HOW DO WE HANDLE OUR “OBSESSIONS”?

Everyone has some kind of obsession.  We call them by other names like “hobbies,” “passions,”  “preoccupations,”  “preferences,”  “peculiarities,”  “proclivities,” “infatuations,” “distractions,”  “pet-peeves,” “eccentricities,” and “intense focus.” Now these terms sound much more innocent & harmless  than the term “obsession” and in themselves, I suppose, they could be. But when they cross the line into that practice or object upon which we continually fix our minds to the detriment of the “big stuff” of life and the biblical requirements of life… we are now controlled by our obsessions and not by our Lord.

I have a question. When do we cross the line with our “obsessions”?  Well,  there was a homemaker named Martha who was obsessed with the kitchen and as a result lost her opportunity to spend quality time with Jesus who was in her home (Luke 10:40-41). There was the most beautiful woman ever created named  Eve who became obsessed with the fruit of one tree when she was told it would make her smarter and more beautiful. Her obsession began to control her to the point that she became  blinded to all the other great fruit trees God had given her and her husband to enjoy. We all know the result of that obsession (introduced by Satan, by the way…troubling thought as we think about obsessions).  That obsession crossed the line to sin (Gen. 3). Then there was this  fisherman named Peter who was obsessed with fishing. We know this because when Jesus gave he and his partners a miraculous  catch of fish, he counted them… all 153 of them.  (John 21:11). This obsession turned into a flood when the going got rough in the ministry. Peter said he was going back to  his fishing business…and he did…at least for awhile (John 21:3).   Of course there was that  business man who was obsessed with making money, so much so, he had to tear down his storage facilities to make bigger ones to accommodate his wealth. Eventually,  he discovered that his earthly life was going to end and his soul was not ready for death because he had obsessed about wealth to the exclusion of his spiritual well-being.  He left behind all that stuff he was so preoccupied with and lost his soul. (Luke 12:13-21).

So how do we handle our obsessions? There is nothing wrong with loving to cook, or being passionate about fishing, or auto racing, or baseball, basketball, football  (ok, for those of you who know me – books!). But obsessions can cross the line.

Here are some suggestions that have helped me handle my own obsessions. And, just so you know, I am a work in progress on this matter.

# 1 – Pray over your obsessions. Isn’t this strategy the very one that God has given us to handle all those temptations and struggles that would pull us off course? Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:18)…If any man lacks wisdom let him ask of God (James 1:5). I have found that something we are not willing to pray about and bring before the Lord is probably something that should be deleted from our lives.

# 2 – Make sure CHRIST is your strongest obsession. What did Paul tell the Philippians? For to me living is Christ and dying is gain (1:21). I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (3:14). Christ should be the one person and the one “thing” that lights up the rooms of my existence down here. He is someone you should never grow tired or weary of. He is the light of the world, the water of life, the bread of life…all those things I look to my obsessions to provide for me.

# 3 – Test your “obsessions”  to determine if they are drawing you toward the will of God or pushing you away from the will of God. Is engaging in your passions making it more difficult for you to serve God, sacrifice for His service, and love others for Jesus’ sake?  Do these passions reduce your energy and desire to serve the Lord with joy? Or do your “obsessions” refresh you and renew your your spirit so you can continue with joy to offer yourself to Christ? Is your “obsession” a biblically acceptable practice or does God’s word identify it as sin? Remember John’s admonition in his epistle of I John?  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world– the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (I John 2:15-17).

# 4 – If your “obsession” has crossed the line to sin, confess it, forsake it, and let the LORD fill that spot you reserved for your “obsession.”  Jesus is the one that really gives us the freedom and zest to live life to the full here. We do not need to be under the control of our obsessions to live well, live happily, nor live at peace down here. When our “obsessions” diminish our love for the Lord and his cause, we have crossed the line to sin.  Moses was right when he told us to “...love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut. 6:5).

