lt used to be enough that God loves you. You remember those days, right after you internalized, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in might not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
And it felt so good, so freeing. All of a sudden, you felt humility and self-worth bleeding together, overlapping. But it didn’t take long. A few sermons, a few calls to start serving, to do your part, to use your gifts, to fulfill your “calling”; a few failures, a few skipped Bible studies, angry outbursts or nasty thoughts and suddenly you aren’t so sure God likes you.
Sure, sure, He loves you. He promised to never leave you and you know all the verses about His lovingkindness that endures forever, but yeah, not so sure He’s really all that proud of you. His love is obligatory, kind of like a parent’s. But He’s not calling you His friend. You’re pretty nervous to imply that you and God are all that close. So you cringe a bit when it’s your turn to pray out loud. You pick up dime-a-dozen devos instead of the real Word of God. God loves you, He has to, right?
You’re not the first Christian to feel this way. That’s why most of us spout off, “We are saved by grace through faith and not by works”, but then try ever so hard to do just the right things. The pulpit preaches that Jesus paid the price and we cannot earn salvation, but then, once we’re saved we discover the checklist of all the things we ought to do to insure our salvation. Sound familiar?
But if it’s true that God’s gift of salvation is free, then how is it possible that the maintenance of the same is so expensive? And if security does not come at a cost, then how can we convince our hearts to rest in the truth that God not only loved us enough to save us, but that He likes us enough to stay present with us in all our failures, to endure our screw ups, to fellowship with us in our weaknesses, to invest His Holy Spirit in us, to speak to us, to comfort us, to assure us of our salvation?
The secret is much simpler than you might fear. It is gratitude. In the KJV, Hebrews 12:28 says, “Wherefore we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:”.
In the English Standard Version, it reads, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,”.
The word translated as “grateful” in the second version is the same as is translated “grace” in the the King James. A succinct definition of the Greek word is this: The spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace, the merciful influence of kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon our souls, turns them to Christ.*
In both translations, it is easy to see that the kingdom has already been received, therefore the readers (you and I) are assumed to have accepted Christ as our personal Savior. The next step is to worship the King of this kingdom with gratitude.
When we gather around the thanksgiving table each November, it’s common to pass our plates with the query, “What are you thankful for?”. This is the same principle we must apply to our worship: What do we worship for? What are we grateful for?
The difference between “love” and “like” is gratitude. The concept of love has the potential to remain nebulous, but when that love is expressed in terms of gratitude it takes on a gritty tangibleness. Thankfulness requires knowing someone, recognizing their contribution. Thanksgiving requires that we internalize God’s love and recognize Him as good.
The next time you are fearful that you’ve let God down and imagine Him standing over you saying, “I will always love you, but I’m so disappointed, I don’t like you very much right now,” pause to thank Him. Thank Him for the factual evidence of His love. In this thankfulness it will become apparent that He does indeed like you. His affection for you overflows the boundaries of unconditional love into the confidence that He treasures you, has secured you and that you have no need to impress Him.
* Lexicon and dictionary notes taken from Blueletterbible.org
If you’re like me, you cringe when I say that living in an eating disorder is equivalent to practicing idolatry. As a Christian, one of the most confusing, painful parts of my eating disorder was wondering why I didn’t have enough faith to get well.
Perhaps you think, like me, “But I love God and I believe that Jesus died for my sins and I am trusting Him to get me to heaven.”
And then you kind of panic.
“Is God frustrated with me? Will He give up on me? Have I lost my faith?”
I cannot tell you how many nights I cried out to God, “Please, please just take this away! I don’t want to be miserable and feel distant from you anymore. Please, just let me wake up and all of this anxiety over food and my body be gone!”
Then, I’d wake up one more morning and know, one more time, that I was still stuck. If Jesus had sat down on the bed next to me and said, “Stay here with me this morning.” I would have stood up, put on my running shoes and left Him sitting there. I could not resist the call of my other master.
Let’s start at square one. To establish at eating disorder as an idol, consider these verses:
Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
The Greek word for “covetousness” can also be translated as materialism, avarice, or eager to have more especially of that which belongs to others.
I won’t put words in your mouth, but I will confess that in my heart of hearts, that’s exactly how I felt about my eating disorder. I craved the attention that it afforded me, I was covetous of beautiful bodies and clamored for more of what I thought would make me perfect.
