The truth is we all long for more of God than we experience.
We want God to show up, to love us in the places that yearn for Him most, to make a difference we can feel and see.
Waiting for God can be like waiting for sex. (Bear with me.)
Consider a bride-to-be who can’t wait to come together sexually with the man she loves. She wants him and she wants to be wanted by him. (Sound anything like how you feel about God?)
What are her choices in how to deal with her desires?
- She can try to shut them down, to pretend like they’re not there. To do this successfully, she’ll have to pull away from her fiancé—relationally, emotionally, or in proximity.
- She could also take her desires elsewhere. Since her future husband isn’t available sexually, she could find someone else who is.
These are similar to the temptations we face when we feel God isn’t showing up for us. We can lower our hopes, assuming God doesn’t care much about how we feel, so we best get used to it. Or we can try to satisfy our desires with a temporal fix—using alcohol, food, sex, entertainment, work, even ministry.
But here’s an important question: What does the bride-to-be do to their wedding night by choosing 1 or 2? What does it cost their relationship as a whole?
Neither option is helpful for a bride and groom, and neither is helpful for us in our relationships with God.
Of course, there is another option:
What if instead of these, though the bride-to-be burns with unmet desire for him, she waits? What if, instead of running from her desire or running somewhere else with it, she embraces it?
How would that wedding night be different?
God knows you want more of Him. It’s nothing to be ashamed of in front of him. Your unmet hunger is not a sign he’s holding out on you, it’s a sign he made you for more of him. And like a good bridegroom, he loves that you want more of him, and he wants more of you, too.
Christ, our bridegroom, shows us his willingness to wait for us through the cross. There, he bore into his body all the ways we shut down from him and all the ways we left him for another lover. And it was there he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”
Don’t shut down your longing for him. And don’t take it elsewhere. Instead, wait with him. Press your longing into his body on the cross.
The wedding of the Bride and Bridegroom is coming.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready (Revelation 19:7).
Question: What helps you “wait” when God doesn’t seem to be showing up for you where you need or long for him? Share a comment below.
Our waitress glanced toward the kitchen miserably, like I’d just added an hour’s worth of work to her day.
I looked around at the spattering of others in the restaurant (hardly a rush); then, when she walked away, I leaned across the table and whispered to my friend, “She’s a grump.”
Maybe. But this was also an opportunity for me, and I missed it.
Two days later I was back at the same restaurant with my daughter. I scanned the room as the hostess seated us in a different section, certain we’d have a more amiable waitress.
A moment later, Ms. Grumpy stood over us. “Coffee?”
“Just water, thanks,” I said. Bullet dodged.
She left our menus and headed to the kitchen. A minute later, I heard the phone ring. Not my phone, her phone. She was headed toward us but stopped, put down the water on the service counter, and answered.
“Wow,” I thought, “Grumpy and she takes personal calls while she’s working.” Now I was getting grumpy. And thirsty.
“When will I be able to talk to him?” she asked, sounding worried now. She listened, eyes down. “But he’s okay, right? They said he was shot in the arm. So why is he in critical condition?”
As the conversation continued, it wasn’t difficult to piece together what was happening. Up until a couple days ago, her son had been in Afghanistan. There’d been a firefight. He was wounded. Now he was in Germany, just out of surgery.
It also became clear that not only had our waitress been unable to talk with him, she wasn’t getting the full story about his condition.
She tried but couldn’t hold back her tears.
I’d missed an opportunity. She wasn’t Ms. Grumpy. She was a mom worried to death about her boy.
Let me rewind for a moment. You know who the “friend” was I’d whispered to two days earlier? My mom, in for a visit from Colorado. You think maybe that tapped into something for our waitress?
Here’s the truth: You and I can’t see accurately. On our own, we can only see objects (things that bring us pleasure) or obstacles (things that get in the way of our pleasure).
Not so for Jesus. He always sees people—men, women, moms, dads, sons, daughters. I don’t know about you, but I want to see more like he does.
Jesus, I’m addicted to viewing people for what they can or can’t do for me. Through my attitudes, words, and actions, I’ve missed opportunities you’ve given me to love. This day, would you open my eyes to see what you see?
Question: Do you have a story of a time you failed to see a person, and only later realized you missed an opportunity to love? Or do you have a story when somehow God opened your eyes to see, and it made all the difference? Leave a comment below.
P.S. Guess what T-shirt I happened to be wearing during the 2nd breakfast?
Pornography’s story—and its allure—is that it bares all, and that the woman (or man) you see just loves to have sex and loves for others to watch.
