One anothering – don’t stop

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Christian friends are invaluable.  We encourage one another by listening well. We pray for each other.  We redirect sisters and brothers back to God.  We focus on firm Truth in light of scary, wobbly circumstances. We offer our presence, sometimes just simple shoulder rubs and tissues.

And we never know what will help. But we stumble ahead and give what we have. Because God is in the business of using us to comfort others.

The other day, I was still mucking around in my latest pit-version of a long-term struggle with sin. Midday, Mike threw me what turned out to be a lifeline. He emailed Psalm 37 to me at work. At least once a week he shares a reading from his daily devotional.  Nice. Familiar.  Comforting.  Insightful as to what strikes him.  But THIS TIME what he forwarded seismically changed my thinking.  As RC Sproul says, ‘Ideas have consequences.’

God used one verse, a promise, to lift me out of the mud and set me on high ground.  I was stunned by this concrete, tangible proof that…….

……the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

God’s pledge, known and divinely written by David in Psalm 37:5 launched me into new space – a kind of freedom.  Here is how God’s promise goes:  Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him and He will do it!

Immediately I saw my sin AND the path to rescue and freedom!

For years, I have struggled with ‘how to eat’ so as to ‘feel good about my body’.  The battle came from wanting to eat as much as I want, without limits, AND wanting to feel happy in my body. Nine years of bulimia, stopped by God’s mercy due to my first pregnancy, preceded the past 35 years of overeating and agonizing.  I have learned to control, sort of, my ‘habit’ of the overeating. Yet I still obsess.

For 37 years Mike has walked with me in this struggle.  Recently his God-inspired wisdom jolted me in a healthy way.  First came his observation that perhaps God has ordained this ‘design flaw’ or THORN in the flesh to be His means to draw me to Him. New thought!

Gently he pointed out that I’ve been asking God for a way to manage or control my sin. He offered that maybe God in His goodness has NOT given me a manageable way to eat or exercise.

All along I have labeled the OVEReating as ‘THE SIN’.  I never considered that my desire to CONTROL could perhaps be sinful.

Further light opened my cage door wider.  Paraphrasing 17th century English pastor William Gurnall: When you pray to God, add a vow.  But make sure there is no hidden sin in your heart. Gurnall then cited one of David’s prayers to the effect, ‘God, grant me _________, so that I may praise you.’

Stunned into pondering how I might EVEN word a prayer request to God about this eating/control issue, I realized that any petition would basically be asking God to give me a way to control my sin.  Furthermore, the idea of adding a VOW stopped me cold.  I saw clearly for the first time that there was nothing holy in my request.

Into that void, Mike’s email sharing Psalm 37 arrived.  Again verse 5 brought light that gave me power-filled hope, what I call ‘crunchy’ or substantial.

Commit your way to the LORD

Trust also in Him 

and He will act

What I saw for the first time was this:

  • I’m to give this ENTIRE thing to Him, the triune God.  It’s not my problem or issue.
  • I’m to place all my confidence in Him, not me
  • And most importantly, HE is the one who will act

Could things be any clearer?  All along I’ve been wanting to control this problem so I could feel good about myself.  But seeing that there was nothing praise-worthy in God answering my prayer the way I have so desperately sought startled me.

Do I know what to do?  Not if I mean, do I have a new plan.

But do I know the purpose of food and the body?

Yes!  Food is to fuel my body and to enjoy.  The body I inhabit temporarily is so I can serve others and God.  The end or purpose of all I do is to glorify God.  Beyond that, I don’t need to go.

I’m still chewing on the simplicity and the power in this promise.  It FEELS to good to be true – simply to hand over a burden and trust God to act.  But I do feel free!

Conclusion?  Don’t stop offering God’s Word to others.  You don’t know ahead of time what God will use to heal someone.

 

Food and the Kingdom of God

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Gluten-free, slow foods, farm-to-table, organic, paleo, real food, vegan – who knows HOW or WHAT to eat anymore!

The Table Comes First

I just finished reading a compelling book The Table Comes First.  Adam Gopnik explores the history and philosophy of meals and restaurants.   At the end, however, he reveals that he belongs to that segment of the population who doesn’t worship God.  Therefore, in lieu of the salvation paradigm of Christianity, he makes the assertion that the elevation of the pleasures of dining and sharing a meal can provide meaning, purpose, depth and a sort of rescue to otherwise unmoored humans.

If I look at my own idolizing of ways of eating, I also plead guilty to seeking ‘salvation’ through food.  But with Gopnik’s bold claim, I was struck by how unnecessary it is to place food and Christianity into opposite camps.

Consider the following tangible examples:

  1. Human history originates in a garden with an abundance of fruitful trees for the sustenance and pleasure of God’s image-bearers.  The other bookend of the Bible and the human story are set as a heavenly feast with the host of the Party Himself!
  2. The resurrected Jesus asked for a piece of broiled fish to eat. (Luke 24: 41-42)
  3. A fair number of Jesus’ signs and miracles produced, transformed or multiplied food and drink.  Think of the wedding at Cana and the fine wine.  And the two accounts of the feeding of the 5000.  And manna and quail for the wandering Jews in the desert, accompanied by water from a rock.
  4. Honey revived King Saul’s son Jonathan after a long battle. (1 Sam 14:27)
  5. Gleaning in the barley fields led to Ruth’s marriage, the great-great grandma of King David from whose line Jesus came.
  6. Jesus dined with women and the marginalized segments of society, to the shock of the elite and rule-following average Hebrew.
  7. And let’s not forget the setting for the inaugural New Covenant of Grace, a Passover meal.

