Thursday, May 8, 2008

Learning To Desire God

I love to bottle-feed lambs. Growing up on a small farm in south-central Texas,
I had plenty of opportunity to do it.

I can see clearly the daily picture
of what bottle-feeding them involves.
First I warm the milk up. Not too hot, it must be
just warm enough to take the chill off of it. Then I pour it into the bottle and set out to feed my sheep.
The lambs are waiting for me, and as I approach, they look at me eagerly, yet shyly, in anticipation. I walk into the corral, and bend down, holding the bottle out so they can come forward and drink. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had Barbados sheep, but they are very skittish animals, even more so than most sheep. My lambs were no exception. They hesitate to come to me, fearing what I might do to them. They look around at their mother, at the other things surrounding them. They look at me, then at the bottle, then at me again. They place once foot forward, still watching me cautiously. Finally, they make their way across the grass, and grasp the bottle firmly with their mouths. As the warm milk pours into their tummies, their tails often wag back and forth in glee.

It’s not easy for my lambs to come forward.
They are very timid creatures. The compelling force of their courage to trust me is their hunger. They want to eat. They want to feed.

As usual, I am struck by what an awesome lesson
they show me, in their desire for food. There are plenty of distractions around them, to keep them from coming forward. The other sheep are running around the pen, scared to
death. Their mother is walking away, crying for them to come with her.
But despite the swirl of activity around them, they come forward to me, for trust, or experience told them that I was the only one who could give them what they really wanted:
Food. Nourishment.

How often do I do that? How often do I look around at my distractions, and my fears, focusing on them, instead of looking to Christ to fill my deepest needs and desires?
How often does my desire for God dwindle because I’ve eaten of everything else but what will truly satisfy me, a relationship with God?

John Piper says:
“The greatest enemy of a hunger for God is not poison but apple pie.
It’s not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetites for heaven,
but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It’s not the X-rated video, but the primetime drivel
of triviality we drink in every night. The most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil,
but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God Himself,
the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.”

You see, even good things can be deadly when they begin to replace God. Just as my sheep hungered and thirsted for true food, so we, as Christians,
must hunger and thirst for God, the only One who truly can satisfy us. Of course there is nothing wrong with the everyday activities we enjoy.
There is nothing wrong, in themselves, with hobbies, sports, computers, entertainment,
the internet, reading, writing, music, or any of the other things we all enjoy and love.
What makes them wrong, or dangerous is when we allow them to be our source of food,
our source of nourishment, instead of God.

My own “apple pie” was my online time. So much time, better spent in God’s Word,
was spent surfing the net, chatting online, and other things of that nature.
Slowly I noticed my desire for God dwindling. It frightened me, as it should have.
I lacked the zeal and joy I once had in my quiet time. My appetite had been temporarily
satisfied in the small things of everyday life, the everyday pleasures. I wasn’t hungry for God’s Word,
because I was too full of trivial things. So, I took a break from being online, except for school purposes,
or doing things for Mom on the Internet. I used the time instead to read God’s Word, to memorize more Scripture, to pray more often. Slowly my appetite for God came back. By taking away the “good” food, and replacing it with the “best” food, I began to develop a taste for the “best”. Much like a person goes through withdrawal when they stop drinking, I went through a period of fighting the urge to get online
again. But oh the wonderful grace of God! When I started struggling with desire to get online,
God gave me the strength to turn away, and look to Him.

Now, I’m not suggesting you do the same thing, unless you struggle with that too.
I don’t know what your distractions are. I do know that they manifest in various ways.

So how do you know what your “apple pie” is?

Here’s a good, practical application test:
Whatever you run to for comfort outside of God, whatever you feel an impassioned urge to do, more than you desire to spend time with God, whatever is the driving force of joy and motivation in your life, outside of God, might possibly be your “apple pie”. Anything we place above God is an idol. As long as we are worshiping that idol, our hunger for God will be sedated.

Even “spiritual” things can be “apple pies” to us is we aren’t careful. Serving in your church, or working in a ministry can take God’s place in our lives. It’s a constant battle to keep God first.

What’s your apple pie? Is there something that’s keeping you from hungering after God?
Take a break from that thing. Just step back from being involved in it for little while.
Use that time and energy to get to know God, to be in His word, and pray.
Take away the “apple pie” and replace it with real food.

If you do, I believe you will soon see a hunger for God in your life that can only be satisfied by more of Him. Apple Pie is a poor substitute for the richness and sweetness of fellowship with the living God.


Valerie May 8, 2008 at 7:46 PM  

My apple pie would definitely be reading fiction. It's the first thing I do when I get up (over breakfast) and the last thing before going to sleep (I literally read myself to sleep).
So, Miss Deb, I feel challenged by your words. I have accumulated many 'meaty' books lately, and haven't read any of them through. I like my happy, interesting, human relations stories too much to put them down. I'm going to challenge myself to eat only meat for a while. As in meaty books. ;) R.C. Sproul, Ken Ham, my various Bible studies I've accumulated. I just have to finish the one book I'm reading now. Honest! I have an awful habit of not finishing books, which I'm determined to kick. :-)

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