Monday, March 3, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 19: Living As An Overcomer

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Chapter 19 discusses "Living As an Overcomer."

"Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." Psalm 107:17-20.

"To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." Revelation 2:7b.

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 18: Things Lost, Better Things Gained

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Chapter 18 discusses the fact that we have to come to grips with the fact that we will have to say "no" to some foods forever. Lysa says that is "part courageous sacrifice and part utter repentance," and though those words can speak of hardship, they can also speak of victory. "But victory won't stay for long if I start resisting and disliking her essential requirements of sacrifice and repentance."

Being at one's goal weight can be dangerous, partly because we want to celebrate and may be tempted to do that with food, partly because we can be tempted to let up on our watchfulness and carefulness. 

Studies have shown that some junk foods are indeed addictive and require more for the same amount of pleasure, so sometimes a little compromise can trigger a major reversal.

"It's really difficult for a chips-and-chocolate girl to uninvite foods to her party that have been regulars for years. And it's even more difficult to reconcile that they aren't my friends. Some can be casual acquaintances on a very limited level, but others need to be banished for good" (emphasis mine).

Lysa brings up I Cor. 6:12 again, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." The very next verse says, "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them."

"Food is not the enemy here. Satan is the enemy. And his stategic plan is to render us ineffective or at least sluggish for the cause of Christ. When we're defeated and stuck in issues of the flesh, it's really hard to fully and passionately follow hard after God. So, lest we start mourning what will be lost, we must celebrate all that's being gained in this process."

"No food will ever taste as sweet as victory does."

Lysa describes tossing away something and says, "This isn't a sign that I am being deprived. This isn't a trigger for me to pout and say it's not fair. This is a sacrifice I am willing to make in order to gain something so much greater than he rest of this biscuit. This is the most empowering thing I can do in this moment!"

"We can't have the mind-set of this being a hard, impossible sacrifice. Focusing only on what we're giving up will make us feel constantly deprived. And deprivation leads to desperation, frustration, and failure. Instead, we have to focus on everything we're gaining though this process and see the gains as more valuable than the losses."

Then Lysa deals with the issue of repentance, for all of the past times we have chosen wrongly and craved food more than God. Instead of "beating ourselves up" with our failures, we can hand them to Him and seek grace, forgiveness, and the power to carry on.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 17: The Very Next Choice We Make

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Chapter 17 discusses sustaining the discipline we've developed. If we "diet," reach our goal weight, and then abandon our diet, we'll end up right back where we started from. To get to our goal weight, we have to make sacrifices. But we grow tired of them after a while. How to keep on?

We can't in our own strength. Remembering that discipline in this area is part of our overall pursuit of holiness helps.

Lysa says, "It is good for God's people to be put in a place of longing so they feel a slight desperation. Only then can we be empty enough and open enough to discover the holiness we were made for. When we're stuffed full of other things and never allow ourselves to be in a place of longing, we don't recognize the deeper spiritual battle going on. Satan wants to keep us distracted by chasing one temporary filling after another."

"The gap between our frail discipline and God's available strength is bridged with nothing but a simple choice on our part to pursue this holiness. Moment by moment we have the choice to live in our own strength and risk failure or to reach across the gap and grab hold of God's unwavering strength. . . the more dependent we become on God's strength, the less enamored we are with other choices."

II Corinthians 7:1 says, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

Lysa comments, "Holiness means to be set apart for a noble use. The very next choice we make isn't really about whether or not to eat [the wrong foods].  It's about whether we are going to stay away from those things that are not beneficial for what we are created to be. We are 'taught, with regard to [our] former way of life, to put off [our] old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of [our] minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.' (Ephesians 4:22-24)"

"Victory isn't a place we arrive at and then relax. Victory is when we pick something healthy over something not beneficial for us. And we maintain our victories with each next choice." 

Romans 6:19: "I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness."

We have to continually yield, "tapping into God's strength," every moment, not just in a once-for-all expression at an altar or bedside. Prayer and Bible study are a part of that, bur Lysa maintains  that another part is "getting to a place where our lack of strength disgusts us," "at the bottom of our excuses and rationalizations . . . when our efforts fail time and time again." Along those lines Lysa asked God to "unsettle" her, which didn't make sense to me until she described it as asking Him to "rattle loose my complacent excuses and break apart my stubborn refusals to  . . really look at whatever pulls my heart away from God."

