Nuggets: Be Unashamed of Your Body

I think Heaven should have a special appeal to all those who have struggled with body image. Not that Heaven isn’t just plain awesome, period. But, the way it’s described in Scripture, tugs my formerly eating disordered heart in a unique way.

I’ve recently listened to Pastor Chip Ingram’s series on Heaven and I highly recommend it! One of the things he presses, is that Heaven will not seem incredibly foreign. It’s not something that we can “only imagine”. Heaven is the place that God dwells, it’s where He wants to live and where He wants to live in close, face-to-face relationship with His people for all eternity. It’s actually very like what He created in the first place. And we have a pretty good description of Eden in Genesis.

My favorite line in all of Genesis is verse 2:25, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

Can you imagine (perhaps this is where we have to employ imagination) what it would be likely to be completely unashamed of your body?

We are told that we will have new, glorified bodies but we will have bodies. Psalm 139 expresses God’s intention and pleasure in the unique way He sculpted you and me. He wants me to look this way! He is happy with the way you turned out!

So, set your sight again on the eternal. Don’t get hung up on the things that moths and dust will corrupt. One day, you’ll look at yourself and truly see you as God does–with pleasure, joy and peace.

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Lewis Does It…Again

I so wish I could’ve met C.S. Lewis! He “gets” me like he’s inside my head sometimes. Then again, other times, he washes completely over my head and leaves me gasping for breath, dazed and confused.

This arrived in my inbox last Thursday. I love everything about it. From the consideration of redeemed creation to the gentle appreciation for broken-down bodies.

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On the resurrection of the body and of all creation; and on the goodness of the bodies we now have.
26 November 1962
My stuff about animals came long ago in The Problem of Pain. I ventured the supposal—it could be nothing more—that as we are raised in Christ, so at least some animals are raised in us. Who knows, indeed, but that a great deal even of the inanimate creation is raised in the redeemed souls who have, during this life, taken its beauty into themselves? That may be the way in which the ‘new heaven and the new earth’30 are formed. Of course we can only guess and wonder.
But these particular guesses arise in me, I trust, from taking seriously the resurrection of the body: a doctrine which now-a- days is very soft pedalled by nearly all the faithful—to our great impoverishment. Not that you and I have now much reason to rejoice in having bodies! Like old automobiles, aren’t they? where all sorts of apparently different things keep going wrong, but what they add up to is the plain fact that the machine is wearing out. Well, it was not meant to last forever. Still, I have a kindly feeling for the old rattle-trap. Through it God showed me that whole side of His beauty which is embodied in colour, sound, smell and size. No doubt it has often led me astray: but not half so often, I suspect, as my soul has led it astray. For the spiritual evils which we share with the devils (pride, spite) are far worse than what we share with the beasts: and sensuality really arises more from the imagination than from the appetites: which, if left merely to their own animal strength, and not elaborated by our imagination, would be fairly easily managed. But this is turning into a sermon!
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack

Courtesy of Bible Gateway

Now is bleeding into eternity

As I sit here, my littlest sister is laboring to bring Henry Jordan Martin into the big wide world. I was just there, just visiting Texas, hoping against realism that Henry would come while I was there, but alas, he was simply waiting for me to leave.

This brings me full circle, to ponder the chapter I read in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, last night. At the same time, it highlights a recent Facebook post by a man I have admired for most of my life.

Just a brief background:
Harold Ray Wells, is the father of two of my best friends growing up. What time wasn’t spent in our home around the school desk was often enjoyed in their living room eating breadsticks and homemade cheese sauce, in the backyard harvesting honeysuckle and stalking slugs, at church with them or on vacation with them at Grand Lake.

Mr. Wells was my parents’ Sunday school teacher. He exuded a poise that comes only from being inhabited by the Holy Spirit. He was quiet, intentional, relaxed, happy and peaceful. He was almost an enigma to me as a child, How does he do that?

My heart was crushed when I learned a few years back that he had been falsely accused of a crime. As a police officer nearing retirement and with a stellar reputation, the charges seemed rubber, ridiculous and contrived as they were, we prayed that the lies would bounce off of him and shatter on the floor at the feet of his accusers. God hasn’t seen fit to let that happen. So Mr. Wells is now in prison, awaiting response to his appeal.

Frequently, those of us who pray for him are privy to pieces of his journals and letters that he sends out to encourage us – imagine – him encouraging us. Reminds you of Paul, right?

