Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Repairing a Slow Leak

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss with a caution for anyone who is busy doing things for the Lord.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you ever find yourself justifying small, incremental compromises? Not the big things, but things that before you got so busy, you would have never thought were okay? But now you let them go because you don’t have time to deal with them?

It’s a sign of losing that first love. We are working harder to protect our public image than to protect our private personal inner character.

Leslie: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with the author of Lies Women Believe, Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

We all have a tendency to drift from a close relationship with the Lord when life gets busy.

Nancy, I appreciate the openness in which you talk about struggles in this area and the encouragement you provide. Nancy, can you describe the setting of the message we’re about to hear?

Nancy: The National Religious Broadcasters holds an annual convention that I attend, along with several others from our Revive Our Hearts team. At this particular convention, I was asked to speak at the women’s luncheon.

Most of the women who attend this particular luncheon are involved in various types of media ministry, and I knew that a lot of the people I’d be speaking to that day were high-powered women who live very busy lives.

In the months leading up to that convention, the Lord had been doing a fresh and much needed work in my own heart of calling me to enter into a deeper level of intimacy with Him in the midst of my very busy life.

As this speaking opportunity approached, I just felt prompted by the Lord to share very transparently and honestly out of my own life how the Lord had been dealing with me.

As we share with you the message I gave at the luncheon that day, I want to say that these thoughts are not just for women who are in vocational ministry. All of us go through dry times in our walk with the Lord, and we need to have those moments when we stop, we take stock of where our hearts are, and we reconnect spiritually with the Lord.

I began this message by sharing an experience I had had just a few days before the luncheon.

Nancy (speaking at the luncheon): I saw an amazing video a few days ago of a service that took place last Sunday morning in a large church here in the metroplex, about ten miles down the road.

I saw a video of a testimony that took place during that service. This particular woman, who was a member of that church, was under deep conviction that she needed to get rid of all the pretense, all the playing games, all the posturing in her life, and she felt that she needed to get real and transparent before the Lord.

She was very broken over the way that God had been speaking to her. She was under deep conviction, and she stood there and told her church family and confessed this to them.

Then in one very dramatic, symbolic gesture, she reached up, pulled off her long, full wig, and exposed this very bald head for everyone to see.

She threw that wig down to the ground, and she said, “I’m free! I’m free!” For her it was obvious that it was not so much a matter of the wig—that wasn’t her point. The point was, “I want nothing between my soul and the Savior, and I want to live this real and transparent life.”

As I was praying this morning about our time together today, the thought crossed my heart, “I think there are some wigs that need to come off today,” and maybe starting with my own.

I can assure you that this whole head of gray hair belongs to me. But I’ve felt as I’ve prepared over these weeks that the Lord wanted me to share with you out of some of the things He’s been doing in my own heart—especially some of the things He’s been exposing in my life over this past year.

I can’t help but believe there are others in this room that God desires to help us get rid of the wig and come before Him and each other as we are—to be real.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been meditating on a verse in the book of Jeremiah that kind of capsulizes the things I want to share today about the journey God has had me on over this past year.

Let me give you a little context for this verse. In Jeremiah chapter 1, God calls Jeremiah. He ordains him to be a prophet, and Jeremiah, who’s a priest living in a small town, feels that he’s not up to this challenge.

God has said, “I’m making you a prophet to all the nations.” Jeremiah says, “God, I don’t even know how to speak. I’m so young. I’m not up to this task!”

But God says not to worry. "You will speak what I tell you to speak, and I will put My words in your mouth.”

Then we come to chapter 2, and we find the very first words God gives to Jeremiah to speak to his people in his day. Now, we know Jeremiah is a long book. There is a lot of woes; there is a lot of lamentation; there’s a lot of judgment, but what are the first words that God puts in Jeremiah’s mouth to speak to the nation—to speak to his people?

Chapter 2, verse 1 of Jeremiah, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, thus says the Lord,’” and here are the very first words of God’s message: “Thus says the Lord, ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride.’”

A year ago at this time, many of us attended the NRB women’s luncheon and listened to Beth Moore as she spoke. Several things that Beth said really penetrated my heart.

She said, “For some of us, the pace of ministry has outraced the pace of intimacy in our lives.” I sat there, and I thought, “It’s true. The pace of ministry in my life has outraced the pace of intimacy with Christ.”

Several weeks earlier, at the start of 2005, the Lord had begun a fresh and sweet work in my heart as I had been meditating on 2 Peter chapter 1. I’d sensed the Lord calling me to a renewed emphasis in my own life of cultivating and pursuing and safeguarding intimacy with Christ in my own life.

Beth’s message was just another seed that God planted in my heart and has watered over this past year. It caused me to stop, to take stock, and to evaluate not what the public sees and knows, but what God knew was going on within my own very busy heart in my relationship with Christ.

God says, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride” (Jeremiah 2:1b). I’ve had a vivid picture of that over the past several months. Sarah and A.J. Newell are a newlywed couple who are living in my home.

As soon as they got back from their honeymoon, they moved into the basement floor of my home. They’ve been there for several months, and I’ve watched this couple over the last six months.

