The Importance of Naming Our Greatest Desire

“Your deepest desire,” he observes, “is the one manifested by your daily life and habits.” This is because our action—our doing—bubbles up from our loves, which, as we’ve observed, are habits we’ve acquired through the practices we’re immersed in. That means the formation of my loves and desires can be happening “under the hood” of consciousness. I might be learning to love a telos (an ultimate object or aim) that I’m not even aware of and that nonetheless governs my life in unconscious ways.” -James K.A. Smith

I don’t know what to call this particular blog post. God is in the process of surgically reshaping my greatest desires and it is painful. I wanted to just go ahead and share with you some of the things that I am currently thinking about and experiencing. Here goes…

  • Our greatest desire has tremendous power to shape, direct, and influence our life. Think of your greatest desire as the current of a river that is slowly guiding you through life.
  • Here is the problem many of us are facing, often times we are not aware of what our greatest desire truly is. We are busy, distracted, addicted, confused and out of touch with what is really going on in our own heart.
  • Which means that we are being led in life by desires that have been unchecked or unevaluated.

Craig’s greatest desire is to be viewed as successful in ministry. His feelings go up and down based on Sunday morning attendance. He works tirelessly not out of love for God but so that others will respect and esteem him.

Jill’s greatest desire is to have a man in her life. She goes through one man right after another. She has made sexual compromises that she never imagined making.

John’s greatest desire is to go hunting with his friends. John’s kids, and wife, know what his great passion in life is.

Kelly’s greatest desire is to look like the celebrities on Instagram.  She has never been happy with the way that she looks. Food, exercise, and dieting have become evil tyrants in her life.

Mike’s greatest desire is to be appreciated and respected at work. He goes from happiness when he is recognized to anger and despair when he is overlooked.

Lori’s greatest desire is to spend time with her family. She is making a god out of her kids and she is not even aware of it. Her family quietly senses that there is a hole in her heart but they know better than to say anything.

Dylan’s greatest desire is to save enough money so that he can live a comfortable retired life. The few precious days that God has given him on earth will be wasted.

Lisa’s greatest desire is having a nice home. She finds herself obsessing about upgrades and renovations. The buzz from something new or better never lasts very long.

Brandon’s greatest desire is the satisfaction that he gets while he is on his phone. He has no idea that that he spends more time checking his phone than doing anything else.

Each of the above people, if asked, would probably say that their greatest desire is God.

  • If our greatest desire is not God we will become angry, depressed, cynical, bitter, toxic, addicted, etc. The reason is simple, nothing else has ability to satisfy us. For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. -Jeremiah 2:13
  • Once we realize that we are not being made happy by our greatest desire you might think we would wake up and change. Unfortunately, what we do is keep the craziness alive by escaping or numbing ourselves from our pain and refuse to change. This is where addiction begins to tighten its noose around our neck.
  • In order to name our greatest desire we must slow down. We must be quiet. We must come to the realization that our activity and busyness can be our greatest enemy. We need to create space where we can listen to our heart. We must pay attention to our thought life. We must ask God to reveal to us what it is that we care about the most. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that most of us will go though life and refuse to do this hard work of naming our greatest desire.
  • But if we travel down this lonely path then we need to be ready for heavy doses of pain. This desire that we treasure above all others will not leave our life without kicking and screaming. We must be ready for spiritual warfare and it can not be entered into lightly. Recently there has been research that has shown that our addictions actually change the way that our brain works. Leaving these false lovers will be one of the hardest things we ever do.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as you think about what your greatest desire truly is.

Finding Holy In The Suburbs by Ashley Hales

February 22-23, 2019, we are going to have Ashley Hales come out and teach at our Women’s Retreat. One of the moms, Jenna Moffatt, who attends New Life Church, knows Ashley fairly well. So I asked Jenna if she would be willing to share a little bit about “Finding Holy” via my blog. So here you go! BTW-Great job Jenna!

