Posts Tagged ‘Replacing Lies with Truth’

Developing a Taste for What is Good

I have a major sweet tooth.

Not only do I love all things sugary, but I love treats of any kind–special somethings at special times.  And they are usually food related.

I look forward to eating out at my favorite restaraunt.  I enjoy baking warm cookies for game night.  When we have an unexpected visitors, I search the shelves for something delicious I can pull out and feed them. And it seems like it is always unhealthy.

Lately, as I’ve been increasingly concerned about eating healthy, I’ve been really wishing I just naturally desired healthier foods. While I enjoy healthy things, I find that if an unhealthy alternative is in front of me, I will always choose the unhealthy.

I have always envied the people who view apples and natural peanut butter as a “snack.”  I look with awe at people who are satisfied with a fresh fruit and yogurt smoothie as “dessert.”  I have always just assumed this came naturally for them.  And I wish my tastes craved the natural, good things as my treat. I have waited all my life for that magic moment when I would suddenly have an appetite and a natural longing for healthy food, and a distaste for unhealthy food.

And then it occurred to me.

That point will never come.

Because of sin in the world, we are naturally bent toward wanting what is wrong. Please understand, I am not saying that eating unhealthy food is inherently sinful; I am simply drawing a parallel.  No one has to be taught to enjoy the taste of a cookie or some other sweet.  But how many kids love spinach, or beans, or plain oatmeal? Not very many.  I am finding that I have to discipline my taste buds to love what is good.

It occurs to me that the same is true in our spiritual lives.  We need to develop a taste for righteousness. It does not come naturally.  If we are Christians, we have the Holy Spirit within us, and he gives us the desire for holy, righteous things, but if we quench him out, we are left to our own sinful flesh. If we fill our minds up with unspiritual, worldly things, there is little appetite for the holy.

In the same way, if I am full on junk food, I will obviously have no appetite for what is healthy. When I continuously indulge in unhealthy foods, I will not crave the good stuff.

I have been thinking about this a lot in relation to Lent.  The point of Lent is to remove a desired item to practice self-denial and direct us towards Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf.  1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.  ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.”  If you feel that an object, item, person, etc. is required in order to be content, then you are enslaved.  What an awful thought!  And we are so deceived to think that we are not enslaved–that we simply have to have this thing to be happy, and to give it up would be unbearable!  But the very fact that the thought is unbearable reveals that our soul places to high a value on it, and that we are indeed enslaved.  And we should not be enslaved to anything but Christ.

That is why fasting is so beneficial. We remove the item of temptation and choose to go without it.  At the end of your fast, you realize that you don’t actually need that item as much as you thought you did. You realize you got along just fine without it, and in fact, you now have a liberty that you had not experienced before. And we now have real desires for the good things. They are not manufactured, but they are real! Denying our flesh enables us to develop affections for what is good and right.

But in our culture, we want everything the easy way. We want to simply naturally desire a life of studying and meditating on Scripture. We think that if we have to work at it, it must be hypocrisy or legalism.  We just assume the really “Spiritual” and godly people were just born that way–not that they may have cultivated that in their hearts through much prayer and sacrifice.  So we just go about our lives, unconsciously being filled up with all the things of the world, so that our appetite for righteousness is nearly nonexistent.

James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  This verse always convicts my heart, because I know the good things to eat, yet, if given the choice, I will always choose the bad thing to eat. If you set a brownie and a salad in front of me and I have to choose one, I will choose the brownie every time.

But if you remove the brownie and simply give me the salad, I love the salad. If the junk food is removed, I begin to desire the good food.  I see that my heart longs for so many other ungodly things to satisfy it outside of simply food.  In this period of Lent and examining myself, I find that much more sacrifice will be required in order to know God in the way in which I so long to know him. I want him to be my all in all, to fill me up so that I don’t want anything else.

But in order to have room for Him to fill me, I must get rid of all the other junk cluttering things up. I am so thankful for Lent…I will continue to spend this time searching my soul and praying to rid myself of all that is displeasing to God.

Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

 

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The Idolatry of Eating

Recently, I blogged about why we should celebrate Lent.  Today I want to share what I have given up for Lent, in an effort to encourage you and to be held publicly accountable.
The Spirit has been convicting me lately that I have serious issues regarding my love to indulge myself in pleasant activities.

Especially if it involves eating.

This never used to be an issue for me. In fact, I used to struggle with the exact opposite of overeating. But with this last pregnancy, it was like my “I’m full” button shorted out, and I discovered the ability to eat, and eat, and eat, and eat. And I really liked it! And then I realized I couldn’t stop eating. It was just too delicious. My palate simply had to be satisfied further, most of the time, until I had made myself sick on chocolate chip cookies or a half bottle of sparkling grape juice. Or I would find that I was craving something that we didn’t have on hand, I would load the kids into the car and drive out just to get it. If I did not have something I was craving, I found myself descending into a pit of depression.

I told you I had issues.

But as I am working through this and talking to multiple other brothers and sisters in Christ, I am realizing I am not alone in this struggle.  In fact, it seems to be rampant in our land of plenty.

One of the things we often conveniently overlook is the fact that gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Food in itself is neither good nor bad.  1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is beneficial.” It is not that food and eating are inherently sinful, it is our heart attitude towards food. Why am I eating? Is it because I am legitimately hungry? Is this food even nourishing, or is it simply fulfilling a lustful craving I have?  The truth is, we can actually be eating out of greed and lust, not a real hunger or need for nourishment.

The problem is, eating is one of those necessary evils. We have to eat, or we will die of starvation! So a person cannot simply give it up.  This makes it imperative to be disciplined in our eating.  We simply must learn to control ourselves.

If you are wondering if you have an issue with food, perhaps you might relate to some of my temptations:

If faced with a particularly doldrum task (like filing and paperwork), I cheer my spirits by allowing myself to enjoy a Pepsi and a chocolate bar. If the kids are not behaving well, and I am tired and stressed, I console myself with looking forward to eating dinner out instead of cooking. When I am lonely or bored, I raid the kitchen to fill my stomach with something–anything to occupy my hands and mouth. If I am gloomy, I decide the perfect treat would be playing games with Stephen after the kids are in bed and eating popcorn and drinking sparkling grape juice, my all-time favorite combination.

The problem, however, is not food. It is my heart. It is my flesh that craves satisfaction outside of Christ. It is my sin that causes me to hunger for something edible to fill a spot of loneliness in my heart. It is believing the lie that that brownie, cookie, or sugary beverage will not only fill my stomach, but whatever emotion seems to be lacking.

As I have been increasingly convicted about this area of sin in my heart, I recognize the temptation to attempt self-denial out of my own strength. And that has never worked before. The Lord has convicted me to give up high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup, a sugar that is in nearly everything processed and packaged, over the period of Lent.  And while I am choosing to not eat anything with that sugar in it, to be assessing my heart every time I am tempted to indulge.

To help identify the idolatry in my heart, I am listening to Revive Our Heart’s radio broadcast of “Love to Eat, Hate to Eat” with Elyse Fitzpatrick, as well as reading the book as a devotional.  Another helpful resource has been the Toxic Talk Tuesdays with the Fabry’s on food and eating right.

Over this period of Lent, I do not simply want to deny myself for the purpose of self-discipline. I want to rid my heart of the idol of filling up emptiness with food and pleasure. I want to seek God instead and find him to be more than enough for all my desires.  I want to say “no” to my flesh in something as simple as eating whatever I want whenever I want it, so that I can say “no” to my flesh when faced with a temptation to sin.

Aside: Because my hubby was not giving up HFCS and one of our special date night traditions is sparkling grape juice, I made the exception of allowing sparkling grape juice throughout Lent.  But though I am drinking it occasionally, I am checking my heart for motives and praying over it. Lent does not need to be legalistic–it is for the purpose of examining the heart and coming on our knees before God continually as we recognize our need for Him.