I’ve watched this new bride—I’ve seen some things that really picture the fresh, first love and devotion of a bride. I mean, this couple can’t get enough of each other. They actually enjoy being together! They don’t like to be apart from each other.

There is a sweet, simple, pure, whole-hearted devotion they have for each other. It’s an extravagant love. It’s not self-centered; it’s other-centered, and they’re always trying to out-serve each another.

She calls him, “Love of my life.” It's so sweet. She'll be in the kitchen, and she'll say, "Love of my life, could you . . ." whatever. You hope that in six years or in sixty years from now they'll still be saying this. But it's really precious, "Love of my life." And I see this wonder-filled, sparkle in Sarah's eyes, and I say, "That's devotion." That’s the love of a bride, and God says, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride.”

God’s saying in essence, “I remember what it was like in the early days of our relationship. You were like a young bride, a young lover. You were wholly devoted to Me. There were no rivals; there were no competitors. You followed Me; you trusted Me. You responded to my initiatives. You were attentive to me.” God says, “I remember your devotion.”

That’s the Hebrew word hesed, the word that’s hard to translate into English. It means "covenant, faithful love, covenant-keeping love, or kindness."

God says, “You were faithful to Me.” He says, “I remember your love as a bride.” It’s a passionate word in the Hebrew. It means "to desire, to delight in." God says, “You delighted in Me. You were passionate in your love for Me. You returned the tender affection and the kindness I showed you. You were My friend, My companion. You were My lover.”

I suppose God was thinking back to those days when the Children of Israel sang God's praise at the Red Sea. Then they stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, and they said, "All that You say we will do." Then they followed the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire in the wilderness. They trust God to lead them and provide for them.

God says in Jeremiah 2, “I remember. I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness” (verse 2).

But something had changed. Now God says, “Where once you followed Me . . .” And if I could just excerpt some phrases from Jeremiah chapter 2, God says, “Now, [My people] have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters” (verse 13).

“Can a bride forget her dress, her wedding dress? Can she show up to her wedding without her jewels or her dress? It’s unthinkable,” God says, “yet my people have forgotten me days without number” (Jeremiah 2:32).

Worse yet, God says, “My people have fallen into the arms of other lovers. You said, ‘I’ve loved foreigners. After them I will go.’ They’ve turned their back to Me, and not their faces. You’ve played the whore [or the harlot], with many lovers” (Jeremiah 2:33, paraphrase).

God says, “I haven’t changed. My love for you has not diminished. I’ve been faithful to you. I’ve kept my covenant. But somewhere along the line, your heart toward Me has changed. You don’t love Me the way you once did. You’ve forsaken Me. You’ve forgotten Me. You have followed after other lovers. You’ve not been faithful to Me. You’ve been distracted.”

All of this is no small matter to God. Six times in chapter 3, God says His people have been treacherous. Six times in chapter 3, He says, “My bride has been faithless, unfaithful, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so you have been treacherous to me, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 3:20).

God says He’s a jealous lover. This is appalling to Him. He’s heartbroken by the infidelity of His bride, and He uses this very graphic language of harlots and whores and things we don’t even like to say in polite company.

Yet, in spite of all the evidence, God’s people don’t get it. God says, “In spite of all these things, you say, ‘I’m innocent. I’m innocent.’ You won’t even acknowledge what you’ve done,” God says (Jeremiah 2:35, paraphrased).

“You act as if everything is fine between us." You say, "Who, me? Other people may be unfaithful, but we are innocent.” And God says, “You want Me, and you want your other lovers at the same time, and you can’t have it.”

It’s not just the Israelites, by the way. The apostle Paul said, “I have a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I’m afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3, paraphrase).

The theme song for Revive Our Hearts, some of you have heard it, is, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." I'll tell you the words I resonate most with in that old hymn, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love."

What did Jesus say to the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2, the one who walks among the seven golden lamp stands? He said, “I know your works. I know your toil. I know your patient endurance. I know you cannot bear with those who are evil” (verse 2, paraphrase). “But I have this against you: that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (verse 4).

God says, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride” (Jeremiah 2:1).

What causes us to stray, to wander from that sincere and pure devotion to Christ? What causes us to abandon or to leave our first love? I think for me, and maybe for most of us, it’s not usually the big, huge blowouts.

It’s the slow leak. It’s the little foxes. The same things, maybe, that steal intimacy in marriage. Things like busyness, going different directions, familiarity that breeds, not necessarily contempt, maybe just neglect, a failure to be intentional about preserving intimacy, whether in a marriage or in our marriage relationship with Christ.

What are the warning signs? How can we know? What are the evidences that “the pace of ministry in our lives has outraced the pace of intimacy”?

Well, I can’t speak for you, but I look in the mirror a lot of times, and I can see the signs. Loss of joy—I find myself sometimes beginning to resent the very people the Lord has called me to serve.

Maybe you’ve been there. I find myself becoming anxious, uptight, controlling, demanding, instead of a having a gentle and meek spirit.

There are those times, and maybe only God and we are the only ones to know, but there is that gap between who we are in public, when everybody’s watching, and we’re signing books, and we’re in the spotlight; and who we are when we let our hair down, and we’re just with our closest friends and family.

