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turning from idols

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Broken Cisterns.

This past weekend I was able to attend a conference with some incredible leaders from Hope Church.  I’m a nerd; I LOVE conferences.  I love being challenged and inspired by speakers to think differently about what I do.

Unfortunately, this weekend was the exception.

I watched speaker after speaker speak words that seemed disconnected with their heart.  Words that spoke of being exhausted and overwhelmed by the world and the needs that come with ministry.  Words that told funny stories with a dash of scriptural hope.

And to be honest, I left a little disillusioned by the whole female “Christian speaker” movement that is trending. The woman who is funny, relatable, but is exhausted, and not able to speak about the truth that is really taking place in her heart.  The woman who has prepared a brilliant speech that is given time and time again… so much so that it seems distant and overused.

I hesitate in even speaking these words.

I am not one to knock programs and speakers… because truth be told I don’t want anyone to knock me.  But the reality is, this isn’t the first conference I’ve witnessed this disconnected speaker phenomenon.  I’ve seen it time and time again (especially with women).  And honestly, I’m tired of it.

I deeply crave authenticity.

Honesty. Raw truth that speaks to my heart and the world in which I live.  Truth that isn’t afraid to push the limits and challenge and encourage people.

And maybe this is what these women were doing, I don’t know.  But in my heart I felt disconnected from them.

But here’s where this rant stops… when one speaker did just this.  In her brutal, raw honesty admitted feeling discouraged, tired, and confused as leader.  And here’s what made her different… she identified the problem.

Running to broken cisterns.  Running to places, people, things to fill us, complete us, satisfy us.  Running to a broken, cracked, misplaced wells and excepting it to be overflowing with living water.

Jeremiah talks of this.  In fact, Jeremiah talks a lot about difficult things.  He had a challenging role; tell God’s people they are running in the wrong direction.  And if they don’t stop, it’s going to get BAD, really bad (and it did).

I love the beginning of the book of Jeremiah.  Here, he is setting the stage.  Telling who he is and telling God who is not (old enough, wise enough, eloquent enough).  And while Jeremiah is essentially telling God he picked the wrong person (see Jeremiah 1), God corrects him.

Jeremiah 1:7-8 (NIV)

“But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

 

God, then, emboldens Jeremiah, gives him a charge, and tells him to GO.  GO declare a difficult challenge to my people.  So difficult, they will fight against you.  And what’s that charge?  That charge so difficult and convicting the people of God would turn against Jeremiah?

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

 

The charge- that they have forsaken God.  They have forgotten him and ran to something else for security, safety, comfort.  That they dug their own cisterns (a type of well or reservoir used to hold and obtain water) and have approached this cistern expecting living, flowing water.  But in reality, their cisterns were broken, cracked, and empty.

That hits home. 

Have we DUG our own cisterns? Have we FORSAKEN God, the God of living water and expected to be satisfied by a broken well that “cannot hold water?”

I have. 100 percent.

And here’s the thing…. It’s in “good” things.  It’s not in the sex, drugs, alcohol, people type stuff… it’s in the family, job, identity, schedule type stuff.  The stuff that’s harder to see.  The stuff that looks good and organized and pretty on the outside, but on the inside is broken and cracked.

It’s in thinking that IF I get my schedule just right…. THEN I’ll be content.  IF I am in the job that best fits me… THEN I’ll be satisfied.  IF I get the time I need with my family/friends…. THEN I’ll be happier.  The list goes on and on.

I call it the “if- then” illusion.

The illusion that there is contentment, satisfaction, peace on the other side of something other than GOD.

It is a broken cistern.  A broken well that will only be met with disappointment and deeper dissatisfaction when we realize it’s empty.

But here’s the question I was left with… HOW?

HOW then do I trade my broken cistern for a stream of living water? HOW do I turn from the idols, the strongholds I’ve built in my life and strive after this living water… HOW?

I mean after all, it takes a WHOLE LOT of work to build a well, a cistern.  Time and energy and money was spent making this idol of mine.  Something like that doesn’t just easily give up.  Parts of our identity and satisfaction and contentment are wrapped up into our wells.