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My third child will be six months old in a few days. I had expected our son’s birth to usher in the highest amount of stress, since research shows (of course) that three children are more stressful than any other number—higher or lower. In many ways, having three has been harder, my husband and I are outnumbered, more time spent nursing than attending to my two daughters or cleaning the house. But, in other ways, number three has ushered in an easier season. I no longer feel the need to strive for perfection around the house, socially, in parenting; rather, three has shown me that these lofty goals are impossible.  I cannot fix myself or parent in such a way that my children will turn out to be the cutest little moral beings that you ever did see. In many ways, Ashley Hales’ book came at a pivotal time for me as a new mother trying to find my place in the craziness of new life.

As I’m feeling temptation of “keeping it all together” slip through my fingertips and combating the guilt of a disheveled stay-at-home mom with discolored grout creeping up my all-white bathroom tile, I wonder what higher calling God has for me in this time. Have you also wondered how the gospel is relevant for where and how you live? In her new book, Finding Holy in the Suburbs, Ashley wrestles with temptations of everyday living in America and graciously orients us toward the story we ultimately were created for. I found that one reviewer stated it best, “[Ashley] only cuts where it can bring healing.” Throughout her beautifully written words, most often with first being vulnerable herself, she consistently points us back to our redeemer, Jesus.

If you’re not from the suburbs, don’t stop here. Her words are relevant for anyone who lives in any community with at least a modest income in America (including in rural communities like my own). The book consists of three sections: common idols that suburban Americans face, living in repentance and belovedness, and then counter steps to take when pursuing holiness.

Idols of the Suburbs

Through these chapters, I discovered that I had fallen victim to idols I had previously fought to identify. Ashley writes in a way that puts words to and holds up a mirror to clearly reflect our sinful desires. In four chapters, she highlights the idols of consumerism, individualism, busyness, and safety, all as means we use to fill healthy hungers like, “having good work to do, to be significant or safe.” Each is a counter-narrative to finding our identity in Christ, who wants us to come home to Him like the prodigal son and celebrate grace from the Father, rather than trying to earn our way like the elder brother.  

The discussion on busyness was particularly convicting. Ashley writes, “instead of trusting in a God who is with us even in the wilderness, in the suburbs we use our busyness to stiff-arm God.” We fall into the belief that our actions will save us, even if they are true and good. When the world is racing madly on, how do we as Christians take a step back and find true rest? The anecdote to all of these temptations is to turn to Christ’s work on the cross: the Gospel.

Now What?

Weaving in Biblical stories of exile of God’s people and then provision for their every need, Ashley points us to the true One who will quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger. At the end of each chapter, she shares practical ways to orient our hearts back to Christ.  She also shares how we can partake in God’s great adventure even if we aren’t called to missions overseas but rather a middle-class cul-de-sac. In the second section of her book, the first steps forward to finding holy are redemption and belovedness. First, to participate in God’s beautiful story and find his kingdom on Earth, we are called to repent. This, “is both a turning from [sin] and a turning toward [God]”. These are the first small steps to being embraced by your Beloved and, consequently, having the ability to extend forgiveness to others in community.  We are also called to quit chasing belonging through what we look like, buy, or do, rather resting solely in being beloved by God. Here, our greatest failures fall away and we find true rest, beauty, joy, and hope.

In the last portion of the book, Ashley presents the practices of hospitality, generosity, vulnerability, and shalom that train our hearts to be fed by God wherever He has us. We must begin small, finding ourselves content in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross to propel us outward, bringing glimpses of the kingdom to our neighborhoods. It requires that we switch the narrative from my story to God’s story. As Ashley states,

The work of beloved is a constant returning to the story of creation, sin, redemption, and glorification. It is in remembering and embodying the story together in our local churches. It is in starting daily liturgies that draw us in to a beauty that overwhelms and is even present through pain.

Only then can we practice true hospitality, give of our time, money, and resources generously, be vulnerable in a way that brings healing to both people and the place we live in, and bring shalom or God’s “faithful presence within” our communities. These exercises give us a taste of the glory of the ultimate Kingdom we await: God coming down to live among us, with no more tears or pain. It is the culmination of joy and beauty and love.

If you, like me, struggle to find the plan God has for you in the trenches of early motherhood, or question why God has brought you to your hometown, rather than the inner-city or abroad, there is hope. You can find Holy in the Suburbs.