Lysa describes her study through Psalm 78, about God's blessings and care of Israel from Egypt through the wilderness, and they're forgetting. She quotes verses 17-18 and 21 from the NIV, which say, "But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High. They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. When the Lord heard them, he was furious." She says, "I guess the reason this hot me so hard was because it so specifically addresses inappropriate cravings and the reality of how God feels about them."

"Crave means to long for; want greatly; desire eagerly. Pursuing holiness means God is the only One we should long for; want greatly; desire eagerly. The only One worthy of worship."

"Discipline makes disciples who truly understand what it means to delight themselves in the Lord. For the Lord has been allowed to rewrite the desires of their hearts. It's a place not wrought with sacrifice but rather a place where they see healthy choices as overflowing blessings so pure and rich, they'd never trade them."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 16: Why Diets Don't Work

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Chapter 16 discusses the problem with diets. Many people can sacrifice short-term, but we all grow weary of it. "So, I'm not on a diet. I'm on a journey with Jesus to learn the fine art of self-discipline for the purpose of holiness."

Part of that journey is deciding ahead of time what we will eat. "Deciding in advance keeps my thinking and planning rational and on track." Planning while full, like right after a meal, is helpful, too. "The absolute worst time for me to decide what I'm going to eat is when I've waited until I'm depleted and feeling very hungry."

I Corinthians 10:12-13 says, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." The "way out" the Lord provides for Lysa, she says, is deciding in advance what she will and won't have that day. I have to admit, when I think of the "way out," I think more of God coming to my rescue with supernatural strength and reminders of His truth rather than this kind of thing, but He does also say "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (I Corinthians 10:5), and planning is part of doing that. In Israel's battles, sometimes God supernaturally intervened, and sometimes they had to take up their swords and fight in reliance on Him. When God gives me that "sword" with His promise of help and grace, I'm to use it, not wait for Him to do the battle for me.

The next verse in that passage says "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." Lysa says, "Expecting anything outside the will of God to satisfy us is idolatry. Nutrition, which is food's intended purpose, means consuming proper portions of healthy choices that enable our bodies to function properly. Idolatry, in the case of food, means the consumption of ill-sized portions and unhealthy choices because we feel like we deserve it or need it to feel better" (p. 158K). We don't need to flee food, because we need it, but we do need "to flee the control food can have over our lives."

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 15: The Demon in the Chips Poster

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Chapter 15 discusses the temptation to "sneak" food and the need sometimes not to rationalize but just to flee temptation. She reminds us this battle is not just physical and emotional, but spiritual as well.

Ephesians 6:10-11 say, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Lysa points out that the word for "wiles" ("schemes" in her version) is related to our English word "strategies." Satan's temptations aren't random. Dr. Jim Berg describes them as designer sins: Satan know what will "work" with each of us. But "we hold a power greater than any craving we face" (p. 148K), the truth of God's Word.

Psalm 106:14-15 say, "But [Israel] lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul." 

Lysa mentions being in a deprived state creates danger zones, so we have to be extra careful when we're really tried and hungry.

We have to "stop thinking about what I shouldn't have and park my mind on thoughts of being thankful for what I could have." "We must affirm these boundaries as gifts from a God who cares about out health, not restrictive feces meant to keep us from enjoying life. Vulnerable, broken taste buds can't handle certain kinds of freedom. So boundaries keep us safe, not restricted" (p. 149-150K).

Lysa developed these healthy boundaries based on truth:

Made to Crave, Chapter 14: Emotional Emptiness

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Chapter 14 discusses emotional triggers to overeat. Lysa discusses being abandoned by her father and the emotional responses that caused and her resulting attempts to derive comfort from food.

Those emotional responses (to any kind of hurt) are not just one-time events. Even when we have experienced salvation and healing in Christ, sometimes our minds can get stuck in those hurtful modes. Lysa reminds us of Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things," and reminds us to "park our minds in a better spot." She then applies each part of Phil. 4:8 step by step to the situation with her father as an example and encouragement for us to do the same with our issues.

Made to Crave, Chapter 13: Overindulgence

I'm participating in the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, and making notes on each chapter here, and I have some catching up to do! I have been reading each chapter on time, but wasn't able to keep up with the notes during an extra-busy week last week.

Chapter 13 is titled "Overindulgence," the problem most of us with weight issues have in some respect. Lysa begins with her preacher's beginning a sermon with pouring a glass of wine, a shocking thing in a Bible-belt church where grape juice is used for communion. He then proceeded to discuss what the Bible actually says about drinking wine and then to apply the same principles to eating. 