Taking Refuge in the Gospel

Willcox Baby, Week 16

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13: 5-6

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure…You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill my with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:9, 10, 11

Stephen and I have been reading the Psalms lately. It has been awhile since I poured over them, and I had forgotten what a balm to the soul they are! If anyone knew suffering and trials, it was David! I love how honestly he relays his struggles, “How long will you forget me, oh God?”, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger…be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint.”  He grapples with serious, painful situations, but in the end, he always comes back to preaching truth to himself. Even while David may feel abandoned by God, he knows that God has always been faithful in the past. The Psalms always end with truth and rejoicing in God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.

Two major things have weighed heavily on our hearts these past few months.  The intensity, difficulty, and increasing demands of Stephen’s job, and this pregnancy, which seems to be ever hanging in the balance.  While we are grateful for his job, because it brought us to the Quad Cities and First Baptist Church, it is taking its toll on our family. The ever-lengthening hours and physical requirements take everything Stephen has to give, and he has practically nothing left when he gets home.  While we have been crying out to the Lord to provide another job the whole time we have been here, in the last few months, our cries have reached a new intensity as we both have reached our breaking point. Some days it is tempting to wonder if God has indeed forgotten us.

And then there is this little life within me.  It seems every couple of weeks, we are shakily calling the doctor again (it always happens to be after hours, too!) asking what we should do in light of the current situation.  When I get into the ER or the office, the answer is always the same.  They simply do not know what is wrong, if anything is wrong, what to do about it, and if or how this pregnancy will continue.  On our last visit, the doctor’s main concerns were 1)possibility still may miscarry 2)risk of preterm labor.  While it is wonderful to hear a heartbeat every visit, and amazing to see that tiny little body on the ultrasound screen wriggling around inside me, I am always left with the reality that that doesn’t promise anything for the future.

I have good days and bad days. I have days where I feel confident, hopeful, and peaceful, that everything is going to be fine, and I will deliver a healthy, full-term baby.  And I have days where I cannot climb out from under this weight of heaviness over my heart, gnawing at me that I will not get to raise this baby either.

That is why I am grateful for the Psalms! In God’s wisdom, he inspired men like King David and others to detail their heart’s wrestling over similar struggles, and in the end, to point them to God’s faithfulness, his goodness, his sovereignty.  In that is my hope found, and in nothing else.  God has placed us in such a way that we really have nothing to place our hope in, other than him. The doctors are baffled. They have no answers, only more questions. They have no promises that everything will be fine. They can quote statistics and say “You’ve carried the baby this far, hopefully that means something good!”  But that is a false foundation on which to build my hope. If I placed my hope in all of that, I would crumble and fall if that all fell through.

But if I hope in the Gospel, Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf, in God’s love for me, in his faithfulness and control over all things, I can rest securely that his will will be done, and he will be with us through it all, whether painful or joyful.  And I can trust that he is working all things together not only for my good, but for his glory.

“I have set the Lord always before me…I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

Fighting the Fury of Feelings

For the last year, I have been living with the amazing  blessing of a sense of nearly constant peace, joy, and fulfillment.  Every day I felt overwhelmed with God’s blessings on me and my family.  I felt deeply the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom and raising Jeshuah and ministering within our church.  I could hardly wait to go to sleep every night so I could jump out of bed at 5:30am to begin the day with sweet quiet time with God and then head off to my to-do list.  Sure, there were struggles in the midst of all of this, but for the most part, I was brimming with joy and excitement as I went from day to day.  And every day I woke with such delight to serve my husband and meet my son’s needs, I was keenly aware that these wonderful feelings were a gift from God that He could choose to remove at any given time.  And then the real test would be whether I would remain faithful to the call even when I didn’t feel like it.