Porn’s secret is that even with all it shows, it hides exponentially more.
Pornographers keep this secret because what’s hidden changes its story, and changes it so substantially that when people learn it, they may never think about porn the same again.
Over the past several years, I’ve learned a lot about what porn is hiding. Most importantly, I’ve learned how much it hides of the woman you’re seeing—the real woman.
It hides that when she was little, she wanted the same thing any little girl wants. To be loved, to be cherished and protected, to be someone’s delight just for who she is, not for what she can do for them.
It hides what happened in between—that she was broken. It hides the sexual abuse, and how this hyper-sexualized persona is a futile attempt to take back control of her own body.
It hides the men on the other side of the camera. It hides that some allowed things to be done to her she didn’t sign up for and didn’t want. It hides how when it’s hurting her, they’ve responded with “keep rolling,” and told her if she doesn’t finish the scene, she won’t get paid.
It hides her loneliness and what it’s like for her when she goes home after a shoot. It hides the worried mom and dad back home, or worse, hides the family she ran away from because they didn’t care where she ended up. It hides the alcohol and drugs she keeps nearby to numb the ache.
And it hides that what she wanted when she was a little girl is what she wants deep in her heart still.
Jesus sees. For him, the secret is the real story, the only story that matters. He sees more in the pages of pornography than we can imagine. And for this—for her—he went to the cross, let himself be exposed naked, beaten, leered at, spit on.
For those of us who have indulged in pornography, Jesus invites us to walk with Him, and to let Him heal our eyes to see the real woman. The more men do, the less porn tempts.
A good friend recently was walking through a parking when he discovered it was littered with pornography. There was a time when this would have been more temptation than he could handle. This time, though, he combed the parking lot and picked up each page and threw them immediately in the dumpster.
Love for her compelled him and love for her kept him from temptation.
Don’t get me wrong. This man’s walked a long, hard road of restoration, he’s learned to walk with Jesus in this area of his life, and Jesus has changed him*. He knows the true story.
I hope more and more men will embark on the long journey of restoration, will do whatever it takes to break free from the illusion porn’s trying to tell.
And I hope she hears about it, and feels loved in a way that begins to re-awaken hope that there is One who cherishes her for who she is not what she can do for Him.
Walking with Him for her,
* This is what Regeneration is about – helping people deepen their relationship with Christ that those caught in sexual sin can walk in freedom.
P.S. For examples of Jesus truly seeing a woman whom others viewed with eyes of lust or scorn, see Luke 7:36-50, John 4:7-26, John 8:1-11.
Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments for two monumental cases regarding the future of marriage in our country. The court could
rule in several ways, but ultimately, what they decide could clear the way for same-sex marriage to become the law of the land across the U.S.
With so much at stake, people from both sides of this debate showed up in D.C. last week.
I was invited by two dear friends to join them last Tuesday for the “March for Marriage” in D.C. in support of marriage as a union between a man and woman only.
I didn’t want to go.
I hate the anger, the failure on both sides to truly see and hear one another, but mostly, I hate the accusations that are thrown at those who support heterosexual marriage and oppose same-sex marriage.
I don’t like to be called stupid, a religious zealot, or a “homophobe.” I don’t like being accused of discrimination or regarded as one contributing to a culture of bullying and violence against gay and lesbian people.
I’m not any of these things.
On the flip side, I also don’t like to be associated with some of what I see on the “traditional marriage side.” People who shake their heads in disgust, who yell “Jesus is the answer!” or worse yet, who hold vitriolic signs and yell hatefully at those in favor of gay marriage.
I’m not these either.
So, I didn’t want to go. Like many others, I felt like neither side would represent me.
But I did join the march.
Why? For a few reasons:
First, as I prayed about it (including arguing with God—It’s just not me!), I sensed this is what he wanted of me: not to hold a sign, not to shout, not to look past people; but simply to walk, to pray, and to be as present as I could.
Second, I realized that not wanting to be associated with less-than-loving voices is what keeps many loving people from standing up for what they believe is in the best interest of all in relation to marriage. And this means more loving, good, and sound voices are needed, not less.
(I should also add, there were so many peaceable, loving, and reasonable voices walking in this march, and I’m grateful for them.)
And finally, I recognized I was tempted to cower because of what people would think of me. When I stripped this away, I saw afresh simply that marriage as God designed it is vitally important, and worth standing up for wherever God’s design for marriage between a man and woman is threatened—whether by same-sex marriage, sex outside of marriage, divorce, adultery, pornography, or myriad other distortions that, at the end of the day, really just put the happiness of adults before the best interest of children.