“Waiting for the love of my life to visit and listening to ‘interludes’. I was thinking that just as I am unworthy of prison, to a much greater reality I’m unfit for paradise. How can I ever complain when both are gifts and both must be received with thanksgiving? Knowing both are divine appointments, designed that God might be glorified. One is temporary and one is eternal. When does ‘eternal’ take place? Before today, before yesterday? If eternal life with God (as Charles Stanley points out) happens the moment we trust God – then could it be that our resurrected life begins at that time and what does that mean? This life, with all it involves, has no power, ownership, or control over us. We are buried with Him in baptism, raised/resurrected with Him to walk in newness of life – a glorified life in a fallen world. The evidence of Christ in you – NOW. How do I do this? Through the crucible of life. I feel as if I am in the 4th quarter of the life testing. What am I made of? Who am I? Who is God? I am experiencing the overwhelming, surrounding knowledge of God’s blessings.”

I added the bolding, because that’s the question I want to address.

When does ‘eternal’ take place?

Consider Lewis’ reference to those on a trial run to Heaven as “ghosts”. And when he treads upon the terra firma of that land, he finds it’s foliage more solid than himself.

The grass, hard as diamonds to my unsubstantial feel, made me feel as if I were walking on wrinkled rock, and I suffered pains like those of the mermaid in Hans Andersen. A bird ran across in front of me and I envied it. It belonged to that country and was as real a the grass.

Most of the time, most people press through this atmosphere, feel the rush of it against their skin and believe that they are real, that where they are and what they do is real. And, even most Christians act as if we won’t live forever. Our habits and decisions are refined to exploit today, and fend off the ultimate end of our personal worlds.

But what if eternal has already begun? What if we will only become more real over time, through long walks with God, through intimate conversations with Jesus and solemn attentiveness to the Holy Spirit? What if we don’t need to squeeze every drop of pleasure out of this moment, because we anticipate endless moments, ever better,  stretched through the expanse of eternity?

What if?

No Needs in Hell

The trouble is, they have no Needs. You get everything you want (not very good quality, of course) just by imagining it. That’s why it never costs any trouble to move to another street or build another house. In other words, there’s no proper economic basis for any community life. If the needed real shops, chaps would have to stay near where the real shops were. If they needed real houses they’d have to stay near where builders were. It’s scarcity that enables a society to exist.

I kind of stuttered over that first sentence, even having read, The Great Divorce, twice before. I had never noticed C.S. Lewis’ emphasis on the word Needs. You see, I’ve thought a lot about this before:

I only recently discovered what I believe lay at the root of my eating disorder. Needlessness. Does that sound crazy? Is anyone really needless? Anyway, what do the privilege of pain and needlessness have to do with each other?

When I peel away of my excuses and peer into my motives I discover a determination to be self-sufficient, needless. Chasing this, I fail. I fail. I fall.

Is Lewis implying that this isn’t just my personal problem? Is an agenda of Needlessness the very wormy foundation that is cracking beneath families, governments, and marriages…in fact society in general? I think so.

I learned though anorexia, that I could not be needless of food, of familial love, of rest, and stay alive. Humans were never, ever created to be needless. In fact, even in the Garden of Eden before The Fall, God gave man relationship (a spouse) because man needs companionship. God gave man food to eat in the garden, because man needs nourishment. He gave man work, to tend the garden, because man longs to have purpose.

Without the limitless space to print Lewis’ entire book here, it’s impossible to give you appropriate context for this quote. (That’s a hint, hint to read the book!) The best I can do is explain to you that the speaker is referring to Hell or a life on earth without the presence of God: “The trouble is they have [in Hell] no Needs.”

So, I pray with the Psalmist, that God would teach me my fragility, make me keenly aware of all my needs and that He is sufficient to meet them, that I might gain a heart of wisdom, and fear the Lord.

Ps. 90:12, Ps. 111:10

Welcome to Hell

Truthfully, my first read through C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, was simply for enjoyment. I did hope that perhaps a little theological wisdom would seep into my mind as I read the pages for entertainment.

It wasn’t until more than halfway through the book that I even realized Lewis was struggling to depict Heaven, a reality beyond comprehensible reality. It wasn’t until this, my third reading, that I understood the mysterious place of origin.

The narrator finds himself in a dismal town, all but deserted save for a crowed of people waiting to board a train. Curious and disillusioned with the present, he wanders into the queue of people. Perhaps the destination will prove more interesting than this God-forsaken place.

Ah, and the story unfolds, for the narrator is indeed in the most God-forsaken place. They stand in Hell, but by some sheer mercy, he and anyone who will board the train, will be instantly transported to Heaven. There, they must decide whether to stay in Heaven or return to the familiar land of Hell where they began.

Seems like a no-brainer right? Given the choice, Heaven or Hell, I can hardly imagine anyone who would opt for the latter. Even the most convinced of atheists, when presented with the question (purely hypothetically, of course) would chose Heaven. But Lewis begs to differ.