On a more obvious level, I began to see my eating disorder as idolatry when I realized that it consumed more of my time, more of my thoughts, indeed, all of my life, than Jesus did. Being thin and the concept of being strong and needless was my treasure, and yes, that’s where my heart was also. (Matt. 6:21)
So, what of this idol, this earthly treasure? Can I not have God, too?
Luke 16:13 makes it clear that we cannot serve two masters. Goodness knows, I tried. Every single day, after my workout of course, I pulled out my devotional, my Bible and journal. Every single year, I read through the Bible again. I led Bible studies at church. But hollowness lingered in my soul. I could not pursue my anorexic goals with all the passion of my mind, and give my heart fully to Jesus.
I’m sorry if this is hard to hear, but neither can you.
Let me be clear, having an eating disorder or any other addiction does not mean you are not saved. Salvation is by faith alone in what Christ did for you at the cross. (John 3:16)
But I was wondering why I couldn’t grow in my faith, why Jesus seemed distant, why I wasn’t learning how to trust Him more and more, even with things like eating and my physical body.
Back up a few verses in Luke 16. I’m pondering here, so search this out for yourself if it makes sense.
Verses 10-12 say, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?”
It is a very great and precious treasure that God has invested in us, the very life of His Son, Jesus Christ. However, if I prove less than faithful with my own physical body, how can I ever expect Him to continually reveal to me greater levels of intimacy and freedom in Him?
Flip the passage over. Think with me of Christ’s faithfulness. In my eating disorder, I essentially said, “God, I trust you for heaven and eternity, but I don’t trust you with my body right now.”
If Jesus is continually faithful to forgive all my sins and to save my soul, is He not then obviously faithful and capable of caring for my physical body? Why would I not trade this worthless idol, this brutal task master of anorexia for the One True and Faithful God who not only guarantees my eternity, but is capable and worthy of tending my physical body as well?
It’s a well worn passage. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record it. The memory must have been emblazoned on their minds. I imagine it was one of the few times Jesus raised his voice to the disciples.
“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'” Luke 18:16
A couple weeks ago, the pastor at Cascade Hills Church, here in Columbus, GA, started on Mark’s version of this story. I almost rolled my eyes. Some things are just over done, right? I mean, not only does this verse parade through the halls of my Sunday school memories, but just recently I’ve studied this passage in my Good Morning Girls Bible study. I just read it in Matthew last week as part of my through-the-Bible-in-a-year program.
But, as I’m touring the halls of memory, I distinctly remember the insistence in my parents’ voices when they said, “If I told you once, I told you a thousand times!” That meant, You’re supposed to remember this. It’s important!
So, I shook myself a little, refocused on the pastor and dug past empty gum wrappers and loose bobby pins to find a pen. Then, my mind drifted again, filled with questions:
What did Jesus mean, “For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”? For some reason, I started thinking along the lines of gifts. Maybe that’s because another version phrases it, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” It’s also applicable because, after all, according to 2 Peter 1:3, the God of the Kingdom is a wonderful gift giver:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
Romans 3:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
What is a child’s role in the gifting process? Simply receive. So, if we are the recipients of God’s good gifts, how should we receive? All Christians long for the joy of Heaven, and we know that the only way there is through the gift of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12)
So, just think with me, as His children (Gal. 4:6), how should we receive His good gifts of grace, mercy, eternal life, all that we need for life and godliness, the Holy Spirit and so much more?
1. A child never turns down a gift. Can you imagine?
2. A child will never offer to pay you back. But, as adults we spend most of our lives trying to pay God back for His kindness to us. “After all He’s done for me, it’s the least I can do for Jesus.”
3. A child is fully willing to ask for a gift. Most of us, as adults, pepper our prayers with, “Only if you want to, God. I’ll understand if you don’t.”
Or, we feel guilty after a particularly needy prayer. But Jesus says, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24
Just some food for thought. I’d love to hear your comments. How do you receive a gift – for that matter, a compliment?
If you’re really honest, do you see yourself as working to pay God back for His goodness toward you?
Supporting Scriptures: Matt. 20:28, John 14:16, Matt. 11:28, John 14:27
I hustle and rest,
I try my best
To place you in the center.
