26 Dec 2009
“Be to me a rock of refuge to which I may continually come” (Psalm 71:3, ESV).
Psalm 71 might seem like an unusual (or unexpected, at the least!) place to go for a Christmas-week meditation. “Come on Ellen…you must at least go to Psalm 22, Luke 1-2, or Isaiah 9!”
Well, isn’t it great how our Lord, the Wonderful Counselor, opens up his Word to us in new ways? I’ve gone to Psalm 71 a lot in recent years for the insight it gives on how our mouths are to be used. Being a woman who vocationally depends on her mouth, words, and speech, this psalm is full of the truth I need daily.
Recently, however, some new thoughts have emerged from this psalm that I want to share with you this Christmas week.
“…to which I may continually come.”
‘Continually’ is a solid word, indicating ‘always, habitual, lifestyle.’ We continually come to Jesus because he is continually available. He is always present. He is an “all the day,” “at all time” Savior, Redeemer, Rescuer, and Lord. Always. This is what I’m calling his 24/7-ness, which invites us to a lifestyle of responsiveness to him. David lives, speaks, and hopes from a 24/7 responsiveness to the Lord.
David had the freedom of heart and faith to express his 24/7 neediness of God, to God, but David didn’t stop there. This song is also full of expressions of living continually before the Lord in hope, in worship, in trust! This is where Christmas leads us: the Word made flesh and living always with us. This is Luke 1-2 and is absolutely Psalm 22’s Messiah. This is life in a fallen world that is being redeemed and in which the Lord Jesus is present to us through his Spirit.
Where have you been running to continually? Where, what, or who is your “rock of refuge,” especially in the holiday season, which for many is so challenging, painful, lonely, disappointing? Today, be reminded of Psalm 71:3’s Christmas hope for you: Jesus is continually available for you in temptation, in struggle, in the ‘groaning’ you may be experiencing in the battle against sin. He came so that now, by faith, we experience him coming to us in our weaknesses and in our worship, as we believe upon him to be our Rock of Refuge.
18 Dec 2009
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Isaiah 55:1-2, ESV).
Rich “food,” or “fare,” should be capitalized here, as this fare, this banquet table is Jesus! When we have the taste buds of our hearts re-oriented and set on what is true, on what is sweet and good, we are led to Jesus, the table in the presence of enemies (Psalm 23:5). Jesus comes to us in our disordered desires and confused understandings and gives us himself.
We at Harvest USA have the amazing opportunity to enter into conversations with people week after week and to experience Jesus bringing peace where turmoil has been reigning. He reigns in thirsty hearts who come to him in the midst of deserts, of unholy attachments and behaviors that have left them unsatisfied and experiencing a “continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19, NIV).
This Christmas season, you may be invited to many types of tables…to snack, graze, feast. If sexual sin, emotional idolatry, addictive and life-dominating menus are what you’ve been ordering from, Jesus invites you to come to him to delight in the richest of fare. There is hope for you to taste and see and know that he is good!
I’ve been slowly meditating my way through Isaiah during this Advent season, desiring to draw near to the Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. I was struck by some contrasts in chapter 5, in which the Lord speaks strongly against those who lead others into sin, who teach error, and who gravely misinterpret what’s what:
“Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:20-21, ESV).
In reading these words, and in knowing my own heart, it’s even more comforting to know that one of the names for the Savior is “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6). As our True Counselor, the Lord gives correct definitions and interpretations of all of life. Many of us have named evil, bitter, and dark experiences and longings as good, sweet, and light. Our desires ruled, or we were naive, or we were mis-educated by those who should have known better. The result is that we need a radical redefining of what is what! Praise be to Jesus who comes as Wisdom, Author, Healer, Truth, and Light.
Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” If you’ve been confused, hurt, disoriented because you’ve been tasting and feasting on what you thought was good, but the aftertaste is bitter captivity to sin and entanglement, then may I invite you to pray:
Lord, I come to you needing a radical re-orientation of my heart! I’ve longed for satisfaction and have tasted only increasing lust; I’ve sought to walk in a way that seemed sweet and good, but the incoming harvest is painfully bitter and dark. By your grace, I submit to heart (and appetite) surgery and ask for courage to receive your answers to these prayers.
04 Nov 2009
So let’s continue on with some more thoughts on people and food addictions. What are we to do if we are compulsive eaters? If we run constantly to food, snacks, bingeing on Boston creme-filled donuts, potato chips, or super chunk peanut butter chocolate ice cream, or whatever foods are most irresistible to you?