It’s time more disciples of Jesus simply let others know God’s heart for marriage.
There’s a powerful message among us that is wreaking havoc everywhere.
It goes something like this: God restricts you to only a little bit, but there is so much more to have!
For some, this is an empowering call to liberation from outdated religious restrictions. For others, it’s a stoic call to crush dangerous desires.
And there’s nowhere this message and these conflicting responses are more prevalent than in the area of sexual desire.
But we have it backwards.
In the beginning, God didn’t give Adam and Eve a small portion. He gave them . . . everything.
He withheld only one thing: just one tree. “From this tree you shall not eat” (Gen. 2:17).
So where do we get the idea that God offers only a little?
They chose it.
The mother and father of the human race said ‘no’ to all God had given. Out of all the gardens, groves, and forests of the earth, they became fixated on the one tree, the little bit . . . until they gave up everything for its fruit.
What about you? Where are you fixated on something God has said ‘no’ to? Does it seem like freedom, spaciousness, love, or life is there?
If so, don’t be fooled.
Adam and Eve’s story repeats itself in the lives of men and women everywhere in our day—for both those abandoned to their lusts and those holding stalwartly to their morals. (Interestingly, addiction recovery meetings include people from both groups, all with similar stories of fixating on that one thing, giving more and more for it, getting less and less from it, and for some, losing everything as a result.)
Jesus has another way for us.
It starts out narrow (Mt. 7:14), but its destination is vast and free. The way is through his cross—a very different tree from which he invites us all to “Take, eat” (Mt. 26:26).
Today is Good Friday. Where are you longing (sexual or otherwise)? Where are you hungry for more? Where have you become convinced God offers only a little compared to all that is available? Instead of indulging or repressing these hungers, come hungry to the tree where Christ’s body is nailed. “Take, eat.”
It may look and feel to you like the small portion, or even like death.
But resurrection follows.
We live in a world that pursues pleasure endlessly. But pleasure is elusive.
When we experience a great vacation, a fantastic meal, a powerful church service, or a meaningful time with friends, we say, “We’ve got to do that again!”
But when we try to repeat it, we find it just wasn’t quite the same. Occasionally it comes close, and sometimes it’s even better, but often, if we’re honest, we’re disappointed.
This is a fantastic video by Louie Schwartzberg. Enjoy!
We can’t control or corral pleasure. We can’t package it. People try, but it can’t be done.
So what can you do?
Release your grip, and open both your hands to God.
With one hand, receive what you haven’t been seeing.
Open your eyes, ears, and all your senses to the gifts God has for you today. This means asking for what you want but releasing your certainty that you can’t be happy without it. The enemy tries to get us fixated on the one thing we don’t have (he did with Adam and Eve), and we lose sight of all God is giving. Instead, practice gratitude.
With your other hand, reach for the unseen.
Reaching for the unseen means embracing you’re made for eternity. And so, it also means accepting you will live, for now, with an unfulfilled ache. Anyone far from home does. Allow the ache to remind you who and whose you are, and of the joy coming.
One more note:
Just as he did with Adam and Eve, the enemy will keep telling you God is holding out on you and that there is earthly pleasure that will fill the ache. Gratitude will combat the temptation to grasp for pleasure. But also, bring your ache to Christ on the cross. Press your empty hands against his open hands, press your longing heart to his exposed chest, and turn your hungry eyes to search the depths of his eyes.
Want more pleasure? Good. You were made for more. Don’t settle for less.
Here’s a challenge: Right now, right where you are, stop and identify three gifts that are yours to experience (or ignore) today. Share them below.
Trying to open my hands,
One of the most captivating elements of the show is also one of the most disturbing: it’s incredibly difficult to know who the good guys are. Season after season, those who seem like allies end up being enemies.
And each time, as difficult as it is to discover that one of the survivors’ “friends” is actually a foe, it’s also good news. When their enemies are exposed, they’re no longer able to covertly stop the survivors’ attempts to go home.
The same thing is true in our individual battles for sexual purity.
There are two primary “friendly” voices competing for our attention when it comes to sexual desire. The first is the voice of indulgence: Your desires tell you who you are. Don’t resist. Enjoy!
The other voice is the voice of suppression: Your desires are bad. Repress them. You’ll be a better person if only you can resist.
I’m guessing one or the other of these voices has sounded like a friend to you, probably both at different times.
Which one is truly your friend?
They’re both versions of what the New Testament calls “walking in the flesh,” and they don’t work. Well, they do work (together) to keep you captive to your cravings. They don’t work to set you free.
Here’s a better way: rest and receive.
