Never Enough — The Insatiable Hunger of Discontentment

What temporary filler has distracted you from the One who truly fulfills and, as a result, has deepened your ache and left you hollow?

If we were to unpack greed and selfish ambition, I believe we’d find a host of fear, sorrow, insecurities, and emotional wounds beneath them. I’ve noticed my contentment meter shifts dramatically depending on my situation and who I’m with.

Most often, when we’re clamoring after stuff, whether that’s shiny gadgets, fancy clothes, accolades, or fame, we’re not really after the stuff. We’re seeking to find fulfillment and value outside of Christ, and as result, we end up empty and grasping for more.

It’s a depressing cycle.

Greed, at its core, reveals our core beliefs about ourselves and God. Do we believe we have value, not because of what we’ve earned, achieved, or how many likes we’ve accumulated on Facebook? Do we believe God is good, loving, and faithful and true?

Or do we suspect that He’s holding out on us, that He longs to see us miserable, or that He’ll forget about us all together?

This is what happened with Eve back in the Garden of Eden. Perhaps you’re familiar with her story. God had placed her and her husband in a literal paradise, with lush vegetation, beautiful flowers, and absolutely everything they could need or want. Every tree, rose, and softly chirping bird revealed God’s heart, like a thousand love letters scripted just for them. No good thing had He withheld from them.

But one day, Eve entertained an insidious thought, planted during what may have appeared to be a casual, harmless conversation.

The Serpent, “the shrewdest of all the wild animals God had made,” approached Eve and asked, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:2-3).

Nope. In fact, God had said the opposite. Eve and her husband could freely enjoy every nut, berry, and sweet mango. Surrounded by all this abundance, there was but one tree they were not to eat from. And this, rather than all the blessings she’d been freely given, is what Eve chose to focus on.

She took that initial seed of doubt, so carefully planted, and worked it, until she became convinced God was holding out on her.

“She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it too” (Gen. 3:6)

And suddenly, that which initially looked so good, so beautiful and alluring, destroyed them, filling them with shame and shattering the intimacy they’d previously felt with God. By chasing after what God hadn’t granted instead of enjoying what He had, they lost it all.

That’s what greed does. It deceives us into thinking we haven’t been given our due and that what we have isn’t enough. It destroys our ability to enjoy the abundant blessings God has provided. It hurts others, destroys relationships and our integrity, and leads to isolation and ever-increasing discontentment.

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.”

Paul understood this. As a Pharisee, he’d probably seen countless men consumed with greed, who, like the elders in Ephesus, “showed” godliness merely as a way to become wealthy. The result—emotional and spiritual sickness, arguments, jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. In other words, ugliness and a life of drama. These men acted godly but lacked the power to experience the abundant life Christ promised, and instead of turning to Him in order to receive it, they stuffed their hollow and decrepit heart with one empty filler after another.

But God had set Paul free from all that and had given him something deeper, more fulfilling to live for, making everything else appear as rubbish. “Yes, everything else is worthless,” Paul said, “when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Can we say the same? If not, I suggest we ask God to help us love Him more. As we do, everything else will fade.

Let’s talk about this! How does our focus impact our contentment or lack of it? How does a right view of God—who He is, how He loves, and who we are in Him—enable us to feel content with what He’s provided?

Share your thoughts here, in the comments below or in our online Bible study group on Facebook. 

Local friends, join me next week at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha as I share how we can find peace and refreshment in the middle of our crazy and replace anxiety and fear with a deep and abiding faith. You can register HERE.

You might also enjoy:

A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment by Cathy Messecar

 

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Living as an Example

Perhaps it’s because I’m a child of the seventies (or a product of the 21st century), but I can be incredibly stubborn. I tend to think I’ve got all the answers, and when I don’t, I’d much prefer to figure them out myself. Though I’ve gotten better with age, when my husband and I were first married—whew! I was a feisty, opinionated thing who believed I knew, well, everything.

My poor husband! Needless to say, I didn’t take instruction well.

To make matters worse, I was quite literally a mess with zero understanding of what it took to run a household. Back then, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment in a small, railroad/ranching town in Western Nebraska. My husband worked for Union Pacific, and though I waitressed some and sold makeup in the mall, I largely “played house.”