I'm not sure I want to get into a full discussion about what the Bible says about drinking here. I knew one preacher who said the wine Jesus turned water into was grape juice and every verse that makes it sound like drinking wine is acceptable is actually talking about grape juice. I just don't think that's intellectually honest. The way it was explained to me was that it was really wine with some degree of alcoholic content, and in Biblical days it was purer than the water, but it was a very low alcoholic content. One would have to partake of quite a bit to be affected by it. The Bible does definitely speak against excess, drunkenness, and "strong drink." There are some verses where wine is coupled with strong drink, others, like the ones where Jesus turned water into wine, and this one and this one, seem to be talking about something acceptable. I don't know whether there were different words used in the different cases or whether it was understood in the day that there was wine and then there was wine. My own reasons for not drinking any kind of alcohol come from having an alcoholic father. Not only have I seen what that kind of excess can do, but I have heard that alcoholism can run in families, and I do have a tendency to overindulge in things I find pleasant, and I don't want to take a step on that path. Plus the Bible warns us against being a stumblingblock to others, and even if I thought partaking was ok, I wouldn't want someone to go by my example and partake and then have problems with it. And in this day and age we have a wide variety of nonalcoholic drinks to choose from.

But whatever one believes about social drinking, the pastor's point is well taken that we can get all in a tizzy about that and then excuse overindulgence in eating, when the Bible warns against gluttony as well. Church potlucks, especially in the South, are notorious for having heaps of unhealthy food that almost everyone scarfs up til they're about to pop, and it is inconsistent to hold strongly against excess in alcohol consumption (drunkenness) and wink at or ok excess in food consumption (gluttony). Proverbs 23:20-21 say, "Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags."

The Bible talks about our thirst for God in passages like Psalm 42:1-2: "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" and Psalm 143:6: "I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land." When we turn to food for comfort during disappointment or frustration or sadness, we "numb our longings with temporary physical pleasures" instead of taking them to God, who alone can fill our souls. "Overstuffing ourselves with food or drinking until we get drunk or getting wrapped up in the affections of an adulterous relationship are all desparate attempts to silence the cries of a hungry soul."

Lysa then discusses the Israelites reaction when they were in the wilderness and lashed out at God because they needed food and water instead of trusting Him after seeing His great power in all the miracles He had done in their sight. When God provides manna, He "planned to use the Israelites' food issues to teach them the valuable lesson of daily dependence on Him." 

Lamentation 3:22-24 says, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him." We can seek Him as our portion instead of excess portions of food.

"There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." Psalm 81:9-10.

"For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." Psalm 107:9.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 12: The Curse of the Skinny Jeans

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Chapter 12 is about realizing that even when we reach our goal (in Lysa's case, being able to fit back into an old pair of skinny jeans), that doesn't mean that all will be well with the world and we won't have any more problems. Victory is sweet, but there will still be struggles and temptations. Our ultimate fulfillment doesn't come even from reaching our goal weight, or, as Lysa says, "My body size is not tied to my happy. If my happy was missing when I was larger, it will still be missing when I get smaller. Tying my happy to the wrong things is partially what caused my weight gain in the first place." "I have to learn to attach my happy to the only eternal stability there is and remain there."

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." John 15:9-12.

Lysa points out that these verses talk not only of remaining in God's love, but of our joy being complete in Him. "Complete. As in not lacking anything. Complete. As in filled up to the brink with joy no matter if we are wearing our skinny jeans or not. Complete. As in satisfied with a fulness we can't get any other way."

Because we're all incomplete without Him, and He loves us, He wants us to reach out to other incomplete people with His love. 

Lysa realized that "incomplete people" who aren't filled with God's love "are complicated and sensitive and messy in their reactions," and because "they have the potential to drain my resolve and make me grumpy," and though the last thing she wanted to do was to show love to them, she realized that's exactly what she needed to do. Instead of being hurt by their offense, we can look at their hurt behind their reaction, because we have "His joy in [us], sustaining [us], and directing [us.]" She even took it a step farther and began praying about who needed words of encouragement, and spent afternoons writing notes to them instead of thinking about food.

We need to "remember the ultimate goal of this journey isn't about making me a smaller-sized person but rather making me crave Jesus and His truths as the ultimate filler of my heart."