As the crowd jostles for priority seating, arguments necessarily arise. The inconvenience of waiting, the need to politely step aside for others or ignore an unintentional elbow, gets everybody crotchety.

Listen:

I was now next to a very short man with a scowl who glanced at me with an expression of extreme disfavor and observed, rather unnecessarily loudly, to the man beyond him, ‘This sort of thing makes one think twice about going at all.’

‘I’m a plain man that’s what I am and I have got to have my rights same as anyone else, see?’

A moment later two young people in front of him also left us arm in arm…it was clear that each for the moment preferred the other to the chance of a place on the bus.

And it’s true, that’s a little what Heaven is like. There is only one way there, through Jesus Christ, and we have one choice, either to ride upon His righteousness and be accepted into Heaven through Him alone, or, to walk away.

Now the choice doesn’t seem so cut and dry, does it? Must we really abandon our RIGHTS! in order to go with Jesus? Must we really prefer Him over the other loves of our souls?

On Monday last week, God began pressing into me deeply, the truth that there is no god besides Him. Like pressing His thumb into a seal, He led me over and over to verses that declare His uniqueness. Finally, on Friday I strung all the the references together – a beautiful strand of wisdom. (Proverbs 1:9)

I have had so many gods besides my Lord. So very many times, I have stood at the bus stop and then been distracted by a tantalizing fragrance, an interesting conversation, a glittery bauble, a second-rate toy, my rights, my better idea, my preferred relationship. Then, for a moment at least, I left the platform and scurried to find whatever struck my fancy.

Please do not think for a second that I am suggesting you can lose your salvation. By no means. I am secure in Christ, but if I am honest, there have been many times that my heart has strayed from pure devotion to Him.

Praise the Lord, that He has never left me. Praise the Lord that He patiently waits for me to come running back when my cheap lover failed me. He is so good. But that I would never be distracted again! There is no love, no joy, no peace anywhere as there is near my Savior.

He is coming and He is not slow. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

But there remains only one way. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:16

And I can promise you, that there is but One God, whose glory, whose reward far surpasses all other temporary fascinations.
“How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. And who is like your people Israel–the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?” 
2 Samuel 7:22-23

For additional references to God’s uniqueness and surpassing value: Micah 7:18,
Ex. 15:11, Zeph. 3:17, Ps. 113:5-6, Ps. 71:19, Ps. 86:8

Closing Lewis

Did you see the movie Thor? Remember that great, impassable chasm that in the end seemed to forever separate him from his love? The movie portrays two distinct realms, the world of the gods and the world of men.

Now, truthfully, the gods of Thor, were more like men, even in the fantasy. They could do evil and good. They had rivals and equivalents, relatives and love relationships. They lied and were deceived. But Praise the Lord, our God is not such!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Is. 55:8

Though it’s admittedly fiction, allow me to blow some holes in movie’s premises about gods and men.

At the close of the book, The Screwtape Letters, Lewis’ main character and narrator is blasting his nephew and protege for allowing a young man to slip through his demon fingers. The human died with full knowledge and acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary death which purchased his pardon and eternal life.

It’s interesting to consider that first moment of real life. It’s murky, a muddy puddle, to peer into the mystery that we’re told we cannot even imagine.
“However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ — the things God has prepared for those who love him–“. 1 Cor. 2:9

But as expected, Lewis does a masterful job of imagining what that might be like. You see, though God is utterly unlike us, we were created in His image. And then, Jesus came to earth clothed in human flesh so that a perfect man could ransom the lives of wretched men.

God has allowed our worlds to overlap. In fact, from the beginning, His desire was to walk with us daily, visibly, physically. Only sin has carved this chasm between us.
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Is. 59:2

But that chasm is most certainly crossable. In fact, it has been crossed already, by Jesus, so that we can be reunited with our Creator. For those of us who have humbly accepted Christ’s payment for our sins, we have the promise that we will see Him!
(1 Cor. 2:9) 19
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,”. Hebrews 10:19-20

So listen to Lewis’ description of a Christian meeting his maker:

he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you[Wormwood, the failed demon], is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man.

and

-that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower.

Think of it, Friends! Think and be thrilled that it cannot be contained! Your great future, the glory of beholding His face and being able to stand before Him loved and unashamed! What magnificence! And it is not far away!
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25

In fact, except for the physical vision of Jesus, it all ready is.
“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2:6

P.S. Lewis was such fun. I think I might go very slowing through his book, The Great Divorce, with you next. What do you think?