I have no clue what I did with my time, other than watch an obscene amount of “Gilligan’s Island” and “I Love Lucy.” I certainly didn’t clean!

One day, my husband returned from work and I met him at the door with a large bowl filled with black water. “Look!” I said. “I dusted!” I was so proud of that filthy water, as if I’d done such a great thing that day in dusting our tiny home, not realizing the reason the water was so black was because it was the first time I’d dusted in … ever. And we’d been living there for six months.

Needless to say, I wasn’t rocking my role as a wife. So what’d my husband do? Did he follow me around, nagging?

Nope. He simply started picking up. He vacuumed, did the dishes, whatever needed to be done, and all without griping or complaining.

As he did, I watched and learned, a lot.

‘So this is how one manages a home,’ I thought. It sounds pretty ignorant, but there were so many things I hadn’t even considered. I was learning a new role, and with it, I needed to develop a new skill set—a new way of living.

In some ways, this was true for the Ephesians, too. They lived in an incredibly sinful city and many had probably come straight out of paganism. Through Christ, God had given them a new heart and had changed their entire trajectory. Though some of them had probably been in the church for four or five years, they were still learning how to live for Christ.

Paul wanted Timothy to teach them, and in many ways to bring them back to the basics. And to show them with how he lived—in the words he spoke, in his faith, and in his purity—what it looked like to follow Christ. (1 Timothy 4:12-13).

 

Timothy was to be the Ephesians living example, just as Paul had been for Timothy and Jesus had been for the disciples. You may have heard the phrase: more is caught than taught. That’s not to say one shouldn’t actively teach, because Paul definitely wanted Timothy to do that, but if we want to have eternal impact, our actions must line up with our words. Otherwise I fear we’re simply making noise.

Let me close with this: Would you be able to say, with Paul, “Follow my example as I follow Christ”? If not, what needs to change so that you can more accurately represent Jesus? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or in our Facebook discussion page HERE.

If you’re following Maria and my online Bible study–for today’s Scripture reading, I’d like us to look at some of the ways Paul, Timothy’s mentor, set an example for other believers. Read 1 Corinthians 4 verses 1-5 and 14-21.

What stands out to you in these passages? In what ways is your life an example to others?

Before you go, I have fun news! My latest release is free (Kindle version) for a limited time! You can get it HERE!

You can read a short excerpt HERE!

If you missed Maria’s post on Tuesday, which introduced this week’s theme, you can read it HERE!

Speaking of Bible studies, for those who in the Omaha Metro, I wanted to invite you to King of Kings Bible study fall kick off on Sept. 12th. I’ll be speaking on finding rest and nourishment in Christ, no matter how busy and crazy our schedules are. You can find out more HERE.

 

Why Spiritual Training is Necessary

You know those people who absolutely love running? Who can’t wait to lace up their shoes, hit the pavement, and usher forth that endorphin-saturated runner’s high?

That’s not me. I’m more of the cringe inwardly and outwardly type of gals who fights an internal battle every time I go for a jog. In fact, there are many times, if left on my own, I’ll, quite logically, talk myself out of going and into remaining in my PJs on the couch.

Running hurts. It’s hard. It takes time. It makes me sweat and distracts me from the truly important things like scrubbing floors and toilets.

At least, that’s what my comfort zone tries to tell me. But I’ve found, if I put off the physical training for any length of time, it isn’t long before I grow weak and lethargic and my days become marked by fatigue.

Let me explain. In 2011-2012, I got sick, had extreme difficulty digesting, and dropped a ton of weight. Nerve pain soon followed along with a second diagnosis—fibromyalgia. This chronic pain condition is hard to explain to those who don’t have it, but it’s much like having a body-wide toothache accompanied by muscle cramps. Basically, the nerve signals go haywire, acting as if someone turned on an electrical switch then walked away.

Running can, and often does, trigger a pretty intense pain response. There are times, many, when I’m literally brought to tears. There are times when, as I’m lacing up my shoes and thinking of the pain I’ll likely experience, I grow anxious and sick to my stomach.

So why do I do it? Why do I continue to subject myself to such torture?

Because I know that hour of pain is temporary but the benefits of pushing through last a lifetime. It’s about quality of life for me.