And if the above are examples of material food and drink, then there are all the image passages that point beyond food qua food:

  1. We are commanded to, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Ps 34:8)
  2. Jesus likened himself to the staff of life. “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35)
  3. Paul himself chose covenantal wine to symbolize his final days when writing to encourage Timothy – “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” (2 Tim 4:6)

What good news that we don’t have to choose either secular society’s view of food and drink or an ascetic version of Christianity!

My husband reminded me last night of one of CS Lewis’ main teachings about human desires.  These ‘hungers’ are NOT ends in themselves, but signposts to something greater that can only be satisfied in a better and deeper way.  So if we find that we are hungry for earthly food, then we were created for a more satisfying food that will be provided us upon receipt of our inheritance.  The desires ARE real and they WILL BE fulfilled, but in ways that we cannot begin to imagine.

My take away in thinking this through is to be BETTER prepared when describing true Christianity the way it really is to a world jaded and blasé about life.  This world doesn’t satisfy.  And it never was MEANT to.

Recall the excitement you might once have lived when you were very little and Mom and Dad treated you to one of your first outings for lunch or an ice-cream.  Or think back to one of your initial dining experiences as a young adult on a date in a fancy restaurant. The way they thrilled you can never be quite the same.

But Christians don’t have to be wearied with this present world.  The best truly IS yet to be.  We won’t miss out by being a Christian.  We get it all with Christ.

Bon appétit!

Bon appétit

Can we really trust God?

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George Mueller   George Mueller is my hero in the faith. He’s the pastor who together with his wife undertook orphan care in 19th century England. His primary purpose was NOT to provide love, care and education for children, BUT was to collect evidence to share with ordinary Christians that God had NOT changed and could still be trusted. In his words, Mueller wrote in 1835:

  • “….so many believers with whom I became acquainted were harassed and distressed in mind, or brought guilt on their consciences, on account of NOT trusting in the Lord: (these) were used by God to awaken in my heart the desire of setting before the church at large, and before the world, a proof that He has not in the least changed; and this seemed to me best done, by the establishing of an Orphan-House.”

Two features stand out about this adventure in trusting God:

  1. Mueller NEVER asked for funds.  He and his wife and the matron who worked with them prayed the money in, by taking God at His Word, by banking their all on His promises to provide.
  2. When all was said and done by 1870, 1722 children were being taken care of in 5 purpose-built homes that had required 100,000 English pounds to build, all provided by God through unsolicited donations.

So…the other dark day, in the midst of despairing over my own particular sin ‘bent’ that was overcoming any joy in the Lord, it came to me (thank you for your prayers used by the Holy Spirit, dear friend!) to tackle it once more but BY FAITH in God’s promises rather than by determination and Maria-power.  (yes, a novel idea, you rightly smirk!)

I’m embarrassed to share that this struggle with sin revolves around eating and my weight and the pre-eminent place all that still holds in my heart. The fight against idols persists. But the truth is my weight has gone up AND (creating the unpleasant dilemma) I like to eat. Reflecting soberly about this situation for the umpteenth time, I moved cautiously in the following direction.  So as not to change the kind of healthy foods nor the PORTIONS of the 3 meals I eat,  I settled on cutting out snacks between meals, a small change I know.  The daily deficit would be about 300 calories.

The next step after setting on a plan was this: I named my fears in black type on the white screen in an on-line journal:

  • That with such an incremental approach, I’ll just kind of ‘forget’ I’m doing this and go back to my old way of eating. I’m an expert at rationalizing and changing my mind.
  • That I will be hungry and unsatisfied between meals and feel sorry for myself and won’t be able to stand those feelings.

I knew I needed a go-to verse as my first weapon, if I was going to undertake this adventure in Holy Spirit power.  So I cobbled together 2 verses that quickly came to mind:

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you, the God who is able to do IMMEASURABLY more than all I can ask or imagine, according to Your power that is at work in me! Ps 56:3 and Eph 3:20

My husband has often shared with me his joined-at-the-hip pair of verses that he prayed for our son Wes to lean on as he underwent the rigors of Ranger School:

Apart from you I can do nothing; but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!  John 15:5c and Phil 4:13

So yesterday, day 1, we walked in the rain, it being a Saturday and NOT a hiking day.  I knew that given our leisurely start, I would not be able to eat my packed lunch until we reached the turn-around point of our walk at Biltmore Estate. As I anticipated being hungry and not having my habitual baggie of almonds to snack on, I leaned on God’s promise of provision.

152 - Biltmore in the rain on 10 Oct 2015

I took that fear and looked past it to God’s promise to provide in ways I can’t even project.

And He did!  No surprise there.

We ate lightly for supper, as I tried a new recipe for wild-caught flounder.  But again I contented myself with the assurance that each time I started to ‘panic’ I could take comfort in the God who IS living and runs the abundantly full cupboards of grace set aside for each of His children.

Day 1 – victory in Christ and on to adding to God’s track record of proof.  I know that He can be trusted.  I just need to prove it to myself again in that dark place that has been my hold-out, a stronghold of self-control and sin.

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