You should see the way I look at a menu. It’s ridiculous. I peruse the whole thing, narrow down my options, then narrow those down again, then go back and forth weighing the remaining options. I think about calories, calculate cost, try to predict how I’ll feel when I’m done, and consider how likely I am to find each dish again anytime soon.
Sheesh, you’d think I was selecting someone to raise my kids.
The truth is, I have a hard time passing up something tasty. Especially when I’m hungry.
This is true not just in front of a menu. It’s true in life. Every day, there are so many “tasty” choices that present themselves to our senses. Being the hungry creatures we are, our senses long to indulge.
And more than not, we live in a culture that exalts indulging our senses. Rather than trying to grow up beyond infantile grasping for anything that looks good to us, our first solutions are usually more about how to have what we want without any negative consequences.
And so we’ve become a people of diet pills and diet desserts, designated drivers, credit lines, masturbation, and contraception.
I mean, why on earth would anyone ever pass up a something to eat when hungry?
The answer, of course, is because there’s another meal coming. A better one. One that satisfies. Really satisfies.
I’m afraid we’ve tried to remove the cost from Christianity, too. We’ve gutted our call to discipleship so the parts that cost us our lives become optional.
I mean, why give up my life if I can serve God adequately with my surplus?
The answer, again, is because there’s another life coming. A better one.
God invites all His children to grow past infantile grasping so we can be ready (hungry!) for the banquet He prepares. His invitation to hunger now is mercy. Or did you think it impossible to make yourself so full now that the fragrance of Heaven would make your stomach sick?
Brothers and sisters, we have been drinking the Kool-Aid of a world that says today is all we have, and all we’ll ever get is what we grab for ourselves here and now.
Lent invites us to hunger from earthly pleasures in anticipation of the aroma of Heaven.
Lent invites us to hunger so we can find hunger is not so much an enemy as we’ve been led to believe.
Lent invites us to give so we can find life apart from the things we’ve been holding tightly in our fists.
Lent invites us to look squarely at Jesus and to ask whether we really believe that He rose again, and so whether we really believe that death won’t be the end for us.
We do not say no for No’s sake. We say no because the great Yes is coming.
“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?’” (Mark 8:34-36).
I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.
Are you satisfied yet?
When I look around my home, my office, my schedule, my life, I see evidence everywhere that I am not. My fridge is full. So are my cabinets. My closet has items I haven’t worn in a year. I have stacks of books in my office—must-reads as well as a whole shelf marked “skim.” Too often, my calendar feels like I’m playing Tetris.
Then there’s my phone: that dinging, buzzing tile I keep nearby in case of emergency…or a few moments waiting in line.
I spend most of my life filling my time, my attention, my mind, my stomach. In truth, much of this is a desperate attempt to hide from myself how utterly hungry I am.
I lead a Christian ministry, I have a loving wife and kids, I enjoy so much of life, and I am blessed far beyond what I could ever deserve. So maybe this persistent hunger is bad PR, or scandalous, or a sign of spiritual immaturity.
But here’s the truth: There is a hunger none of this can fill, a loneliness no loved one can reach, an ache no food or drink or song or show can quench. And that hunger, that hunger can hurt to feel.
Thank God for Lent. Lent is meant to expose this hunger.
Lent is a season of reflection: What am I hungry for and where am I taking my hungers?
Lent is a season of mourning: Where have I sinned against God or others in my pursuit of satisfaction?
Lent is a season of repentance: Where do I need to turn from false gods—anything besides God Himself I’ve trusted to satisfy my deepest hungers?
Lent is a season of fasting: What will I go without that I might feel my hunger? What will I go without to make room for Christ, who alone can satisfy my deep, abiding hunger?
Most voices that fill our days will continue to say eat, drink, buy, read, join, click, watch, listen. But how much more information do you need? How much more money, entertainment, health, food, drink, belonging, experience, reassurance, or affection is enough?
Lent invites us to stop chasing more, and instead to go without.
Lent invites us into hunger not because God wants us to lack, but because we do lack already, immensely.
Lent invites us to hunger not because God doesn’t want us to enjoy the blessings He gives here and now, but so we might re-set our affections on the One who alone can fill our gaping emptiness.