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 11: Stinkin', Rotten, Horrible, No Good Day

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries.

I've been keeping up with reading the chapters, but am behind on jotting my notes on the last couple. We had a snow storm, which made my mother-in-law's aide not able to come in, so I had more of her hands-on care for a couple of days, then yesterday I spent a good part of the day on Valentine preparations.

But to catch up, this chapter, as the title suggests, deals with the temptation we face to throw in the towel on watching our diets (or whatever it is we're struggling with) when things go wrong. Sometimes that's because we want or feel we deserve some comfort food (it's not for nothing it's called that), or it might be that our brains are just too distracted by everything else that is going on to think about right food choices.

Lysa discusses this, and what helped her was admitting her need and sitting silently before the Lord, trusting the Holy Spirit to intercede for her (Romans 8:26: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.") 

Then she began to recognize the lies in the rationalizations of her thoughts ("I need these Oreos. They will fill me up with a chocolate high and taste so good.) and to replace them with truth ("The Oreos will only taste good for a few minutes and will bring added weight plus guilt. Am I eating for nourishment or for emotional reasons? "If I truly need a snack right now, I'm capable of choosing a healthier option.") And then she applies a truth from God's Word: in this case, Ephesians 3:17-19: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God," reminding herself that when she feels empty spiritually, she need to "fill up" on God's love and not food.

"Food was never meant to fulfill the deepest places of our hearts reserved for God alone."

Monday, February 10, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 10: This Isn't Fair!

Probably everyone who has ever tried to lose weight has echoed the title of this chapter. It's hard to know why some of us have such trouble with weight and others seem to eat all the things that would make us look like balloons, yet not gain an ounce. But Lysa points out that those people have their struggles, too, in other areas.

She also reminds us that God is using our struggles to sanctify us and to increase our dependance on Himself. "The Bible teaches that 'this testing of [our] faith develops perseverance [which] must finish its work so that [we] may be mature and complete, not lacking anything' (James 1:3-4)."

Some highlights from this chapter:

"Temptation doesn't take kindly to being starved."

"I had to grab hold of God's strength and the only way to do that was to invite His power into this situation."

"Weakness is hard, but weakness doesn't have to mean defeat. It is my opportunity to experience God's power firsthand."

"Having a pity party is a clue that she is relying on her own strength rather than God's."

"This feels good now, but how will I feel about it in the morning?"

"Compromise built upon compromise equals failure. Resisting temptation allowed promise upon promise to be built up in my heart, and that creates empowerment."

The verses discussed were the passage in James mentioned above and these from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

Participating in the  the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 9: But Exercise Makes Me Want to Cry

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Chapter 8 was probably the most convicting and most helpful so far. I can definitely identify with the sentiment about exercise. I have a hard time knowing when to schedule it, I hate getting sweaty, I hate putting on workout shoes....but I do love that I feel more energetic afterward, and I love seeing the endurance and strength increase over time.

Lysa describes trying to convince herself that the world's standards of being model-thin are too harsh, that God loves us just the way we are, etc., but she knew the major problem was self-control, and I know that about myself as well.

Psalm 86 11-12 say, "Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever." Her version says "give me an undivided heart," and she discusses having divided loyalties between the Lord and our own cravings. Boy, did that hit home! It also reminded me of James 1:8 ("A double minded man is unstable in all his ways") and James 4:7-8 ("Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.")

Lysa also brings out the teaching of I Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are God's temple, and connects with a passage in the OT (Haggai 1:2-8) about God's people neglecting  the needed work on His temple while they lined their own with wood. God's prophet warned them to "Consider your ways." God's people neglected taking care of His temple because something else always seemed more important, and we do the same. Like them, we need to consider our ways - reevaluate our schedules and priorities and make time for what God wants us to. They faced consequences for neglecting God's temple, and there are natural consequences for our neglect as well.

Lysa says she has learned to "embrace the benefits" of taking care of her temple "instead of resisting the hardship." I need to make that my motto as well.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 8: Making Peace With the Realities of my Body

  Continuing with the  Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Chapter 8 is "Making Peace With the Realities of My Body," where the main idea is that none of us has perfect bodies, even if we didn't have an ounce of extra weight. I think most of us probably couldn't handle it if we did: we'd probably be too vain or even more focused on our bodies than we are now. Or perhaps there is no perfect body because of the fall of mankind into sin: maybe the entrance of thorns on plants and death and decay in the world also brought on warts and age spots and pimples. Or maybe God has made our bodies imperfect (and even less perfect as we age) so we'll be more willing to let them go of them when the times comes.