Well, first of all, we need to realize that what we’re hungering for really isn’t those items. Those goodies do taste good, and they can be enjoyed in a way that doesn’t numb but delights you…but only if you know what your heart is really hungering for.
Psalm 34: 8 says that we are to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (ESV); we are blessed when we take refuge in him. We might also say we are blessed when we feast upon him through relationship with Jesus, through prayer, through trusting and obeying him, through surrendering our lives. Having him be my banquet table allows me to enjoy and delight in the gifts that are presented to me.
This is so similar to people addiction or the ‘worship’ of people. A few posts ago, I wrote about how women (and men too) can be enthralled with each other, or seek to ‘feast’ upon each other through emotional connecting, nurture, affection, etc. This fixation really isn’t about a certain woman or person or people in general. Like food, it’s about our souls seeking what they were created for: satisfaction. But true satisfaction can only be found through the only One who fills us, the Bread of Life, Jesus. This is great news for us and gives us so much hope, even if we are people or food addicts!
What things or people are you seeking to find satisfaction in, apart from Jesus? How have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good, even more than your ‘addictions’ and temporary satisfactions?
28 Oct 2009
Someone once asked a mentor of mine, “Do you think you can be addicted to a relationship?” Beth responded immediately: “Yes!”
And it’s true. The dynamics that we experience in certain relationships can become habitually destructive when they turn into a perceived need in our lives.The feelings of comfort, security, value, and acceptance are among the top nutrients that feed and nurture a co-idolatrous relationship. Those things are evil in and of themselves! But when they become the reason we are relating to someone, a people addiction could be at work.
And in my own journey of seeking to run to Jesus from my people idolatry, I’ve come to see how similar people addiction is to food addiction. With this post, I’ll present some initial thoughts, and then I’ll follow up with more ponderings on how cravings for food and for people are more alike than different!
- People, or relationships, and food are good gifts from God. (James 1:17)
- We can’t just give up people or food; we are called to live in community and, well, we need food to survive! Romans 12:9-10 speaks to our call to be involved in relationships.
- Both can become a ‘feel good’ substitute for Jesus, a way to soothe heart pain.
- By God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we must learn to live in holy moderation of these good gifts, not clinging to the created thing in a way that only the Creator is worthy of.
I frequently talk with women who are struggling, hurting, or confused because either one particular relationship, or many relationships with other women, have resulted in obsessive, entangling captivity. It’s been a pattern of relating since they were young or, as an adult, a relationship grew to something that seemed to control them in a destructive way.
John Donne’s Holy Sonnet #14 has a line that expresses the answer to why the experience of women being enthralled with each other will never work: “Except you enthrall me, never shall [I] be free.” The craving to be enthralled by someone, the driving desire to have your heart filled up by the emotional and perhaps physical connection with another woman is evidence of your heart being created to worship! Yes, God has created us to worship, to be fully, wholeheartedly enthralled with Another, with One: Jesus Christ. John Donne had it right: Unless we find our deepest satisfaction, comfort, and security in him, we will not be free, and our relationships will be unenthralling more often than not!
Women seeking life in other women—emotionally, sexually, mentally—rather than in Jesus have at least two things in common: They are deeply loved by Jesus who wants to bring freedom and life to their hearts through him. Also, they will continue to experience the ‘captivity of creation’ until they seek life in the Creator.
Do you need a safe place to talk about your struggles, temptations, questions, and hurts in these areas? If so, call us here at Harvest USA. We warmly invite you and will seek to be a safe place for you to process your relational world! Jesus Christ is your Hope, Haven, and Help.
This post was originally placed on the website of Covenant Eyes, www.covenanteyes.org, an amazing internet accountability ministry.
Welcome friend, hope it’s okay to call you friend? It’s fairly personal and we probably don’t know each other but I do want you to know my heart is tender towards you. And while I’m not entangled with pornography, I’m much more like you than different. Yeah, you and I both have been tempted by the desires of our heart to look to creation rather than to the Creator for life, for comfort, for satisfaction in our souls as we seek distraction from something, some one, some feeling.