Lent invites us to hunger because there are things only hunger can do. How will you hunger this Lent? Leave a comment below.
Last week, we explored the surprising reality that although it seems like we have no control over the things preventing us from making the changes necessary to overcome our addictions, it’s actually more often the case that the crises themselves are a part of whatever addiction we’re wrestling.
I remember a time early in my recovery from pornography addiction when I had promised to housesit for a couple that had pornographic cable channels. When I came to my Regen support group a few days before I was to begin, I asked for prayer to resist temptation. My small group leader asked a poignant question: “Josh, what would you say to an alcoholic who had promised to spend the night in a liquor store?”
“I’d say he shouldn’t go,” I replied. “But I can’t back out now! It’s too late for them to find another house-sitter and they’re depending on me!”
I was in a crisis. But in his own way, my small group leader was uncovering the reality that I didn’t need to be, that I was in a crisis of my own making. Why had I agreed to housesit where there was pornography? Why had I waited until the last minute to talk with my recovery group about it? And why were my friends’ housesitting needs more important to me than gaining freedom from a problem that could destroy so much of what I held dear in life?
In truth, so often it’s not that something external is blocking our paths, but something internal. In my experience, that internal something is often connected to either pride or fear.
It’s not that I can’t afford to pay for therapy, it’s that talking to someone else about this hurts my pride.
It’s not that the men or women in my small group don’t understand, it’s that I don’t want to try what they’re challenging me to do.
It’s not that I’m too busy to use the gym membership I paid for, it’s that I am afraid of failing.
It’s not that I avoid telling my loved ones about my addiction to avoid disappointing them, it’s that it’s easier to live behind this mask I’ve created.
Instead of allowing crises to continue to derail your pursuit of wholeness, practice humility instead.
Humility means you have limits. As created beings, we all do. We have what we have, we don’t have what we do not. And so to reduce chaos, we do well to live within the personal limitations we each have. Cease trying to spend more time, energy, or money you don’t have.
Humility also calls you to simplify. Give yourself permission to be on the journey toward wholeness – fully in. Yes, investing in wholeness now means saying no to other things, at least for a season, but today’s investment will pay dividends in the future that you will not regret.
Entrust to the Lord all that you cannot do today, take His hand, and follow. If we can help, let us know.
If you’ve been on a journey of change, growth, or addiction recovery, what’s helped you?
Do you have a habit or addiction you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to break? If so, you might unwittingly be using chaos to keep yourself stuck.
Anytime we’re working to grow, we’re going to face resistance. Change, even good change, can be scary. The flesh, or the “old man,” offers a way out: chaos. If life gets too chaotic—if crisis comes, if the bottom falls out, if I get slammed with work—then I can’t keep doing the hard, scary work.
We see this regularly as we walk with men and women seeking freedom from sexual addictions, but it’s true for all manner of habits or hang-ups we try to break.
It is suspiciously common when a person attempts to grow and change to encounter difficulties, set-backs, and crises that seem to dictate he or she cannot continue:
I got a gym membership but work’s been so busy lately.
I dropped out of my support group because I didn’t want to keep disappointing everyone.
I know I need therapy but I just can’t afford it.
I’m going to tell my wife what I’ve been doing, but I need my marriage to be in a better place first.
I was going to ask my friend for accountability, but she’s been so happy recently, I don’t want to bring her down.
God’s been blessing my ministry so much I just can’t take the time to focus on that character issue in my life right now.
Are these legitimate excuses or the enemy whispering rationales to keep you stuck and possibly make matters worse?
As you consider, notice that many forms of chaos and crisis produce feelings very similar to feelings produced by our addictions:
Momentary thrill, excitement, an adrenaline rush
Mental busy-ness, confusion, distraction
Numbness from pain
Loneliness and isolation
Despair and helplessness
To me, these similarities make me wonder if maybe the chaos keeping us from recovery isn’t just the addiction itself in disguise.
Of great importance here is the fact that when chaos or crises strike, we are thwarted in our efforts to stay the course of recovery, of growing in Christian virtue, of practicing holy living. And so, they miss out, taking occasional sips where what they actually need is daily visits to clean water where they can drink deeply.
“Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” – Matthew 26:41.
“But it’s not my fault my car broke down when it did!”