Then find my heart in barren winter.
How with such pure effort,
Can I not comport
My self in righteousness,
Shaded by your holiness?
How do I find myself excavated
All my energies relegated
To survival, to clinging to shreds
Of dignity, goodness and holy fruit?
Like a thirsty tree thrusting branches higher,
When clean deep trenches gush with water.
I clamor for refreshment in obvious places,
Ignorant of your ready, near, abundant graces.
You are not far!
Though you hung the stars.
You never cleave,
Call me to cleave.
If I could but wrest away
My hands from briefer things.
Then part with time,
Spread these dormant wings,
And live this day, in its place
On the timeline of eternity.
I stood behind her as she twirled in the mirror.
Ghastly. I thought.
“It’s me, don’t you think?” she asked? “I mean, I think I was born to wear this!”
“Are you crazy?” I’ve never been very good at keeping my opinions to myself. “That is the ugliest, most offensive piece of clothing I’ve ever seen! It looks terrible on you and it would look terrible on anyone. In fact, it’s just wrong.”
My sister dropped her eyes for a second. I could tell I’d wounded her, but someone had to tell her the truth. Nearby stood the saleslady, a few other customers and a few others of our friends.
“How can you be so cruel,” one of them asked me. “It’s really not about you now, is it? If it makes your sister happy, can’t you just be happy for her?”
“Certainly not!” Righteous indignation filled me and I began to spew lines I had heard somewhere before. “There is absolute truth, and it is absolutely true that that dress is an abomination!”
“Excuse me.” A soft, powerful voice invaded our verbal war. “I have something for you.”
I spun around intent on putting this stranger in his place. “This is none of your business.”
“But it is my business. Be quiet.” The stranger gently set me aside and walked through the crowd of opinionated onlookers. He stepped directly in front of my sister and began to take off his outer garment.
“My dear,” He spoke as if the rest of us had disappeared. “You are beautiful. Those eyes, I remember the day I chose the color, greener than freshly dewed grass.”
The stranger was in no hurry. He held his coat at his left side and brushed my sister’s hair from her face with tender fingers. I noticed a deep scar in his palm. Who was this man?
“You are so beautiful, but that dress doesn’t do you justice.”
My sister didn’t resist, in fact she didn’t even seem to notice as the stranger slid the dress off her shoulders one at a time. Soon, she stood in plain white cotton undergarments. She looked so small and humbled, but her expression was peaceful, mesmerized actually, by this mysterious man.
“My own garment will look brilliant on you. It has been tailored specifically for you, there is none other like it in all the world.” As He spoke, the stranger slipped around my sister, draping his cloak over her shoulders, letting it fall in graceful folds to her feet. I noticed His own feet. There was a scar, just like His hands.
The woman who stood before me now was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. But it was hard to get a close look at her, because suddenly she was dancing. She twirled and laughed, as if she’d been given new life, not simply a new dress.
She stopped mid-twirl and fell to her knees.
“How well you knew me!” Tears dripped and shimmered like diamonds on her cheeks. “You knew what would make me lovely. How can I ever thank you?”
The Stranger knelt too, cupping her shiny cheeks in His scared hands. “You must tell everyone about my beauty. Promise me that you will tell them that I love them and I want to make them beautiful, too.”
(Another attempt at a parable. Excerpt from my journal after a conversation with Father.)
Being Naked is nothing if not humbling. As God would have it, the brilliant theologian, C.S. Lewis has struck me where it hurts the most.
In so many ways, I have healed from anorexia. In so many ways, I am walking free of the chains of food fears, starvation and compulsive exercise. And even in the throws of my disorder, no one, least of all myself would have considered me a glutton. So as Screwtape began to instruct his evil nephew in the art of deception by means of gluttony, I thought, This is so utterly new to me, it should be interesting!
Interesting it was, but not because I’ve never experienced such temptations. It was interesting particularly because it could have been written about me, so convicting was it.
[Our goals] have largely been [accomplished]by the concentrating all our efforts on glutton of Delicacy, not gluttony of Excess.
