Our house serves as the domain of two shih tzu dogs named Zeus and Zoe. I love our dogs, but they have this one irritating problem: they have an insatiable appetite for chocolate.
Years ago, my wife and daughters went out of town the weekend before Christmas. For a pastor, holiday weekends are extremely busy. So after our Saturday night worship service at church, I dragged through the front door to discover Zeus and Zoe listless on the floor.
Apparently, they found a package under the Christmas tree that contained a box of chocolates, and they ate all of them. Every last one.
Scattered throughout the house were small piles of, well…you know…chocolate dog throw-up. On our white carpet.
I didn’t know if I should feel sorry for the dogs or be angry at them.
Not to worry, after a weekend of involuntary fasting, the dogs were back to their normal selves. The carpet didn’t fare so well.
Strangest of all, the dogs haven’t learned their lesson. This same escapade has repeated itself over and over again. Chocolate Easter bunnies. M&Ms. Reeses Peanut Butter Cups (they really like them!). And I’m forced to clean up the mess. On the white carpet.
What do you do when you crave what kills you. How do you change?
Please join me as we explore this in our daily Bible conversation.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Psalm 68:1-18. “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (verse 5). These words speak hope to people who have lived without a father or spouse. Although I’ve been blessed with both, dear friends of mine have not—including my co-blogger Eugene, who has spent most of his life without his father. Yet God willingly, lovingly steps into that void.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Eugene and I recently realized that the most popular blog post this year was the August 2 post entitled “The Only Way People Change.” Every day, a handful of people read it.
All of us want to change, but quite often we don’t know how.
“See, I am doing a new thing,” God spoke through the prophet Isaiah. “I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).
God was likely referring to the new covenant he was making with his people through Jesus.
The old way of doing things was no longer working for Israel. Actually, it had never worked quite right. Despite their best intentions, God’s chosen people continually gravitated toward worshipping idols.
In the next chapter, God exposes the folly of idolatry. Out of the same block of wood, a craftsman can fashion a god while throwing the leftover pieces in the fire. A blacksmith can take the same piece of metal to create either an idol or a farm implement.
It’s just wood or metal, God says. But like the old song reminds us, “Breaking up is hard to do.” Change doesn’t come easily.
Lest we look down our noses at the peculiar worship practices of people from long ago, we continue to gravitate toward the same idols. The gods of old promised prosperity, pleasure, and security—gods that many of us worship today.
If you’re wondering what gods you gravitate toward worshipping, just take a closer look at how you spend your time or money. Ask yourself, What secrets do I guard most closely?
So how do we overcome our death-giving habits? What do we do when we crave what kills us?
1. Understand the depths of God’s love for you. “Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen,” God reassures his people in Isaiah 44:2. Jeshurun was a term of endearment that means “upright.” Regardless of how deep our compulsions suck us in, God still loves us and looks at us with affection. Even when we sin.
Also notice that God tells his beloved but flawed not to be afraid. Fear always accompanies change.
Paul reiterates the depths of God’s love in our reading from Ephesians 3:17-19:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Knowing in our inmost being the depths of Christ’s love changes us.
2. Acknowledge the foolishness of your sin. Your death-giving habits are no different than idols of wood or metal. They will never satisfy. Never. Remind yourself of this.
3. Repent. This word has fallen out of favor in our society, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less important. “Return to me, for I have redeemed you” God beckons his wayward people in Isaiah 44:21-22. And that’s the definition of repentance: turning our back on our idols. That’s the only way we can break free from them. Repentance and change go hand in hand. It means creating new habits, changing old ones, and exchanging death-giving habits for life-giving habits.
4. Draw strength from the Holy Spirit. In Isaiah 44:3, God promises, “I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” We have an advantage over the people of Isaiah’s day because they didn’t have the Holy Spirit living inside them. If you’ve given your life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in you. Believe and live it.
Like my dogs Zeus and Zoe, the craving for what kills you will probably remain the rest of your life. My favorite line in the hymn Come Thou Fount says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”Throughout out lives we will fight the tendency to abandon the God who remains faithful to us.
But when you understand the depths of God’s love and that the Holy Spirit lives in you, you also realize that you no longer need to follow your compulsions. The deepest part of you isn’t even you, it’s Christ.
Endless books have been written on addictions and idolatry, so I won’t try to exhaust the subject here. But be encouraged in this: although God is changeless, he’s always doing a new thing in our lives, which often requires change. A change in lifestyle. A change in perspective. A change in character.
Following God into the new thing might be scary, but it brings us new life.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- How can a person invite God into the void of a father or husband?
- What idols do you gravitate toward? What changes is God calling you to?
- How can you rely on the Holy Spirit to make the change?
- What has helped you overcome the craving that kills you?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.