Resting means you let go of your own attempts at being your own savior, of earning the love, forgiveness, and purity you need. Instead, you let Christ save you, and you choose to receive him as a gift from God.
Receiving means you open your hands and accept the gifts God gives. It’s not a passive activity. It’s saying yes to God’s grace when you least deserve him, and it’s saying yes to God’s grace when you think you most deserve him.
If these sound relational to you, then you’re getting it. They bring you face to face with the One who is the Rescuer and the Giver of all good gifts. In union with him, freedom will come. And along the way, you’ll discover He’s the friend you’ve been needing.
Question: Obviously, there’s so much more that could be said. Add your ideas and experience! What helps you rest in Christ and receive his grace for dealing with habitual sin? Leave a comment below.
It’s a powerful idea.
And it’s more than just an interesting theological question. All of us have something within our reach that looks good but is off limits.
Whatever it is in your life, you may be tempted to believe (like my friend did) that the reason it looks so good, or feels so right, or has been there so long, or doesn’t go away, is because God wants you to have it.
(Many churches are saying just this regarding sexual expression outside marriage, divorce and remarriage, or homosexual relationships, to name a few.)
There are so many things I don’t know, but I think there are other reasons God allows temptation—reasons that are ultimately much more satisfying than “he must want this for me.”
Here are three:
- God wants you to know you can say “no” to temptation. Obeying every impulse is not freedom; freedom is being able to say “no” to our impulses. God gave Adam and Eve authority over temptation and the serpent. They never found out how powerful their authority was. Will you?
- God has given you others and himself. He is not indifferent or afar off. He is very near, perhaps especially in the midst of the most intense temptations. Adam and Eve did not learn to walk in the fire with one another, nor with him. Will you?
- God knows unless you are absolutely free, you will not be able to love. Love and freedom go hand in hand. If you were not given the option to say no to God, your yes wouldn’t mean anything. God will not force you to love him. The question that remains is, will you give him your yes?
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Leave a comment below: What helps you trust that God is for you even in the midst of intense, ongoing temptation?
When we come face to face with one of these parts, we have a choice in how we respond.
Many respond by following a logic like this: If you see a rat in your house, you get out a broom and take a whack at it. (Or something, anything, to get rid of it, and fast.) So you see something ugly in your life, you do the same thing—you try to hide it, stop it, silence it, defeat it, kill it—anything to get rid of it as quickly as possible.
The problem is, just like swinging a broom in your house, you’re bound to break something else you don’t intend to, maybe even something valuable. And, well, it rarely works to get rid of the rodent.
As an alternative to beating the ugly parts of you up with a broom, I’d like to recommend a second option: Come to the foot of the cross, open your hands, and receive Christ’s love . . . right there in the ugly place.
Is the ugly part lust? Let Christ on the cross love your eyes.
Is the ugly part gluttony? Let the crucified Jesus love your stomach and your taste buds.
Is the ugly part same-sex attractions? Let your holy Lover love sexual desire in you.
Maybe it’s something else—envy, fear, greed, mistrust, rage, a lack of desire for God. Whatever it is, Jesus’ cross is your answer.
In short, let God love the unlovely parts.
Picture Christ’s blood pouring out over those places, open your hands to His love, and over time, watch what happens.
Share your experience with others! What helps you to put the broom down and instead, to allow God to love the unlovely places in you? And what are some practical exercises or spiritual disciplines you’ve used that help you receive His love in those places? Leave a comment below.
P.S. If you find it difficult to receive God’s love in a particular area (and you will—everyone does), you’ll need a trusted friend, mentor, pastor, or counselor to help you.
Then you’re tapped into a holy desire.
Wanting to be beautiful is different than wanting to look beautiful. Wanting to look beautiful can be driven by vanity—an impulse to get noticed, to be admired, to draw people to yourself. In short, this is a desire to be attractive. And it’s a trap, a snare on the path to true beauty.
If you sense a longing to be beautiful, don’t try to fulfill it in front of the mirror. There’s nothing wrong with a makeover, a gym membership, or a new suit. But none of this is the sum of the beauty you’re after.
There’s another name for this kind of beauty. It’s called goodness.
Haven’t you met people you found “attractive,” but your sense of their beauty soured as you got to know them?
And likewise, don’t you know people who were unimpressive at first glance but as you spent time with them, their beauty became undeniable to you?
Jesus is this kind of beautiful. And if you’ll let him, he can make you beautiful, too.
I’d love your input: Do you agree that deep down we’re not so much after looking beautiful as we are being beautiful? If so, why do you think we settle for the appearance of beauty? Leave a comment below.