Friday, December 20, 2013

A Different Kind of Advent

It is time to stand together Church!  Battles on all sides surround us, pushing us to lay down our crosses and retreat.  Our own brothers and sisters are being tortured and killed.  Some are being forced to be silent about their convictions.  We are not understood.  We are different.  We must however stand up under the weight of trouble together, bearing one another's burdens in prayer and support. 

I feel helpless to even pray for those who are risking their lives for the sake of the gospel, for their faith in Jesus Christ.  I live in the US.  In a safe neighborhood.  I attend a church that I am free to go to.  I lift my hands to God and I don't know what to say.  The bible tells me that this trouble will come.  People will not understand God's ways or why I follow Him, but that we can still find strength in Him and in His Church.

I grew up in a Lutheran church, I now attend a Presbyterian church.  I have a good friend who goes to a Baptist Church and another who is Catholic, several of my neighbors attend a non-denominational church, a stranger prayed on the phone with me who went to who knows what kind of Christian church.  So what is my point?  Together we can be in prayer.  Together we can love on our neighbors.  Together we can fight for what is right and true as long as we have saving faith in Jesus Christ that comes from Him alone, in common.

And yet all of this feels like it has nothing to do with Christmas, or does it?  You've heard people say, "are you ready for Christmas?"  I've said it many times already this season, but my answer is always "Yep!" not because my house is clean and ready for guests or because my shopping is done or all the gifts are wrapped.  None of that will ultimately matter if your heart is not ready for Christmas and the coming of Jesus himself.  He may not be coming on December 25th or the day after or the day before, no body knows when, but at Christmas time we wait with HOPE that the day WILL come and we ready ourselves as Christians in a different way for Christmas.  As a Church, the Big C, we prepare for Christmas and the coming of Christ by being united.  What greater hope and peace can we share with the World than by showing unity among such a diverse group of people?  At your dinner table on Christmas or at your Christmas Eve services look around.  We come from all walks of life and yet God has called us to be One in HIM. 

No matter what is going on in the world, your home, your church or even your heart we can WAIT with expectation that Jesus is coming.  The struggles will not end here.  Sin and his master will continue to fight and wage war, but true victory has already come on the cross. 

I am ready for Christmas, how about you?

"...But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord."  Joshua 24:15

Thursday, December 19, 2013

In the Face of Temptation

Breaking Free.  A Journey to Being Truly Satisfied.
Day 4
Bible passages Matthew 4:1-11, Psalm 63:1-5

Scripture has plenty to offer us in the way of stories about temptation.  I believe that similarly things like fear and a need for love, it is an area that God knows we need a lot of direction.  In His word we can see the results of giving into temptation.  We can learn from others mistakes and as we read we are like the man sitting in his chair yelling at the quarterback on TV that there is a man open just down the field.  It’s always easier to see the opening from the outside looking in.  Escape isn’t the only defense we have though when it comes to temptation.  Jesus, after being baptized by John the Baptist was led by the Holy Spirit out into the desert for the specific purpose of being tempted by Satan.  I am baffled at this, for all the times I have struggled with temptation; Jesus is knowingly headed right into it!  But as I look at this today, with fresh perspective I don’t think He did this to show that it is wise to walk headlong into temptation, but to very clearly show us how to deal with it.  

What do I do when I am tempted?  Lately I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve not even been aware enough to see it as temptation.  I haven’t even been able to identify it as such.  I cannot say that any more.  The trouble with a study like this or a conviction like this is that you can no longer play dumb.  You and God both know you are well aware of your struggle.  Now what are you going to do about it? 

I clearly don’t hunger for the Word.  I could make you a list of the things I do hunger for or the things I miss when I don’t get them or as much of them as I would like when I want them….you get my point.  How do I get to the point of wanting to be with God above all else?  Am I so stubborn that I have to try everything else first?  When I want something sweet and I choose to sit with my Bible instead will I be satisfied?  My brain says that is exactly what His Word has been teaching me all along, but my emotions say, “but you still want the cake too right?!” 

The problem is I have never put this to the test.  What would my day look like if I actually did this?  Are we not to test God’s goodness (Malachi 3:10).  He has offered up himself to be the very thing we need, to lavish on us every good thing.  I am tired of living my life this way, without satisfaction and feeling empty despite my attempts to fill myself up.   

At every turn when Jesus was tempted he used scripture to drive Satan back.  And though Satan would get back up and try again Jesus would not give way to the temptation.  He could have just left.  He could have just called for a company of angels to rescue him and call it a day, but he stuck around and showed us how it’s done.  When in the face of temptation, rebuke it with the HOLY, NEVER CHANGING, LIFE GIVING, POWERFUL, TEMPTATION CRUSHING WORD OF GOD!
My journal companion while working through the Made to Crave 21 day challenge and the book Made to Crave.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Bought the Lie. HOOK. LINE. AND SINKER.

View from my office
Breaking Free. A Journey to Being Truly Satisfied.
Day 3
Bible passages 1Peter 2:9, 1Peter 4:1-11

The truth is I have bought into the idea that my struggle with food isn’t that bad.  It doesn’t cause that big a division between me and God.  Food hasn’t created other problems in my life.  I have 4 small children, all boys.  Finances are tight and the days are busy.  Food is not my biggest issue.  It’s all a lie!  The truth is God has provided himself, in His son Jesus Christ, as a provider of all things needed in this life.  The truth is I need provision, support, peace, unconditional love and the list goes on.  Food will not satisfy even one of these needs, but I have believed the lie.  And one more thing, I was created for a greater purpose than to simply survive this life.  I was designed to hold fast to the truth of God’s word so that in this world I can live a life that brings honor and glory to my Lord.  He has given me everything I need to accomplish this, but I often choose much less useful and sometimes downright sinful means to just get through the day.