The same is true in regard to spiritual training. We tend to balk at the word “discipline,” because let’s face it, practicing godliness is hard. It takes conscious thought, continual practice, and determination. It’s so much easier to give in to our emotions and desires. To get swept up in godless chatter and meaningless speculations (1 Tim. 4:7, 1 Tim. 1:4), in gossiping and venting (1 Tim. 3:11), in feeding my pride and self-love (1 Tim. 2:9-10) instead of living as God desires.

And yet, we know where those behaviors lead; they aren’t pretty or effective. Rather, they’re destructive. They cause disunity, distrust, quarrels and fights, scheming, jealousy, and places us in direct opposition to God. (James 4).

Learning and practicing obedience, on the other hand, brings unity, peace, increased love, and a deeper fellowship with Christ. (John 15:14) The more we respond obediently to Christ, the more sensitive we become to His leading, and our godliness grows. The more we ignore Him or rebel against Him, the more hardened our hearts and more dulled our consciences become.

Training isn’t easy. Many times, we’ll have to say no to something pleasant in the moment, perhaps sleeping in, to say yes to something we know will help us long term, like developing a morning quiet time. But training is good. Healthy. Important. It helps protect us from deception and strengthens us to live godly, Christ-centered lives—lives filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith (1 Tim. 1:5).

Ultimately, this training is a process of learning to die to ourselves, moment by moment, so that God can live and love others through us. It’s a journey of moving past self-love in order to display agape love, because, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40, this forms the foundation of the entire Old Testament (which, back then, made up the complete Bible).

Spiritual training involves practicing disciplines like reading our Bibles daily, praying, fasting, taking time for silence and meditating on Christ and His word, meeting with other believers, serving others, and worshiping God through words and song. Which of these can you practice this week in order to grow stronger spiritually and closer to Christ?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the discussion in our Bible study Facebook group. For those following along with the 1 Timothy study, today’s suggested Bible reading is Matthew 22:37-40, Romans 12.

You might also enjoy:

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

The Danger of Words

It’s interesting how vehemently the Christian community come against some sins while others are tolerated. Almost expected. Entertained even.

When we lived in Southern California, our church went through an ugly split. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew people were hurt. I could hear it in our pastor’s voice, when he spoke to the congregation. I could see it on his wife’s face, when her tears flowed during worship.

Though I was ignorant to the issue, I could feel the toxic tension every Sunday.

I wonder if this was what Timothy felt whenever he stepped up to speak. Did he sense the tension that arose from the false teachers who, though small in number, had such influence over the congregation? And what was going on with the women who appeared to be jockeying for position and fighting for prestige. (1 Tim. 2:9-10)

What did their conversations look like?

You’ve probably encountered women like them—ladies who are so consumed with pride, in impressing others and gaining power, they don’t care who they hurt. Under the guise of venting, they gossip and slander, creating an infectious mess that hinders the work of Christ.

When you read 1 Timothy 3, you may notice, verse 11 is directed specifically to women. Why do you think that is?

Perhaps because we tend to sin with our tongues?

Paul tells Timothy the women “must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do” (NLT).

The Greek word translated as slander (or slanderer) here means an accuser or one who makes charges that bring others down.

John MacArthur says, “It’s a title frequently given to Satan.” (Matt. 4:5, 8, 11, 13:39; Luke 4:3, 5, 6, 13; 8:12 …)

That doesn’t surprise me. Satan is a destroyer bent on thwarting God’s plans, causing confusion and disunity, and shattering the most sacred of all relationships.

In Southern California I had a friend with a child my daughter’s age. We’d meet on occasion, at the park, her house, or mine. Most of the time, our conversations remained surface level, until one day she started to “vent.”

She’d gotten herself swept up with whatever was going on in the church and “verbally processed” her feelings and conclusions to me., much of which involved not facts but her opinion of our pastor.

I left confused and concerned. I still didn’t know the full situation—only this one woman’s perceptions. And even though I didn’t want to be involved, even though I had no business being involved, I began to question.

Was our pastor really like she said? As I was driving home processing all this, a thought emerged: This is how Satan works. This is how he destroys churches and relationships.

That ended my “musings” immediately.

