minds so be good to your heart by protecting it from things the enemy will use to tempt you.
  2. Be thankful. When was the last time you sat down and compiled a list of all the blessings God has given specifically to you? By doing this simple exercise, it shifts our focus onto what we do have instead of what we don’t. Thankfulness cultivates a grateful heart.
  3. Be patient. God wants to give us the desires He put in our hearts. By waiting on Him to provide what is best for us in His timing, we become content. We can anticipate the blessing without taking ourselves down a road of destruction in an attempt to possess something He isn’t ready to give us.
  4. Trust in the process. Have you ever thought that maybe God isn’t giving you something because you aren’t ready to receive it? His ultimate goal is our character. He wants us to look like Him and that process takes time. Until we are content with what we do have, we don’t have the capacity to experience the joy He provides when His blessings do come.
  5. Remember that God is a jealous God. He wants all the glory for the riches He provides to His children. If we are stuck in a place of giving ourselves credit for our success, our wealth, and whatever else we hold dear, He will find a way to remind us that He is the God of our lives, not us. And on the flip side, when we come to a place where we give God all the credit, His blessings seem to overflow!

So next time you are driving past that neighborhood, tempted to drive through to take a look at all the beautiful houses…or you feel the urge to go look at that new car your best friend just bought that you would die for…or you just want to scroll through that person’s Facebook page that seems to have everything you don’t, STOP. Remind Satan that he is a liar and that God is good and worthy of your praise and you refuse to let comparison kill your contentment!