Wanting a Different Life
Something is terribly wrong when you wish you had a different life—when you don’t look forward to getting up in the morning, when you believe your best days are behind you, or that past mistakes have disqualified you from ever having a great future. If you’re rarely or never content, then sooner or later you’ll try and replenish your inner emptiness with something—anything. You may try and fill it with fantasy, immerse it in illusion, or drown it in deception; but, as nature abhors a vacuum, nothing stays empty for long. Our lives are designed to be fully filled with one thing: our Creator. “I have asked the Lord for one thing – this is what I desire! I want to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life…” (Psalm 27:4, NET)
Reality is No Friend
For many, reality is no friend. Their only hope is that a future dream will replace a present nightmare. In the meantime, a vicarious life is the only life they know. Living is experienced in their imagination, through the feelings or actions of another. They substitute who they could become for what someone else already is. It may be through a sport or a TV personality, or the neighbor down the street, but it’s a surrogate existence at best. In the long run, secondhand life is as deadly as secondhand smoke. All attempts to create an alternate ending to our present life will only confirm how much we need to submit to God’s perfect plan for us. “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.” (Ephesians 1:11a, The Message)
The Missing Fruit
A pastor friend of mine asked his congregation what fruit of God’s Spirit they believed was most actively working in their lives. Out of the hundreds of responses, one fruit was glaringly absent: self-control. This forgotten fruit will have to be found if we are to ever live lives worth living. Richard Nisbett, considered the world’s greatest authority on intelligence states that “he’d rather his son be high in self-control than intelligence; for self-control is key to a well-functioning life.” The Apostle Peter agrees and writes, “…make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness…” (2Peter 1:5-6, NLT)
Of the 50 most popular films of all time, nearly all have fantasy, supernatural, or otherworldly themes. Most of these successful film series have video game spin-offs, so you can be an unreal person in an unreal world any time you want to. But, why is there such a fascination in the paranormal, the supernatural, other worlds, fantasy, and super heroes? Why do we chase after illusion? Is it because deep down we know we’re capable of so much more? We long for life beyond our wildest dreams: true goodness, supernatural power, becoming all we were created to be and do. Only God can fulfill these longings—for He planted them in us! “It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it…found yourselves home free…” (Ephesians 1:13, The Message)
Essence of All Addictions
Every day we’re under siege. Many of us struggle with inner demons—experiencing infinitely less than God intended. We know we’re created to be more, even to dwell in a place far more pristine than this weary planet. Our Creator’s ultimate purpose has always been to give us more—more of Him. The essence of all addictions is empowerment through fantasy—life in the unreal. Fantasy can fulfill—at least for the moment. But only Jesus can fulfill forever. For those who follow Him, He promises “…God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, NKJV) Today, reach out to Jesus for the life He created you to live.
One of the greatest fears I have is that my heart will grow cold toward God. The experience of frostbite gives me a chilling reminder. When a part of our body is frostbitten, the blood in the tissue, half of which is water, freezes. The parts of our body furthest from our heart freeze first. Tissue that’s fully frozen can’t be revived and returned to normalcy. Frankly, it’s dead! The Bible refers to individuals who have drifted so far from Christ’s life-giving blood that they are twice dead, physically and spiritually. (Jude 1:12) This reminds us all of the greatest warning in Scripture concerning a cold or dead heart. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV) Jesus, keep our hearts from turning cold!
Are you able to hear God? Not with your natural ears, but with your spirit, your inner, supernatural ear? Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27, NKJV) And Paul the Apostle writes, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:14, NLT) It seems the days it’s hardest to hear God, we need Him the most. I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ profound insight, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Jesus, open our ears to hear Your still-small voice. You are the One we need most. You are the One our heart longs for.
Imaginary Evil or Real Good
Every day, each of us fight to hold on to what is real and eternal—to not be deceived by the shallow and temporary. Abandoned by parents, exploited by peers, seduced by society, many of us are overexposed and underdeveloped. We’ve seen so much, yet become so little! Perhaps the greatest farce of our day is evil masquerading as good. Our
age is a fashion show for evil. Simone Weil writes, “Imaginary evil is romantic and varied. Real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring. Real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” (Weil S. Gravity and Grace. Rutledge; 1999.) “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31, ESV) Only God is truly good; and no one can fill our lives with goodness, except God!
Reality or Illusion
Is the life your living real, or an illusion? Are you putting your hope in what can never come to pass, or trusting in the guaranteed eternal realities that only come from your Creator. In the age of fake everything, evil has many facades: phony love, false peace, and imitation intimacy run rampant. Perhaps the most undermining of all is the loss of our true identity—who God created us to be. Can we call it thievery, when in most cases, like Esau of old; we give away our true identity and destiny for nothing? Unless we daily humble ourselves before God and submit to His will and purpose for us, our lives will merely reflect the counterfeits we have chased after. In the end, only God’s will—will be left standing!
The High Ground
Since the Garden of Eden, the devil’s goal has been to trick us into forfeiting our heavenly wealth for earthly trinkets. Disguising himself as good, he appears to occupy the high ground, the moral superiority—a better plan than God’s. He asked Eve, “Has God really said?” and then promised, “You won’t die!…God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) Thousands of years later, the devil again attempted to marry good and evil by tempting the last Adam, Jesus. But this time he lost. Our Lord dismissed him with the Word of God. By knowing God’s truth we can expose any lie. And by believing God’s Word we are truly set free.
Why are so many people numb today? Numb to life, numb to God, numb to one another? The word numb literally means “taken or seized as by cold or grief.” It’s been defined as “deprived of the power to feel or move normally through cold or shock; emotionally unresponsive; indifferent; paralyzed.” (“numb.” TheFreeDictionary.com. 2009. Complete footnote: francisanfuso.com/numb) Living a numb existence leaves us desensitized, powerless, unresponsive, and unable to feel fully alive. Sadly, numb defines many in our generation! So, what will it take to propel us out of living a numb, boring existence? A fully surrendered heart; a desperate cry to the God of resurrection, “Jesus, remove from me all that drains Your life. Replace what is dead and dying with the abundant life You promised. Let me be truly free, even as You envisioned I would be.”
Much of the numbness that people experience today comes from a conscience that has ceased to feel. In the New Testament, Paul warned against this type of dead, hardened conscience, which has been seared and become callous. (1Timothy 4:1–2, ESV) It’s even more frightening when the deadness is not caused by delusion, but by a deliberate commitment to resist the will of God. In life, if we wait to get caught, instead of turning ourselves in, our conscience will become corrupted and polluted. Scripture confirms this. “Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted.” (Titus 1:15, ESV) “Jesus purify my heart! Let me run to the light, and not from it, for only there will I find You and my true self.”