“What should I have done? Quit my job?”
“Was I supposed to make everyone miserable because of my problem?”
“Do you think I asked for this?”
“Am I supposed to let everyone down?”
I’m simply asking you to consider whether the unanticipated busy-ness, crises, difficulties, or “blessings” might be your addiction in disguise. And if it might be, might you be (unwittingly) allowing it to keep you stuck?
Without coming under any condemnation, consider the events in your life that have detracted from your own personal journey of recovery, restoration, honesty, and growth over the years. Would you be willing to ask yourself, the Lord, and trusted others what they think?
Question for you: Where do you recognize chaos in your life in relation to your own “stuckness”? Is this chaos something you could ease or stop fueling?
Regeneration is ready to help you recognize and isolate the chaos that is hindering your progress towards freedom. Let us know if we can help!
If the devil walked up to you this morning with a contract in his hand and asked you to sign it, would you? I’m guessing you wouldn’t. You might not even read it. Even so, despite what you say, many of us actually do sign our names to binding agreements he writes for us all the time.
The enemy is too cunning to come at you the way I’ve described above. Instead, he looks for opportunities to sound like the voice of reason in the midst of chaos, a helper in your desperation, a friend to give compassion in a time of pain.
No matter that he may actually be behind the chaos, desperation, or pain, here’s how it works and what you can do about it:
First, you experience a real difficulty in your life. Whatever the source of the difficulty, it’s disruptive in your life.
A loved one dies even though you prayed they’d be healed.
The man of your dreams cheated on you.
You’ve tried for years to change your circumstances, but you’re where you were a decade ago.
Kids at school call you a wimp, a loser, or a queer.
You’re catching every red light when you’re already late.
Second, the enemy whispers an idea to you that seems to explain what you’re experiencing.
God doesn’t heal today.
You’ll never be good enough for a man like that.
God doesn’t care about you. You’re stuck.
Maybe I am a wimp, a loser, or a queer (whatever that means).
This is a terrible day.
When I say the enemy whispers an idea, he doesn’t identify himself first. In fact, one of his tactics is to impersonate others. The words above might sound like the voice of a pastor, your dad or mom, your own voice, or even God. Neil Anderson pointed out years ago that sometimes the enemy poses as our own voice, so we think we’re the ones thinking a thought when we’re actually being fed an idea by a malevolent voice that means us harm.
Third, you either accept or reject the idea. Accepting it means you give your assent—you internally give your nod of agreement. You switch every “you” and “your” to “I,” “me,” and “mine.” You’ve switched from a place of passive hearing to active thinking or speaking. Now the line is coming from your own voice.
Fourth, once you’ve accepted the idea, you act on it. You take a step to live as though the idea is true and reliable.
These third and fourth steps are the real problem. You may not realize what you’ve done, but by agreeing with the enemy, you’ve done something binding. It is akin to signing your name to that contract I told you about at the top of this post.
It can help to understand that, beginning with Adam and Eve, God has given people authority to rule:
“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
When the serpent came to them in the Garden and they took a bite of what he was selling, they in essence signed over their authority to rule to him.
At minimum, your thoughts and feelings, your body and your actions are all a part of your domain. When the enemy comes with a lie, he is trying to get you to take his counsel and establish a “rule of law” for how your domain, your kingdom, your life are going to operate—either under the ways of God or under the enemy’s ways.
This is why it matters what thoughts we allow to enter our mind. As Dallas Willard put it in Renovation of the Heart:
If we allow everything access to our mind, we are simply asking to be kept in a state of mental turmoil or bondage. For nothing enters the mind without having an effect for good or evil.…The power to choose our thoughts is, as we said at the outset, our most basic freedom, our first and primary freedom, and we must use it well.
The concept of a “self-fulfilling prophesy” is more than just a state of mind.
Too many of God’s children are living under faulty decrees in their lives with no idea that they don’t have to. Jesus came to take back the authority that the enemy has stolen through his lies. When we understand this, we can take our rightful place as those to whom He shares His authority and His Kingdom:
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:19)
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Last week, we started a new podcast series all about discovering and breaking unholy agreements in our lives. I hope you’ll listen. I think it will be incredibly helpful to you.
Leave a comment below.