About five weeks ago, with a swift sweep of his hand, God reached out and snatched all those good feelings away from me.  In an instant, I went from smiling at the prospect of clearing a counter full of dishes, to a despair so debilitating I simply couldn’t do it.  Upon waking every morning, I fought an inexplicable tidal wave of panic and terror at the thought of the day before me.  Every ordinary task seemed now so insurmountable, I couldn’t gather up the strength to do it. Dishes and laundry were never ending–what was the point? Cleaning was exhausting and short-lived. How depressing! Fixing food only created more dishes which I didn’t have the strength to do.  Each day simply flowed into another with more menial tasks, and what was the point of it all?

Such are the thoughts and feelings that have encompassed me over this last month.  And yet, as I battle to fight them off with truth, I have to ask myself “What on earth changed?” I have always done dishes that simply became dirty again. Never has a swept floor remained crumb free.  When one load of laundry is done, there is another pile mounting to be washed.  None of this is new.  None of this used to terrify and debilitate me as it is now.  It is simply my attitude toward it that has changed.  It is only my feelings about it that have swayed from joy-filled to despair.

And I fear I am quite a slave to my feelings.  If I do not feel like doing it, by jove, I probably won’t.  If Jeshuah is napping and there is a pile of dishes to be done, but I would rather sit on the porch and read, you can be certain that is what I will do.  I find that the only reason I have been faithful in the past is because I have felt like being faithful. I have felt the benefits of this obedience. I have been blessed with joy in my work.

But my recent plunge back into a depression that has removed all these feelings from me reminds me that I am not to live according to my feelings–ever. Even when I am feeling good.  Life is not about doing what feels right.  Life is about unquestioning, faithful obedience to God’s call on our lives, no matter how we feel about it. And praise God when the feelings follow, but we are not entitled to feeling good.  That is a gift of God which I do not take for granted. It is a sweet, sweet gift, and I would rather be back in that season of feeling the good feelings than be here in this deep pit of wrestling for every obedient act.  But I also know that it is here that God will do some of his deepest work in me.  How can I relate to and effectively pray for those who wrestle with these things if I do not know the pain involved myself?  Already I can look back and recognize a judgemental spirit towards other when I felt joy in all my household labors and they found it wearisome. Now I remember–oh yeah! It feels pretty awful, and yes it can be paralyzing and debilitating to feel this way.  But I pray for victory over that element.  Sure, I may not feel wonderful about doing the dishes or changing the sheets.  But I am still called to do it, and to choose to do it with a joyful heart.

May God give me grace as he has for each day thus far to fight the fury of these negative feelings and simply be obedient no matter what.  He is growing me to be more like his Son, he is teaching me deeper lessons, he is refining me with fire.  And, oh, how I will rejoice on the other side of it! It will all be worth it in the end, to know Christ deeper.

Why Trying Harder Simply Won’t Work

After an unintentional blogging sabbatical due to lack of internet, I am back.  I have been in the process of writing some very practical tips and worksheets for intentional living, but I feel as though I must break from that for just a bit and just share some encouragement for the journey.

It is so hard to find the balance between doing what God has called us to do and yet not doing it in our own strength or for our own self-righteousness. I find myself constantly pulled back into the trap of lies that my home has to be perfect at all times–not only for anyone who might step through the door, but for my family and especially for myself–I cannot think straight if the house is not spotless and all my household “wheels” are oiled and running smoothly without so much as a squeak!  This is a slippery slope in which I have allowed myself to become entrenched this last couple of weeks.  My eyes have strayed from the purpose of why I desire to keep an orderly home and I have become enslaved to the process and ultimate goal of perfection and order. This results in being constantly overwhelmed, discontent, and ultimately feeling like a total failure in every aspect. Ugh, what an icky place to be!

I wanted to share this in particular for two reasons. One, because I know I am not alone in this! Every wife and mom I ever talk to feels like this! Two, because I want to preach truth to myself as well as my other mama friends who are feeling bogged down with despair over the magnitude of their responsibility.

Three particular messages have refreshed my heart in this area over the last week.  Unfortunately, I have not been meditating on them enough to penetrate my heart, so I write them out in hopes that I can get it through my head and into my heart and into my actions!