This brought a smile the first time I saw it:

As someone who has rarely been totally satisfied with my hair, I can relate!

At any rate, we need to remember that even when we lose the weight we need to, we'll still not have perfect bodies, so that does not need to be our goal. Our goal needs to be obedience to what God has called us to. That can also sustain us when we've done everything we should and the numbers on the scale still don't move as much as we thought they should. 

Lisa brings out of Psalm 103:1-5, mainly the part about not forgetting His benefits, as a reminder to be grateful for the gift He has given us in our bodies. Another passage that came to mind is from Psalm 139:

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 7: I'm Not Defined By the Numbers

As the title indicates, Chapter 7 of Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst is about finding our identity in Christ, not in the number on the scales. Weigh-ins are good in that they can keep us on track and tell us which direction we're going, maybe indicate a need to do something differently, or encourage us, when the numbers go down, that things are going well. But we've all experienced those times when we're doing everything by the book, and the pounds don't come off, and we're discouraged.

God accepts us on the basis of Christ's finished work on the cross and our belief in Him. When we enter in that relationship with Him, He is our Father. He is not going to cast us off or disown us if the scales aren't right where we'd like them to be. He will probably convict us if we're "cheating" or not doing what we need to do, but His acceptance of us is not based on our numbers.

Lysa tells of a time when a mention by someone else of a sister's being "so overweight" at a certain number - the number Lysa was currently at - and how in times past that would have thrown her for a loop, but this time God brought to her mind truth from His Word. She underscores the importance of filling our minds with His truth so we won't get tripped up.

She also brings back the idea of the deeper purpose for what we're doing, and the fact that "we grow closer to God as we learn to look and act more and more like Him. The Bible calls this participating in His divine nature" (p. 71K). She then discusses II Peter 1:3-11:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[a] his own glory and excellence,[b] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[c] and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities[d] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers,[e] be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Participating in the  Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 6: Growing Closer to God

In the last chapter, Lysa said that growing closer to God is one reason, the deeper reason, for working through issues, and chapter 6 in the the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries explores that further.

"Growing closer to God has a whole lot less to do with any action we might take and a whole lot more to do with positioning our hearts toward His" (p. 59K). That position usually involves humbling ourselves somehow.

When someone asked Lysa how to grow close to God, she replied, "By making the choice to deny ourselves something that is permissible but not beneficial. And making this intentional sacrifice for the sole purpose of growing closer to God. After all, Jesus Himself said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me' (Luke 9:23)."

I don't think that's what I would answer if someone asked me how to draw close to God. I think I would have encouraged being in the Word and praying as well as dealing with any sin in the life and yielding our wills to His. I can see people taking this premise of denying something permissible and running with it beyond anything God intended. But then again, in a sense that's what we do when we fast.

So I am not sure what I think about that answer, but I do agree that trying to lose weight isn't just about the physical issues, but also about "learning to tell myself no and learning to make wiser choices daily. And somehow becoming a woman of self-discipline honors God and helps me live the godly characteristic of self-control" (p. 59-60).

Before listing the fruit of the Spirit (which includes self-control) in Galatians 5:22, back in verse 16 Paul says, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."

How do we do that? Knowing He is in us, if we have believed on Christ as Savior (Romans 8:11), and taking heed to His voice, reading "the Bible with the intention of putting into practice what we read while asking the Holy Spirit to direct us in knowing how to do this" (p. 62K). Lysa often prays, "I need wisdom to make wise choices. I need insight to remember the words I have read in Scripture. I need a power beyond what I can find on my own" (p. 62K).

Lysa then discusses the Samaritan woman in John 4 and the fact that in the middle of that situation, Jesus said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me." 

And then she discusses Philippians 3:13-16 about forgetting what is behind and reaching forth unto what's ahead, and then, just a verse or two later, "For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (Philippians 3:18-19). "Food can become so consuming that people find themselves ruled by it...Being ruled by something other than God diminishes our commitment and will make us feel increasingly distant from Him" (p. 65). Verses 20-21 remind us, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 5: Made For More

The theme of Chapter 5 in the the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries. is in the third paragraph:

Succumbing to temptation "does matter and not just for the physical or mental setback. It's the denial of a fundamental spiritual truth that will make a healthy eating plan fall apart time and time again. What is this truth? We were made for more than this. More than this failure, more than this cycle, more than being ruled by taste buds. We were made for victory. Sometimes we just have to find our way to that truth." 