But, here’s the thing- they are broken.  They are empty.  They won’t fill us.  & Time and time again if we keeping running to them….we will crash, we will wind up at the bottom of our well wondering how on earth we got here.

So, HOW?

How do we climb out of our broken wells? How do we turn, mid-sprint, from our broken idols and begin taking steps toward the living water? To be 100 percent honest and frank with you; I don’t know.  I honestly believe, it might look a little different for each of us. So take it or leave it (or feel free to add to my list) but here’s what I am doing.

Here’s what is helping me turn from my broken cistern and cling to the living water…

#1: Identify the “cistern.”

Super simple first step.  But honestly, it’s probably the hardest one.  For some of us, we are knee deep in our well.  While others of us are very aware of what it is in our life that we keep running to for safety, security, affirmation, comfort. think through these questions…

Where are you going, time and time again to approval, satisfaction, contentment, peace?

What is wearing us down?  Where are we working so hard?  Why? What THINGS are we seeking more than God himself?

Hopefully these questions get you going.  I’d also like to include prayer and your people.  Ask God, ask the people close enough to you and they probably can help you figure it out.  We all have something that fights for our security.

But there’s got to be more.  I know plenty of people who KNOW (and can identify) what their cisterns are.  They know it’s their job, sex, money, drugs, alcohol, fame, family, appearance, ministry, being good enough… whatever.  They KNOW it.  But they’re addicted.  They can’t get out.  They are literally trapped in a broken well.  Which leads me to #2…

#2: Actively turn.

This (also) will look different for everyone.  For some it’s counseling, it’s a meeting, it ending a relationship.  For others it’s admitting it to someone.  It’s telling someone what’s REALLY going on. And even for others, it’s beginning to put practices in place that keep us from walking back to that stupid, broken well that’s calling our name.

Note of caution: This CANNOT be done without Christ.  It just can’t.  This will be the very thing the enemy will use against you.  It will pull at you, tug at you, and try every kind of trap to convince you #1 it’s not that bad or #2 you can’t do it.  These are lies.

Also, it’s TOUGH.  Letting go of idols is like removing a knife from your side.  It’s going to hurt like #@!! pulling it out, but the reality is you have a knife in your side that’s going to eventually kill if you don’t.

So take it out. You still will bleed, it still will hurt, but you have just begun the healing process.

#3: CLING to God’s word.

I’m not huge on scripture memory. Not because I don’t think it’s worth it.  But because I barely have any brain capacity to remember to feed my 2 small children.  Life is chaotic around here.

But here’s what I read today…

 

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a LAMP for my feet and a light on my path.

 

Super simple. In fact, I’ve heard it a MILLION time before.  But for today, it reminds me that as I begin my journey of taking out the knife in my side, of turning from my broken cisterns… I will CLING to God’s word to guide me each step of the way.  To protect me, to teach me, to challenge me, to encourage me.  God’s word is crazy in that it gives us life, energy, restoration when we need it.  So I’m going to CLING to that.

In fact here’s the verse I’m focusing on…

Jeremiah 1:8

“Don’t be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.,” declares the LORD.

 

The beauty of the world in which we live is that we can literally “google” anything.  In fact, that has become a word… “google it.”

You need a verse on depression- google it.  On remaining focused on God- google it.  Letting go of the past- google it.  Putting our confidence in God- google it.  You get the drift… in fact I did the work for you HERE.

Super general, well-known, easy verses that can be a start; a reminder to focus on God.  I realize this seems contrite.  In fact, I spent a ton of money at seminary that taught me tools and how to study and exegete passages (yes that’s a word- google it;)… but really you just need a verse to cling to.  How you find it doesn’t matter.  How much you remember it, focus on it, lean on it, CLING to it does.

So my challenge:

+ Stop running to broken cisterns.  Jars. People. Things. And expecting fulfillment.

+ Begin seeking God, seeking his word, and slowly start pulling that knife out.

I promise, it’s time.