My cousin sent me a quote by Mark Chanski that has been playing in the back of my head all week. It has been such an encouragement in moments where I am simply so weary of serving and feeling like at the end of the day, there is still a mountain of things to do.

“She needs to gain and maintain the deep conviction of the glory, honor, and notability of selfless service. This she finds at the foot of the cross, looking up to the One who earned for Himself ‘the name which is above every name’ (Phil. 2:9), by ’emptying Himself, taking the form of a bondservant’ (2:7), humbling ‘Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (2:8). There she beholds her Savior who mopped up the damning vomit of her own sin with the precious sponge of His perfect life and atoning death. The love of Christ constrains and compels her to press on (2 Cor. 5:14). The Spirit of Christ empowers her.” – Mark Chanski

I am such a task-oriented person. I love lists and checking things off my list.  I grow very, very discouraged when I cannot do this, and I also find I struggle with being faithful in the things I cannot check off a list.  My sanctification, becoming more like Christ, is one of those things I cannot check and say “done!”  This doesn’t mean I won’t still try, though.  Our human nature craves the satisfaction of accomplishment, and so we try to create for ourselves lists to become more sanctified.  We know, for instance, that our obedience ought to be motivated out of love for Christ, but the way we think we accomplish that is by working harder at it.

In her book, Comforts from the Cross, Elyse Fitzpatrick writes “Okay, I’ve got the ‘love God’ part down, so now I need to concentrate on being more and more obedient to prove it.  It’s right there I fail to get the emphasis right.  I gloss over the motivating role that love plays and focus in on what I need to do instead.  But…the key to a godly life is not more and more self-generated effort.  How then do I cultivate the sincerity of love that motivates obedience? by focusing more intently on his love for me then on my love for him, more on his obedience than mine, more on his faitfulness than mine, more on his strengths than mine.”

If left to ourselves, we will fail every time. We will strive harder and only fail harder.  But Christ, our advocate and savior, did all things well.  Instead of focusing on ourselves and our efforts, we are to look to him and what he accomplished in our stead. This and only this will motivate towards sanctifying obedience and victory over our flesh.

We were not saved from our sin to be further enslaved to our flesh and our emotions.  Yet that is how I have felt the last couple of weeks.  All of my emotions have been mixed up, confused, and full of lies and discouragement.  They have pulled my eyes off the cross and onto my own accomplishments.  I have found myself failing time and time again in loving my husband, caring for my son, and running my household.  The temptation is to make a list of all the ways in which I need to sanctify myself! Elyse Fitzpatrick again, “What I think I need are more rules to live by.  Give me a pen and a sticky pad, and I can get my life together.” Oh, how tempting this is when I am feeling defeated in my pursuit of keeping my home and raising my son! I want to make lists, stick to them, and then feel really good about myself as I look about at others.

“Just a smidgeon of works-righteousness, just a drop of minor law keeping (so that we’re sure we’re covering all our bases), will poison our entire soul. Works-righteousness will enslave us…it comes cloaked in something akin to genuine goodness. I know that I don’t have to get straight As, or have people over every night, or wash my car every weekend, bu I think it shows that I’m really serious about pleasing God and not like other people who take their salvation for granted. We smile conceitedly when we think that we’re just a bit better than others.” (Comforts from the Cross)

Keeping an orderly home is an honorable pursuit.  Disciplining and loving our children is pleasing to God.  Opening our home to strangers is obedient to God’s commands.  However each of these good things can be motivated by wrong desires.  I find my temptation is to do these things for my own gratification, or to impress others, or to puff my own pride up so I can look on others with a sense of superiority.  These are all awful traps to fall into.  I must guard my heart with the truth of the gospel when I am tempted with these sins.  I preach to myself what Christ accomplished at the cross and how he is our example of selfless service when I am weary of the drudgery.  When my heart is tempted with pride, I remind myself that I am nothing without Christ. When I want to live in light of my changing emotions, I remind myself that Christ died to set me free from the enslavement of living on a whim. It never satisfies anyway.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1