Granted, there are things we should investigate and get concerned about. We must protect truth. We should lovingly confront sin. But not through “venting,” or gossip or trying to pull everyone else into the mess. Jesus laid out clear instructions for how we should handle conflict in Matthew 18:15-19, and if you’ll read them, you’ll notice, never once does He tell us to stir the pot or spew our feelings to whoever will listen or even to our besties. We’re to go directly to the individual.

Our tongues can speak life or death, can foster unity or disunity, can create healing and reconciliation or hurt and destruction. If we want to verbally process, may we go to God. He’s the only One who knows the full situation—and solution—anyway. And in everything we do say, may we follow Paul’s commands in Ephesians 4:29:

“No foul (unwholesome, useless, rotten, or of poor quality) words come from [our mouths], but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”

Can you sense God’s call to love in that verse? Not self-love that focuses on our feelings, the offense done to us, or our need to verbally unload, but rather what is good for the body of Christ and God’s kingdom. Rooted in a love that is other’s focused—a love that comes from “a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

What are some things can you do when your in a conversation where a person or the group begins to gossip or slanderous things?

Counting Down to Our Study

So soon to launch day!

July 11th! 

I’m excited! I learn so much dialoguing with other women! Not to mention, I cherish the relationships I develop when I “sit” (online or in person) and study God’s Word, the Bible. There’s something unifying, something incredibly nourishing and fulfilling, some peace-ensuing, about soaking in God’s timeless truths.

I hope you’ll join us!

We’ve created our Facebook page and working hard, studying, praying, in preparation. We can’t wait to take this journey with you as we journey together with Christ, learning how to live lives of love.

I have a tendency to make things entirely too complicated. To get myself fixated on, to worry about, and obsess over things that simply don’t matter. If I’m not careful, I can be swayed by other people’s opinions, sucked into mindless chatter, enthralled by sensationalized news broadcasts.

Unless I intentionally fight against this, my life can be characterized by whatever is going on around me rather than what God is trying to do in and through me. I can easily allow all the gunk to rob me of my focus, my passion … and my purpose.

Life without purpose is empty, and that is not the kind of life God has called us to! God has called us to a live lives of impact characterized by a deep love for Him and His children. Regardless of what is going on around us. And I believe He’s given us the tools to live that out in a letter written by a man to his young, insecure mentee some 2,000 years ago.

Over the next ten weeks, join Maria Morgan and I as we dig deep into this ancient yet incredibly relevant book to learn how we can live filled with the love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith.

Here’s what to expect:

Tuesday –
*an in depth look at the week’s verse/passage (on Maria’s site)
*suggested Bible reading & discussion questions (on Maria’s site)
*discuss what God has shown you (right here on Facebook)

Wednesday –
*relevant Bible reading & additional questions for you to consider (right here on Facebook)

Thursday –
*a short testimonial with personal application and a brief discussion (on Jennifer’s site)

Friday –
*final Bible reading with discussion questions to wrap up the week (right here on Facebook)

 

Growing in Love–a 1 Timothy Bible study

Follow the fruit–I read that statement during a time when my life seemed to contradict it. Or at least, when my circumstances left me confused and uncertain. I knew God was up to something, I could sense it deep within, but I hadn’t a clue what that was.

Lots of opportunities seemed to come my way, and many of them quite good, if they were from God. But if they weren’t, I knew they’d merely be noisy, time-sapping distractions. My heart mirrored Moses’s words in Exodus 33:15: “Then he said to [God], ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.'”

In other words, if God wasn’t in it, I wanted nothing to do with it. I refused to waste my time pushing against a wall that would never move or leave no lasting impact. The converse was also true–I wasn’t moving unless I sensed God’s nudge.

At first, I got nothing. No divine word. No clarity or confirmation. Zilch.

After a while, I figured He didn’t plan on speaking, which was His prerogative. He’s God, after all, and I’m not arrogant enough to think He owes me anything.

So, I went about my way, vacillating in indecision while fulfilling the responsibilities I’d already accepted, because I knew this much–God wants us to be a people who honor their commitments. One of these responsibilities included completing a class I was taking at Grace University, one that felt almost identical to classes–three, in fact–that I’d taken previously.