We all hold fast to things we believe to be true, but only God’s word can reveal what TRUTH is.  And unless we spend time in it we will never know that truth or the greater things we were created to do.
My journal companion to working through the Made to Crave 21 day challenge and the book Made to Crave.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fill Me Up

Breaking Free.  A Journey to Being Truly Satisfied
 Day 2

Bible passages Matthew 19: 16-22, Ephesians 1:17-23

“God made us capable of craving so that we’d have an unquenchable desire for more of Him, and Him alone. Nothing changes until we make the choice to redirect our misguided cravings to the only One capable of satisfying them.” (Made to Crave 21 Day Challenge, Day 2)

I echo Paul’s prayer in Ephesians.  The 23rd verse leaps out at me, desperately telling me there is a better way, “which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
I have turned to food to satisfy me.  I have used food to avoid the things I worry about.  I have used sex to make myself feel beautiful.  Again and again I have created idols out of the things you intended to be gifts.  I have distorted them, but because I walked with you, went to church, read my bible, and spent time in prayer, I fooled myself and my eyes did not truly see that living my life this way was sinful.  Many times I have read the story of the rich young ruler from Matthew and thought that it did not really apply to me.  I am neither rich nor struggle with holding onto my possessions.   I never before understood that as you looked into the heart of that man and saw what held him back from a life fully devoted to you, you also were speaking to me, looking into my heart and seeing what was holding me back. 
I see now.  I’m not really sure where to go from here.  This has been the pattern of my life for 32 years.  As Paul prayed for the Ephesians that your mighty strength would work in them, the same strength that raised Jesus from the dead; demolish the idols I have held in my life.  Rather than craving food let me seek you.  Rather than covering my doubts let me give them to you.  And let my beauty be defined by you alone. Amen.

My journal companion to working through the Made to Crave 21 day challenge and the book Made to Crave.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Confession Time
My journal companion to working through the Made to Crave 21 day challenge and the book Made to Crave.
Breaking Free. A Journey to being truely satisfied. Day 1
Bible passage Psalm 139

God as I read the Psalm as my prayer to you I feel convicted rather than comforted by the awareness that you know my thoughts and every action.  Unlike family and friends I cannot hide my sins from you.  I cannot hide my secret desires and passions.  My shamefulness is ever before you and yet you stay.


How can you see all that I am and not want to leave me? Not only do you stay, but you protect and guide me still.  You make plans for me.  You knew all of this beforehand and still you formed me, brought me life and gave me purpose.  This truth is beyond my reason.  From the perspective of the world it doesn't add up, but again and again in scripture that is exactly what you promise! 

And here I am humbled by such love, but giving my affection to something else.  I turn to something you created rather than the Creator for my needs.  You made me to desire you.  You created me with an emptiness meant to be filled with You and I fill it with food.  I want more than awareness; I want to be changed by you and set free to live out all that you purposed me to be.  No matter how much this hurts right now and for the struggles that will come I choose today to honor you.  Help me God to turn my eyes and desires to you.   

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Breaking Free: A Journey to Being Truely Satisfied

My ladies group at church decided to study a book on modern day idols.  I was not too terribly excited about the idea, but I am always blessed by the studies we do.  Time in the Word, time in fellowship and time in prayer are always good things.  What I did not expect was it to jump start a whole new life.  I say this because......

It is more than a diet.

It is more than a phase.

It more than grasping at straws to be thinner and happier.

I am tired of being trapped and held captive by food.  I hate how I feel.  I cannot believe how stressed I am some days.  I carry the "weight" of who I used to be and the childhood that I lived.  I seek comfort in food.  I celebrate with food.  I pass the time and fill the empty spaces with food.  You may be saying to yourself, "I don't have a problem with food."  But I can guess that if you ask God to reveal to you what it is that you put before HIM, he will show you.  You can insert that "thing" into my confessions above.  What God wants to reveal most to you is the very thing that gets in the way of a deeper relationship with him.

It all started with an admission.  In class that first night after watching a DVD on modern idols, I had a sudden awareness that mine is food.  What exactly is an idol anyway?  We don't use that kind of language anymore really, after all for the most part we are a Christian nation.  We live under the New Covenant.  Why would we have idols?  I am a God fearing, Jesus loving, on my knees in prayer, worship singing, rooted in faith kind of girl.  I have no statues in my home or hanging from my rear view mirror.

Kelly Minter in her bible study book No Other Gods, uses a quote from Ken Sande to clarify more, "most of us think of an idol as a statue of wood, stone or metal worshiped my pagan people...In biblical terms, it is something other than God that we set our hearts on, that motivates us, that masters and rules us, or that we trust, fear or serve."  Please see Luke 12:29, 1Cor. 4:5, Eph. 5:5, Psalm 119:133, Isa. 42:17.
After class I got a call from one of my friends telling me that she too had the same struggle and asked if maybe we could become like accountability partners in this battle to conquer our idols.  And that is where it started.  One confession.  One suggestion.

She thought that using the same devotion might be helpful to go along with our food journals so she found a book by Lysa TerKeurst called Made to Crave.  I had never heard of it, but was ready to try just about anything.  Online for free you can do a 21 day challenge, a set of devotions from the book, sent to us each day via email.  It was a wonderful thing and each day I wrote in my journal.  These writings will be the posts that follow.

Thank you for joining me in this.  I pray that you are blessed by what I am learning and encouraged to confront your own modern day idols.  Please leave comments.  We can partner together.  It would be my pleasure to pray for you.