She goes on to say that we need to rewrite the "scripts" that play in our heads, the wrong thought processes and reactions, and replace them with new ones. The first one is this truth that God's power is available to us:

Ephesians 1:
16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.

Lysa then discusses this passage phrase by phrase. Some versions say, "I keep asking...," reminding us that we can continually bring these things before the Lord. That we're praying to out father reminds us of our identity as His children, and Lysa brings out a great deal about focusing on out new identity in Him. The passage also reminds us of the deeper reasons for whatever we're going through, that we might come to know God better. And then we can look to "the hope of His calling" and His power, the very power that raised Christ from the dead.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 4: Accountability

The actual title of chapter 4 is "Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Before Thinking," but it is primarily about how friends can help us along the way. Friends who have gone on this journey before us can encourage us through it because they've experienced them, too, and we can also mutually encourage friends who are going through the same journey we are at the same time. That's one thing I like about reading books like this and participating in the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Lysa points out that "desperation leads to degradation. In other words, when what is lacking in life goes from being an annoyance to an anxiety, we run the risk of compromising in ways we never thought we would" (p. 42K).

She points out that two well-known verses that we tend to think of separately are actually together in context:

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:7-8).

"You see, when we determine to get healthy, we will have to give up certain things and change our habits. Doing this can make us feel anxious. That's why we must have friends to help us remember that what we're giving up in the short term will help us get what we really want in the long term. If we forget to be self-controlled and alert, we are prime targets for Satan to usher us right away from the new standards we've set in our life. That's degradation" (p. 42K).

Here's where I have a bit of a problem with the idea of accountability. Actually our modern interpretation of what accountability means has been a sore spot with me for some years. I do agree that the Bible teaches we are accountable to one another and to our authority figures in particular, and that we all have the "right" as a Christian brothers and sisters to hold each other up to God's truth and "call" each other on it when we stray (Galatians 6:1, Proverbs 9:7-9). But I don't know that that translates into regular weekly meetings where we "report" to each other. I've known of people who met or talked regularly to "hold each other accountable" for having their personal devotions or to memorize Scripture or, as in this case, to share how they're doing in their dietary changes, and I have heard them say, as Lysa does here, that knowing they have to report to that person motivates them to keep on tract. My problem is this: if I am only motivated to do what I need to do because I am going to have to report on my actions to someone, then am I really doing it as unto the Lord, or for the eyes of other people? I have no doubt this kind of thing works, but does it work on the basis of my pride, that I am avoiding messing up because I don't want to have to admit to failure and deal with the response from my friend, rather than to please the Lord? (Amended to add that I am not accusing anyone else who meets for this kind of accountability of having these motives. I just know that would be something I would struggle with.)

In the paragraph I quoted above after I Peter 5:7-8, Lysa for some reason inserts friends in-between the one about casting our care on Christ and the one about Satan being like a devouring lion, and friends aren't in the text. No doubt friends can help us turn our eyes to Christ and can help us avoid temptation and walk with God. But my first source should be casting my care on God myself, not necessarily phoning a friend. It's not wrong to phone a friend for help in this regard, but it's not required.

Again, I'm not saying friends aren't valuable (they are!) or that the Bible doesn't teach accountability (it does!) or that friends can't help us spiritually (they can!) I just don't think we necessarily need to put them all together into daily or weekly "reporting" to each other as Christians today tend to like to do. But if you do that and it's a help to you, by all means, continue.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 3: Getting a Plan

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, in chapter 3 Lysa describes a neighbor's beautiful garden and the wish that she had a beautiful garden, too, then the realization that the garden didn't just spout up without a lot of work behind it. That tends to happen with weight loss issues and making healthy changes, too: "we want the results but have no desire to put in the work required" (p. 34-35K).

Lysa went to see a nutritionist even though her "taste buds never did agree with the rest of" her body. "Somebody had to learn the discipline of giving up some things, and that someone was me. And those 'things' were poor food choices that were sabotaging my body, my mental energy, and even my spirit" (p. 37).

Lysa worked with her nutritionist on a plan (which she doesn't tell much about, because each of us needs to develop our own plan) and gradually grew to love it, though she confesses there were hard days. She acknowledges that the sacrifices are tough, but she's come to look at it as "embracing healthy choices rather than denying myself" (p. 37). But even the "lessons to be learned and perspectives to be gained" even in this season.