My attitude stunk. This again, Lord? But I already know all this!

If the fruit God was referring to was the fruit of the Spirit, mine had shriveled to raisons. And it turned out, I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, as is often the case.

But, regardless how I felt, regardless how vague the road ahead, I kept walking, and two weeks into this class, I became obsessed with 1 Timothy. Each morning, I’d camp out in the corner of my couch, Bible and journal opened, reference books within reach. This was a special, intimate time between me and my Savior.

So often, we discover the blessing through obedience.

So this is the fruit, Lord–spending time with You.

“This isn’t for you.”

I stopped and simply sat there. Glanced at my notebook full of notes, thought again of those Bible study classes I’d taken, and that simple statement encountered one day in the assigned reading:

“Follow the Fruit.”

That same day, I received numerous messages from Christians who’d read articles I wrote for Crosswalk–those with broken marriages desperate for a do-over, those wanting to know how they could grow in Christ, those who simply wrote to tell me how much a particular piece had meant to them. And suddenly, simultaneously, my blog seemed to be blowing up. As if, over night, God had sent people my way.

But what did all this mean?

I knew He was showing me something, but I still wasn’t certain what that was. So I prayed for guidance. I can’t say I’ve received it, as of yet, other than my next step, which is usually about as far as God allows me to see.

And this, my friends, is what this post is all about. That obsession for 1 Timothy–it wasn’t for me. Oh, it was, and it is. There’s so much God wants to do in my life through that book, so much growth He wants to bring about, so much truth He longs to implant within my heart, but I believe there’s also a lot He wants to do in yours.

Will you join me and a friend as we dig deep into this practical book written during a time of incredible opposition and persecution to a man known for being timid and insecure? Together, may we pursue lives of love that come from pure hearts and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Those of you who’ve participated in my online Bible studies in the past know the format. This 10-week online discussion will be incredibly informal as Maria Morgan launches each week with some basic information on each lesson’s verse/passage. Then I’ll follow on Thursday with a testimonial devotion pointing toward real-life application.

We’ll also have weekly memory verses, because there’s power in Scripture, and I believe living empowered includes making the Bible part of us. You can join the discussion as your schedule allows here, on Maria’s blog, or on Facebook. (If you haven’t connected with Maria, I suggest you do. She’s a wonderful sister in Christ who loves Jesus with everything in her and loves to walk alongside other women as they grow in faith and love.)

We’re excited to travel on this journey with you!

Start date: July 11th.

Posting dates and topics:

On Tuesday July 11th, Maria will open the study with a look at 1 Timothy 1:5, which is our theme verse and the main point of our study, discussing this verse in detail. Then on Thursday July 13th, I’ll share a testimonial thought and life-application.

July 18th and 20th, we’ll focus on 1 Tim 1:12-17, discussing what it means to live as testimonies to God’s grace.

July 25th and 27th, we’ll discuss 1 Timothy 2:9-10, focusing on the dangers and destructive nature of pride.

August 1st and 3rd, we’ll focus on 1 Timothy 3:11 and the importance of guarding our tongue, taking an honest look at slander, venting, gossip, and why these types of conversations are so harmful.

August 8th and 10th, we’ll discuss one of my favorite verses in 1 Timothy–4:7-8, dialoguing on spiritual disciplines and our responsibility, as believers, to be intentional about our growth. (Spoiler alert: If we belong to Christ, growth isn’t an option; it’s an expectation.)

August 15th and 17th, we’ll discuss 1 Timothy 4:12, talking about what it means to live with integrity, love, and faith–showing others what it looks like and means to walk with Christ.

August 22nd and 24th, we’ll take a look at 1 Timothy 4:13, discussing ways (and the importance of) limiting our focus in order to maximize our effectiveness for Christ.

August 29th and 31st, we’ll discuss 1 Timothy 6:6-8, talking about the necessity and blessings of learning and practicing contentment–choosing contentment! 😉

Then we’ll close on September 5th and 7th with 1 Timothy 6:11-12 with a discussion on staying engaged in the battle.

Discussion days/times: Ongoing; participate when it’s convenient for you.

We’re really excited to get to know each of you better, grow closer to Christ, did deeper into His word, and to grow in love, faith, and purity. I hope you’ll join us!