Do you ever find yourself justifying small, incremental compromises? Not the big things, but things that before you got so busy, you would have never thought were okay? Now you let them go because you don’t have time to deal with them? It’s a sign of losing that first love.

When we are working harder to protect our public image than to protect our private, personal inner character, it’s a sign that we’ve left our first love.

Prayerlessness—when we lose a sense of our desperate need for God.

Here’s a sign: we start measuring success in terms of ratings and sales and attendance and donations, instead of the way God measures success.

Then we justify neglecting biblical priorities, violating biblical priorities of our relationship with God, our relationship with our family. It breaks my heart, I have to say, to see so many women who are working so hard to succeed in ministry, in the marketplace of ministry, while neglecting their own marriage, their own children, and their own walk with God.

When we get to this place of leaving our first love, ministry becomes a machinery to maintain, an image to protect, a treadmill to stay on and to desperately keep from falling off of.

Sometimes when you’re alone, do you ever just open up your heart and say, “What in the world am I doing? Why am I doing it? What is this all for?”

Ministry has become a machine instead of a passion for a person—Jesus Christ. God says, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride” (Jeremiah 2:1).

God makes His case against His bride. He says, “An appalling thing has happened.” God speaks as a jilted, betrayed lover, but always a lover.

We see in this passage in Jeremiah, and I encourage you to go and dig into the passage for yourself. I have been learning in recent weeks that God is a reconciling, redeeming God who never stops loving—never stops pursuing His wayward bride.

Amazingly, in this passage He pleads with His people to come back, to return, in spite of how greatly they have forsaken Him, forgotten Him, and followed after other lovers. God wants the relationship to be restored.

Aren’t you glad? Over and over again, God says in chapter 3, “Return. Return faithless Israel. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful. Only acknowledge your guilt” (verse 12). Just agree about the truth. Take your wig off. Get real. “Return, O faithless children. Return, O faithless sons. I will heal your faithlessness” (Jeremiah 3:14, paraphrase).

That is the gospel. That’s good news. That’s the gospel for saved people, and you know what? We need it. I need to preach the gospel to myself every day of my life. I need to believe the gospel every day of my life.

“Return, and I will heal your faithlessness.” As I was meditating on that whole concept of God calling His people to return, yesterday morning, I was just thinking of all the times in 43 years of walking with the Lord that my love has grown cold and my heart has been hard and my heart was far from God.

God has, time after time, pursued after my heart and won and wooed me back to Himself and said, “Return! Return! Return!”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has identified temptations busy people face. You might be involved in good activities but realize you've fallen into some of the pitfalls that Nancy's been describing.

I hope you’ll spend some time talking with God about the things you’ve just heard. And I hope you’ll get a copy of today’s message. It’s called Rediscovering Intimacy with God. The CD is available at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Are you a regular listener to Revive Our Hearts? By that I mean, do you catch the programs most days? Is the message affecting your choices? Do you appreciate the role it plays in your life?

If you answered, “yes,” Nancy has a message for you. If you’re not a regular listener, you can listen in, too.

Nancy: At the end of 2010, I was so grateful to see how God moved the hearts of many listeners to help us exceed a matching challenge. At the same time, I was deeply saddened by the need to discontinue the broadcast on a number of radio stations. I'll tell you that going off the air on those stations and networks was a very hard decision, and one I hope that we won't have to repeat.

While the generous year-end giving helped us to close a budget gap, our month-to-month expenses continue. If you're one of our regular listeners and you've been touched by this ministry, would you consider becoming a regular supporter? Would you consider joining our Ministry Partner team? In many senses, our Ministry Partners are the lifeblood of this ministry.

They provide a stable source of income monthly, even as other giving may fluctuate. They commit to making a monthly gift of $30 or more. Ministry Partners also commit to praying for Revive Our Hearts. And they agree to share the message with other women.

When you say, "Yes, I want to become a Ministry Partner," we'll say "thanks" by sending you one of my books. You can chose from a few different titles. They'll also receive a monthly letter that I write in which I share various things that are on my heart, including how you can effectively pray for Revive Our Hearts. And each month you'll receive a devotional we produce just for our Ministry Partners called, Daily Reflections.

If you’ve listened to Revive Our Hearts for awhile and are ready to join the ministry at a deeper level, I hope you'll consider becoming Ministry Partner here at the start of this new year.

Leslie: To join the Ministry Partner team, visit ReviveOurHearts.com and click on “Become a Ministry Partner.” You’ll get all the information there. Or call us at 1-800-569-5959. 

Almost all of us would be quick to say, “I’m busy!” The danger in busyness is it threatens the most important relationship we have.

Nancy: Your calling card is your walk with God. If you lose that, you don't have a ministry. Now, if I lose that, I may have an organization, but I won't have a ministry.

I've told our team repeatedly over the years, if I cannot sustain intimacy with Christ and a relationship and walk with Him while maintaining the demands of this ministry, then the ministry has to go. I cannot sell my soul to the organization. I can't do it.

The temptation is there every day of my life to do it, and it's there in yours as well.

Leslie: Hear a message for busy people on Rediscovering Intimacy with God. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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