I have to admit this is where I usually drop the ball. I can make lists of reasons to lose weight, look up applicable Bible verses, acknowledge the folly of succumbing to so brief a pleasure as eating something I shouldn't when it has such dire results - and then not do anything about it. I do struggle with diet plans that are too restrictive or with a couple of food issues, etc. The one plan I had good results with a few years ago was the Exchange Diet plan used by diabetics. It allowed a certain number of servings of each category of food with a list of what constituted a serving. I've looked that up a little bit online and will continue to do so. I also got a Cooking Light magazine while at the grocery store. :-)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Chapter 2: Replacing My Cravings

Continuing with the Made to Crave Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, in chapter 2 Lysa describes a scenario very familiar with anyone who has ever dieted: weighing ourselves, making plans to do things differently, getting waylaid by the cinnamon rolls someone made or an invitation to a Mexican food restaurant, and deciding that it will be okay to partake just this time or that we'll get started tomorrow.

Lysa got tired of this cycle, knew it centered more around her heart than her meal plans, and knew it was time to surrender. "Really surrender. Surrender to the point where I'd make radical changes for the sake of my spiritual health perhaps even more than my physical health" (p. 27 Kindle version). Part of that surrender was asking herself the question she now asks us: "Is it possible to love and rely on food more than we love and rely on God?" (p. 27K). Most of us would have to answer with her, yes, we turn to food for comfort and reward, in sadness, stress, or celebration.

"God never intended us to want anything more than we want Him. Just the slightest glimpse into His Word proves that, Look at what the Bible says about God's chosen people, the Israelites, when they wanted food more than they wanted God: 'They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved' (Psalm 78:18). Yikes" (p. 28K). Those who did so never made it to the Promised Land, but wandered in the wilderness the rest of their lives. 

Lysa determined to "make God, rather than food [her] focus. Each time [she] craved something [she] knew wasn't part of [her] plan, [she] used that craving as a prompt to pray" (p.  29K). She described it as tearing down an impossibly high tower brick by brick and then "using those same bricks to build a walkway of prayer, paving the way to victory."

Sometimes that illustration made it easier, sometimes it did not, and she shares many of her honest prayers, tears, and Scripture passages that helped. And she discovered that "one day of victory tasted better than any of the food I'd ever given up" (p. 30K).

Monday, January 20, 2014

Made to Crave Study, Intro. and Chapter 1

I'm participating in an an online Bible study using Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeust, hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, and I decided to make notes and comments on each chapter here on this blog. I probably won't outline each chapter, but rather with just mark notes, impressions, quotes that stood out to me, etc. The overview of week 1 from the Proverbs 31 Ministries is here and the post on chapter 1 is here.

The introduction is titled "Finding Your 'Want To,'" and that's exactly what I need. I have the "need to" and some degree of "want to," but obviously not enough to overcome other wants. Lysa describes some of her own journey and struggle and how she came to write the book. She then talks about the parable of the rich young ruler, who wanted to follow Jesus until Jesus asked him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. "Jesus didn't mean this as a sweeping command for everyone who has a lot of money. Jesus meant this for any of us who wallow in whatever abundance we have. I imagine Jesus looked straight into this young man's soul and said, 'I want you to give up the one thing you crave more than me. Then come, follow me.'"

"When Jesus says, 'Follow me,' it's not an invitation to drag our divided heart alongside us as we attempt to follow hard after God. When Jesus wants us to follow Him - really follow Him - it's serious business. Here's how Jesus describes it: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me' (Mark 8:34)."

"God made us capable of craving so 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."

Lysa then discuses dealing with the spiritual, physical, and mental aspects.

A few more quotes:

"Honestly, I am made for more than a vicious cycle of eating, gaining, stressing - eating, gaining, stressing...I am made to rise up and do battle with my issues and, using the Lord's strength in me, defeat them - spiritually, physically, and mentally - to the glory of God."

"I was amazed that I ever desired to satisfy my taste buds over satisfying my desire to break free from all the guilt, all the destruction, all the defeat."

The title of Chapter 1 is "What's Really Going On Here?"