I dabbled in porn as a junior high girl, before the internet was created so my experience was with magazines I found in my neighbors’ closet. Secret, lingering, and lustful gazes were happening every time I went to babysit and the kids were in bed. My body reacted…aroused by things I’d never seen before. So enticing! So mesmerizing! And…addicting. Amazingly though, those magazines were missing one day when I showed up for my neighborly duties and try as I might, I couldn’t find them! And so…my porn history was cut short to my then-disappointment, but now I shake my head in thankful wonder at God’s merciful intervention.
But I’ve more than dabbled in other addictive, ensnaring habits: food, entertainment, emotionally-enmeshing connections with people and in particular with women. I’ve been the kind of person that Jesus came for: a captive needing to be set free and a broken-hearted woman needing healing. (See Luke 4:18-20 and Isaiah 61:1-3 if you’re interested in his job description!)
Your enslavement to pornography is the fruit of a process that’s happening in your heart friend; or as Paul says in Galatians 6:7-8, it is the ‘harvest’ coming in from seeds you’ve sown. When desires and thoughts go astray from a Christ-ward and Word-centric focus, seeds are being sown toward the nurturing of our flesh. I wonder how you made your first click into a porn site? And how long you lingered there? How long it was before you were drinking in and feasting upon the images again? Then when did you reach the sober destination of, “How did I end up here? How in the world have I become so addicted to this stuff?”
You see, God’s promises often come to us with a combination sober warning and amazing hope. Galatians 6:7-8 is a passage I want to urge you to feast upon, to soak your thoughts upon and to take steps of obedience toward: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked, a man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life!”
For as many women who are addicted to pornography, there are as many paths of sowing seeds that led each one closer to the edge of the pit, and then finally into a seemingly hopeless miry mess, a web of addiction from which escape seems impossible. A lonely heart, a heart in pain seeking escape so as to feel good. Disappointment with life, selfish demands that life flow my way on my terms. Thoughts unchecked and coasting in lust, secretly developed stories of sexual fantasy craving fulfillment. A body that longs for sexual intimacy, and the settling for arousing images that lead towards sex with self. Yearnings for romance with a man or woman, yearning for a person to fill my soul, the easy click into a world of relating where I am queen and have nothing asked of me…or so one thinks. Or so one thinks…seeking life in creation which is sin, will cost us more than we ever imagine and will take us further than we ever want to go. For all of the above, Jesus has come and is a knowing, loving, present Savior, Healer, and Rescuer!
Desires, feelings, pain, dreams, fears, anxieties, soul ache happens to everyone in this world because it’s broken or fallen. This is why Jesus came: to restore creation from corruption and to return us to what we were created for, lives of glory-giving to God—to actually cause 2 Peter 1:3-4 to be reality: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires and participate in the divine nature.”
Friend, there is true, freeing hope for you…it is a person, Jesus. He knows the pains, sorrows, fears, anxieties, longings, and groanings that are in your heart. While porn will smother that pain for a brief time, it cannot heal it, or strengthen you to be the woman God’s beautifully designed you to be! He is your designer and your healer. Will you take the courageous step to be honest about your broken-heartedness, with God and a trusted person in your life? Jesus is saying to you, “Come to me as you are with your pornography enslavement, and I will set you free.” Will you come?
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Lucy sees Aslan, the great lion, for the first time. She was afraid, and rightly so. Lucy whispered to Mrs. Beaver, “Is he safe?” “Safe?” Mrs. Beaver replied, “Of course he’s not safe! But he is good; he’s the King, I tell you!”
Lewis meant for Aslan to be a picture of Jesus—not an exact imitation, but a type. And so this line from the well-loved book has been quoted extensively. I’ve mostly heard it quoted to counter the unbiblical view that following Jesus is a path of ease or boredom. Or the quote is meant to show the ‘wild’ side of God, that he is God, the supreme ruler, and that we can’t contain him in our boxes of comfort. But does that mean that we can’t call him ‘safe’?
I do agree that devotion to Jesus is one of joy and radical surrender, and I do agree that God is God, that he rules and reigns as loving creator and LORD. However, I wouldn’t have said it the way Lewis said it. God is safe, and he is good. In him, our fears, insecurities, and anxieties get swallowed up by the safety of his loving refuge, his very presence. No, he’s not boring, and no, he’s not a genie in a bottle we pull out for our means. This is the radical nature of who he is: He is a powerful king, yet very safe!
“Keep me safe O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord.’ Apart from you I have no good thing!” (Psalm 16:1-2)
Loving people well and living holy lives with our sexuality requires a good, powerful, and safe God. We have one friends! We have One!