 

Meet Esse…

One of the most despicable lies that plagues Christians at least as much and perhaps more than non-Christians is that “we just gotta make it through.”

YES, I’m excited about heaven with Jesus more than anything else, BUT, Jesus said that He came so that I could have joy abundantly. “Real life”, isn’t just beyond some struggle, over a hurdle, after an age, at a certain weight and not even, “when we get to heaven.”

Heaven is life with Jesus. Heaven is the indwelling power, peace and promise of Jesus Christ.

In Esse’s words…Joy is Your Birthright

Reminds me of this post: Insights from a Demon

Insights from a Demon

In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, I almost hesitate to write this post. But maybe it’s more appropriate than ever to question, “What is evil?”

They [humans] of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda. Uncle Screwtape from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

What causes us to revile death is the foreboding of the unknown. Let us rejoice that in Christ, even death is no mystery!

“For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Cor. 15:56-57

Another quick thought from Uncle Screwtape addresses something I hope dig into deeper later this year. This is the presence of beauty, the distinct fragrance of God’s love for us and His goodness toward all mankind, even in the most secular.

Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry-the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon-are always blowing our whole structure away. They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to the earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or “science” or psychology, or what not. Real worldliness is a work of time-assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience.

“Let us set our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him…” Heb. 12:2

God has dripped Heaven into our atmosphere. Even on the ugliest of our days, the sun still stretches its fingers over the horizon. Even in the face of our enemy, is the astounding creativity of our Perfect Creator. Yes, Heaven is not far from us. But, let us not be willing to stay here forever either. The greatest JOY will be seeing Jesus face to face.

(Screwtape is the demon in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters. The book is a collection of Screwtape’s advisory letters to his nephew, a young tempter.)

The Secret to World Peace (and yours)

In an election season, ‘peace’ is the buzzword. Every politician vying for your vote is promising you peace through their plan. Peace in your finances, peace in the form of less crime, international peace, partisan peace, peace with minorities and the absence of hate.

They valiantly pledge their lives to the betterment of public life. Then they turn around and viciously sling mud at their opponent. The worst part is, they can’t all be right! So where do we go for real, true peace?

The simple answer is: God. But unfortunately, that’s become a token response, spoken almost as glibly as a first grader in Sunday school class.

“Well, I’m just praying that God will intervene. If we would all just be obedient to God. Well, God’s going to punish America and then He will establish His peace.”

I’m absolutely not denying the fact that God Jehovah is the source of peace. Jesus Christ is called the Prince of Peace. In the Gospels, Jesus says, “My peace I give to you.”

If generations, centuries of Christians have believed that God is the source of peace for the world, then why do we not experience peace on earth? At the very least, why don’t we have peace in our own homes?

Remember the “good old days”? We say that when we look at our kids and realize that they have no concerns.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful, we think, to go back to having no worries, just trusting that Mom and Dad would take care of things? Those nights when you slept well; your breaths were soft and deep and you only cried if you stubbed your toe. Even then, Mom or Dad always had the power to make it better.”

Matthew 19:14 says, “But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Ah children, peaceful, quiet, innocent babes. (Not always, but you get my analogy.)

So what are they doing right?

In her Bible study, Living Beyond Yourself, Beth Moore made a startling observation – at least to me. She said, “peace is always associated with authority.” Think about it, your child lives peacefully, relative to you, because she is under your authority. This position includes being loved by you, cared for by you, advised by you and disciplined by you.

I have been mulling over that idea for a couple days. Then this morning, my Father showed me this truth definitively in His own words.

Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

Peace is found under the rulership of Jesus Christ. When I try to be my own authority, peace becomes an illusion.

In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus is called the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. The next verse tell us of His governance. Jesus brings peace to those who are under His authority.

Question: In my most harried moments, the days when my brain feels as if it’s filled with rabid birds, when the anxiety almost seems to physically burn my insides: am I under Christ’s authority? If so, then like a child, I can simply trust my Father – to love me, care for me, advise me and discipline me.

One final thought, that I hope to explore in more detail later:
Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, tension has been an inevitable part of marriage relationships. There God cursed the man to be frustrated in his ambitions and the woman’s desire to be for her husband. Most scholars believe this indicates a power struggle between the two.

Throughout the Bible, God calls the man to be a leader in the home and for the woman to submit to his authority. We also know that God does not prefer men to women, or women to children or one race over another. So why this submission thing? Aren’t we equals?

Could it be that God knows in our sin-sick world, peace-less-ness will reign? I think He is offering us peace on earth by saying, “Yes, I love you the same, you are equal. But peace comes with authority. For the sake of peace in your homes, I am establishing a leader and a follower.” What do you think?