"We crave what we eat." So the more we eat of what we like and what we're used to, the more we'll continue on with the same. But simply making choices to make us feel full rather than choosing empty calories doesn't help entirely in itself, for as Lysa confesses, "I can feel full after a meal and still crave chocolate pie for dessert. Just feeling full isn't the answer to a healthy eating plan."

Lysa says she believes God made us to crave. Psalm 84: 1-2 says, "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God," an expression of intense longing.

Satan, of course tries to distract us from fulfilling that craving for God with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the prides of life (I John 2:15-16). She defines and discusses each of those and shows how Satan used them against both Eve (Genesis 3:1-6) and Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11). Eve fell; Jesus did not. "Eve was saturated in the object of her desire. Jesus was saturated in God's truth."

"[Eve] didn't walk away and give herself time to really consider her choice. She didn't consult Adam. She didn't consider the truth of what God had clearly instructed. She didn't talk to God. She focused only on the object of her obsession." That's convicting to me, because I do the same thing. When faced with a temptation, I am so busy justifying it that I don't think much about the reasons why I shouldn't or even pray about it, lest I be talked out of it. 

"We consume what we think about. and what we think about can consume us if we're not careful."

Something else that really stood out to me was the observation that Eve fell while surrounded by plenty: Jesus stood strong while in a deprived state of having fasted 40 days and nights. When I feel "deprived," that's no excuse to give way to temptation. "He quoted God's Word. And so can we. When we feel deprived and frustrated and consumed with wanting unhealthy choices, we too can rely on God's Word to help us."

She then brings us one of the verses I mentioned in the last post: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not" (I Corinthians 10:23). "That thought empowered me to make a beneficial choice rather than wallowing in being deprived of an unhealthy choice."

The chapter ends with encouragement and reflection questions.

Time to clean out the cobwebs around here...

My last "I'm back" apparently didn't last for long. In the 2 1/2 years since I last posted, I did continue exercising for several months until I sustained a pulled muscle in my back, and by the time that healed, I had gotten out of the habit. Then last year I was actually walking 30-40 minutes 4-5 days a week. It didn't have a big impact on my weight, but it definitely helped me feel more energetic. Then I somehow injured my knee, and, same thing, once that healed, I had gotten out of the habit, plus it had gotten too cold to walk outside.

One of my biggest problems with exercise is figuring out a good time to do them. I prefer to do them before my shower, because I get all sweaty. But with the family schedule, that means I'd either need to get up around 5 and exercise and shower before everyone else gets up, or do so right after everyone leaves for the day, and by the time I did all that and had breakfast, it would seem like my morning of getting to other things would be nearly gone. Then, with my mother-in-law's caregiver coming in and out, and no way to close a door to the family room where I exercise with several workout DVD, I just feel really awkward exercising when she's here, especially when she pokes her head in to make a good-natured comment. I just really don't want an audience. These all sound like lame excuses when put into print (one good reason for writing about them, I guess), but they're also the stuff delays and obstacles are made of. I hate to get up at 6:20, much less at 5, but that may be the route to go.

I made an effort a few days to use My Fitness Pal, which has a handy iPhone app with which you can scan bar codes on food items and get the nutritional content and inputted instantly. A great help! Except for figuring out calorie content of casseroles and such. That can still be done, but just is a little more tedious. Another lame excuse, I know.

The only other thing I've done on the weight loss front is that I read Overcoming Overeating by Lisa Morrone (linked to my review) and gleaned several helpful thoughts. I didn't like the emphasis in it that the cause over most overeating is emotional. It may be, but it's not the only factor or even the primary factor for me.

My main problem is that when I am tempted by a certain food, my thoughts are, "It's good and it's not sinful and I want it." I've never seen any weight loss book or program really deal with that aspect of it, and as I was lamenting that again a day or two ago, the Holy Spirit brought to mind "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (I Corinthians 6:12) and "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not" (I Corinthians 10:23).  

Some time ago I had gotten the book Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst when it was free or on sale for the Kindle app, but it sat there with many of my other Kindle purchases for months. Then I saw on my friend Kim's blog that the Proverbs 31 Ministries web site was going to be hosting an online Bible study using Made to Crave, so I decided to participate. I may or may not stay with the online study - I'm not big on perky videos and posts, and all of the posts and emails are causing a sensory overload right now. But it starts today, so I am going to go with it for the first few lessons and see how it goes. Whether I stay with the online study or not, I will read the book. I was thinking of making some notes after each chapter and decided to do so here. So, next post: Chapter 1 of Made to Crave!