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!