Thursday, November 11, 2010


The wind came up this afternoon outside my office. I'm looking out my window at a bush that was transplanted late this summer. It's so new the tag from the nursery is still attached to one of the branches. As the wind gusts, the tag goes horizontal, flapping and vibrating in the wind, faster than my eye can follow.

It makes me wonder. The Bible compares the Spirit of God to the wind (see John 3, for example). In fact, in both Hebrew and Greek, the word for "spirit" and "wind" and "breath" are identical. (We do a similar thing with "respiration" and "inspiration" -- same root, both from the term for breath and spirit.) So if the wind is the Spirit, the bush is the world -- like in 1 John 2:15-17 -- and the little piece of paper is me.

Frequently I think God wants to move me from here to there, to catch me up in the wind and fly my life like a kite. The Spirit blowing around me moves me, swings me up and down, around and around, and I can almost let go -- but there are strings that tie my heart to the things of this world and keep me from flying.

John says there are three elements to this: the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride in riches.

The desire of the flesh is any self-centered impulse that keeps me rooted to myself and my desire rather than focused on Jesus and willing to fly free on the wind of his Spirit. Lately the desire of my flesh has revolved around a new shotgun. There's a place and a time when buying a shotgun could be fine, even God-pleasing, I think. But my tendency to obsess about the shotgun I have not bought, to miss God-given opportunities around me because I'm thinking modified choke or full choke, 12-or-20-gauge, synthetic or wood stock, pump or over/under, etc., etc., etc. -- this is the desire of the flesh that pushes love for God out of my life. So often we think of sexual matters when we hear a phrase like "desires of the flesh" -- and that may be accurate at times. But the desires of the flesh go far beyond sexual cravings into all kinds of self-absorbed desires.

The desire of the eyes is more momentary but equally dangerous. If you saw the movie "Up" you know what "Squirrel!" means -- it means the distracting visual that takes your focus off what it's supposed to be. It's the shiny thing, the image in the catalog or the magazine or the computer screen that, when you see it, has the power to create desire in your heart. It might be a shotgun, a beautiful house, a purse, or a less-than-fully-clothed woman. What it is isn't the point. The point is that the desire of the eyes is a quick way to get our focus off the things of God and onto our desire for self-indulgence. We are vulnerable to visual stimulation -- or else why has advertising become a multi-billion dollar color photo industry?

"Pride in riches" is maybe a narrow translation. Other translations say "the pride of life" or "being too proud of what we have" or even "wanting to appear important." Looking at the Greek, the word for pride carries the sense of arrogance -- this isn't being proud of your children's achievements, this is knowing you're better than your neighbors. And literally in Greek, it's "pride of life." William Barclay translates the phrase, "life's empty pride." He says of this man, "His conversation is a continual boasting about things which he does not possess and all his life is spent in an attempt to impress everyone he meets with his own non-existent importance."

Barclay goes on: "The man who attaches himself to the world's aims and the world's ways is giving his life to things which literally have no future. All these things are passing away and none has any permanency. But the man who has taken God as the centre of his life has given himself to the things which last forever. The man of the world is doomed to disappointment; the man of God is certain of lasting joy."

Lord Jesus, cut the strings that tie me to this world -- not the world that you love, that you came to redeem, but the world that stands opposed to your lordship in my life. Curb and kill my desires for anything other than you. Blow me away on the wind of your Spirit so that my spirit might soar with you! Then reconnect my heart to this world as your' heart is attached to it. Let me be one who loves it with your love, who serves the world in your name. Change my heart to your image, Lord. Amen.


  1. I remember being in Ft. Thompson and being introduced to the term "pneumanaut" - sailing on the breath of the Spirit. I'd like to believe I've been doing that ever since. But does planning a BWCA trip 6 months (or more) in advance count as "desires of the flesh"?? :-)

  2. It might ... you and I both know that it's not the outward activity but it's the desire of the heart and our attitude toward God's sovereignty. I've been looking at Boundary Waters stuff lately, even farther in advance than that because I feel like God is pushing me that way for a variety of reasons. Other years I've been like a kid having a tantrum saying, "I want to go to the BWCA NOW!" Just depends, my friend!