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If you are interested in attending the retreat with Ashley please be watching for more details coming soon on our Facebook page.

Discovering Your True God

Everything I am about to write is either inspired by, or taken directly from, a wonderful article called X-ray Questions: Drawing Out The Whys And Wherefores Of Human Behavior, written by David Powlison. I would strongly encourage you to read it but since it is about nine pages long I have decided to give you the condensed version.

Functional God Versus Professed God

It’s rather easy to say that God, as described in the Bible, is the One that we love and worship. It’s quite another thing to live it out in daily life. We need to recognize that there is a difference between our professed god and our functional god. A professed god is the who or what we say our god is, while the functional god is who or what actually operates as our god. Too often the way that we live reveals that there are many other gods that have captured the affections of our heart. Here is an example of how this might play out in your life. Let’s say that after a good deal of reflection you come to the conclusion that you and your spouse spend way more time talking to your kids about sports, grades and college than you do about following hard after Christ. What is the functional god? Success? Materialism? Wealth? Image?

Here are some x-ray questions that are intended to help us scratch beneath the surface and come to grips with what is truly most important to us in our lives.

X-Ray Questions

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you talk about the most?
  • What do you post about (discuss) on social media?
  • What do you think about most often? What do you daydream about?
  • How do you spend your time?
  • How do you spend your money?
  • What are you goals and expectations for life?
  • What do you tend to worry about?
  • What really matters to you?
  • Who must you please? From whom do you value approval and fear rejection?
  • Who are your role models? Who are your heroes? Your hero or idol reveals who you are or who you desire to be like.
  • How do you define success in life?
  • What do you want to get out of life?
  • What do you pray for? What we pray for reveals what we care about most.

So what do you think? Is there a difference between your professed god and your functional god? Your thoughts and ideas?

LENT: Prepare the Way of the Lord (Week 2)

Week 2-Idols and Repentance

Titian Christ Cross 1565Lent is primarily about focusing our hearts and minds on the glorious truths of the gospel. One of the things that keeps us from feasting on the gospel any time of the year is idolatry. (“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” -1 Corinthians 10:14). An idol is anything that we desire or treasure more than God. The tremendous challenge when it comes to talking about idolatry is that we can easily see when someone else has an issue with idolatry but it is really hard to recognize it in our own life. If we want more of Jesus we are going to have to repent of the things in our life that have become a god to us. Here are some diagnostic questions from David Powlison that will help us to see more clearly the idols that exist in our life.

  • What do I worry about most?
  • What do I use to comfort myself when things go bad or get difficult?
  • What do I do to cope? What are my release valves? What do I do to feel better?
  • What preoccupies me? What do I daydream about?
  • What makes me feel the most self-worth? Of what am I the proudest? For what do I want to be known?
  • What do I lead with in conversations?
  • Early on what do I want to make sure that people know about me?
  • What prayer, unanswered, would make me seriously think about turning away from God?
  • What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?
  • What is my hope for the future?
  • What do you blog, tweet or post the most about on social networks?

As you answer these questions you can begin to see things, or people, that have become too important to you. The best way to deal with our idols is by turning to God’s Word. The passage of Scripture that I am recommending for you to meditate on is Psalm 51. Psalm 51 shows us how David responded after he had given into the lust of his heart and committed adultery with Bathsheba. Don’t just read the passage of Scripture. Slow down. Meditate on the words. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of areas of your life that you need to surrender. Ask God to give you the strength to, not merely confess your sin, but to truly hate it and repent of it.

Scripture Meditation:
• Psalm 51

Questions for Reflection
• What is God saying to you through this passage? What will your response be to what God is saying?
• Slowly read over the diagnostic questions. What do they reveal about what you value and treasure most in life?
• Parents, how can you communicate to your kids the dangers of idolatry? Have social media and Iphones become too important to them (sports, boyfriends, girlfriends, success, image)?
• In Psalm 51 David finally comes clean and truly repents of his sin. Is there someone you need to talk to about your battle with sin? Someone that can hold you accountable and help you find spiritual victory?

Picture is ‘Christ Carrying the Cross’ by Titian, 1556. Song is a cover of ‘Clear the Stage’ done by Jimmy Needham.