# 5 – Enjoy your “obsession” as a gift from God if you can do so under the control of the Spirit of God and with a ready willingness to lay it aside at any moment so your relationships remain God-pleasing and your service remains Christ-centered.  Go fishing, enjoy cooking, play that baseball game, get that book (yeh!) but do so in submission to the control of God’s Spirit in the process.  Be on guard with your “obsessions” as a potential enemy if not handled by the power of God. God has given us all “things richly to enjoy (I Tim. 6:17), but not to become a preoccupying and dominating power over us.  Just remember that Jeremiah warned us that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked and only the Lord can really know them (Jer. 17:9-10). Think it thru

 

 

 

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Do our best opportunities come as surprises?

opportunity 1

It was Doug Munton in his little book IMMERSED that talked about what he calls “midnight opportunities” that got me to thinking about those times of witness that pop up most unexpectedly.  He spoke of Paul & Silas, wrongly imprisoned…having a bad day…yet at the end of the day you find them worshiping God in singing and the text says that the prisoners were listening to them. Talk about a surprising opportunity.  Can you image the evangelistic planning meeting Paul’s team had before this? Do you think it went something like this?  Well, guys  when we go to Philippi, lets do something really radical,like healing a demon-possessed girl, ruin some wicked businessmen’s livelihood and then  get ourselves beaten up and thrown in jail. Then about midnight when we get our breath back, let’s have an evangelistic service and sing some special music to draw in the crowd of prisoners and then we will have a preaching service and share the Gospel.  Ludicrous thinking! We know that is not what happened.
But it was at midnight in jail after a rough day’s ministry they decided to talk to God in prayer and break out in spontaneous praise to God when the surprising opportunity happened.  There was an earthquake, the jailer became unglued and was about to commit suicide when Paul stopped him, and shared the good news about Christ and led he and his family to the Lord. I don’t want to minimize the difficulties these guys faced nor overlook the pain and frustration they no doubt felt. But they got their eyes open to where God had put them and what God decided to do right there in that tough, unfair circumstance.

Sometimes my “eyes” don’t see those surprising opportunities because I am too focused on the “jail” or the “mean people” who took advantage of me. Did you ever pray, Lord give me this so I can be a better witness? Then the surprising thing takes place: God takes something away so I can be an even better witness! So back to our question: Do the best opportunities come as surprises? Maybe so! Join me in asking God to keep our eyes open to those unexpected even surprising moments. Think it thru…

HOW CAN I TELL IF I LOVE THE WORLD?

LOVING THE WORLD

It was something that Jay Collier in his forward to William Greenhill’ s sermon “Stop Loving the World” that made me ask this question of myself. This is what he said: “Our problem, however, is that we are entangled in a love affair with the things God has created. The world promisies to satisfy us with itself, and we run to it instead of God. The world sells us a bill of goods that it can never fulfill, and we accept it.”  If I find myself more intrigued with my cell phone than my application of my devotions this morning….If I adore my neighbor’s house or car more than I adore my sacrificial Savior and what it means to be loved overwhelmingly by Him….if I am more apt to sell or acquire by the touch of a button at my fingertips, than to give myself to the discipline of prayer to ask God if I should buy such things or if I should pray for his provision because I really cannot afford what society makes it easy for me to acquire…then perhaps I do love the world. No wonder John emphatically tells us NOT to love the world or the THINGS in the world [I John 2:15-17]. If I do, I crowd out the love for God. You just cannot serve two masters. Impossible. Jesus was right when He told us that.

Here’s the thing though. You see I love to be in control. I want to have a say in the way things happen in this world. I really want my will to be done.  But to affect that kind of experience, I find myself  cherishing  and desiring what the things of the world can do for me rather than what my Heavenly Father wishes to do for me.  I am learning that God frowns on competition for His love. God is jealous for our undivided attention and undistracted devotion. It is too easy to let my “eye-gate” lead me rather than His Spirit within me.  So let’s clarify loving the world then, so we can tell when we are doing it.

To love the world is to give it too high a regard on my list.  Remember how much Jonah “loved his gourd” and was out of sorts when it withered away?  He had little love for the undying souls of the people of Nineveh, but he sure loved that gourd!!  The Jews of Jesus day thought too much of their temple and too little of their God. When Jesus came among them, they were upset that He cleaned up their place of worship.

To love the world is to let my mind become overly preoccupied with its stuff and its attractions.  Where does your mind inevitably go when you have some down time? See what I mean? David confessed that He loved the law of God and thought about it during the day and night [Ps. 119:97] The Psalmist warns us in Ps. 62:10 that if we get more in this world, the danger is that our hearts will become set on them.  Remember the words of the prophet Hosea [4:17] when he said “Ephraim is joined to idols.”  William Greenhill, in his sermon I referred to earlier wisely observed: We buy cheap and sell high.”  The result is that we did not have the gain we imagined but only suffer severe loss. So do we love the world?  It is time to think it thru.