Anorexia is chiefly defined by not eating much. For me, that included a desire not to need much. But I glutted on all my own selfish desires. Quite literally, I binged on exercise. I pushed my personal desires upon all who entertained me. My gluttony was on being accommodated by all who should understand the nature of my disorder. I fully expected my family to provide the foods I would eat, understand when my love affair with myself interrupted their lives. Hosts should cater to my specific food requirements. My husband should go out of his way to stop at hotels with gyms whenever we traveled.
Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognizes as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others.
Oh, and Lewis would not feign to ignore my affection for myself in the realm of exercise.
…feed him the grand lie which we have made the English humans believe, that physical exercise in excess and consequent fatigue are specially favorable to this virtue.
So, the naked truth, confession at the deepest level, even my recovery is incomplete. And I brought that to my Father this morning.
God, how can I pretend to write a book on how you have walked me through the Valley of the Shadow of anorexia and how I have grown in you and been strengthened by the journey, when my journey isn’t over yet?
And He, Sweet Father, always answers.
Beloved, you ask why the journey is not complete. Your journey with anorexia is long over. Your walk with me is only beginning. Precious one, can you define a single step that you have already taken? You will not have a mark to define your successful recovery. It is a part of OUR journey.
“When the humans disbelieve our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us we cannot make the materialists and skeptics.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
To the most reasonable mind, if there exists a God, there must necessarily exist a supernatural source of evil. And vice-versea. To believe in Satan, by consequence, and observation of the natural world, one must believe in a supernatural source of good. The war between these forces is evident in every waking moment.
- a normally comforting mother screaming at her child
- murder and law enforcement
- generosity and desperate poverty
Humans only know one, good or evil, by its contrast to the other. So, for Satan to convince man that he has no Creator, no Advocate, no moral directive, no eternity, no Savior, no God, then he must simultaneously insinuate that he, himself, is a figment of a weak mind.
“I have great hope that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy [God].”
This morning in my quiet time, I digested a passage that I have read more than 100 times. Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth, his own home town and read from the book of Isaiah. There, He declared Himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah. The Jews were furious at this blasphemy and tried to push Jesus over a cliff. But, without a dramatic show, He simply passed through the crowd and left.
In Capernaum, He entered the synagogue again. Immediately, He was confronted by a man with an evil spirit. “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34)
The phrase, “What have you to do with us,” is a Greek idiom, similar to, “I will have nothing to do with you,” or, “Have nothing to do with us.”
In this tantrum, the demon screamed through the man, “I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God!” Wow. Talk about proof! You would think that in such a cosmic display of good and evil, everyone would have collapsed on their faces in worship of the Deliverer. However wonderful that would have been, it would also be insufficient, that would not accomplish salvation. Jesus doesn’t want mere acknowledgement, and Satan knows it.
Yes, salvation is found in believing in Jesus, the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). But, Christ came for so much more than that. Jesus wants us to love Him with all our heart, souls, minds and strength. Jesus wants everything to do with us. So Satan’s most vicious tactic is not to convince us that God does not exist, or that Jesus is not the Son of God, but to persuade us that God wants nothing to do with us, that relationship is impossible.
Jesus had to die and rise again in order to pay for our sins and restore our right relationship with God. Our God is personal and has everything to do with us! Praise the Lord!
“The devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds…Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.” Jim Elliott
“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private.” C.S. Lewis
Have you ever said: “I was home alone all evening, on a Friday night. What a loser.”
Have you ever done: Flipped on the TV, the radio, a CD or all of them at once – just for “background noise?”
Have you ever thought: The more the merrier?
Have you ever found: Yourself in such a hurry that you don’t remember the last time you read a good book?
I venture to say that most of us have done all of the above at one time or another. There’s an odd dichotomy in our culture right now, an expressed longing for quiet, juxtaposed with fervent applause for the busiest, most productive among us. We see sentimental quotes everywhere, on bookmarks, refrigerators, office walls, that tell us to stop and smell the roses. Mattress commercials remind us that none among us get enough sleep. Doctors decry the effect of stress on our hearts.
Simultaneously, the first question we ask any bloke on the street is, “What do you do?” essentially, equating an individual’s value and their relationship to us primarily on their occupation.
And noise? Even sitting here, I can hear my husband’s television show from the other room. A few hours ago, as I made breakfast, I listened to a sermon on my iPhone. As soon as I headed upstairs to shower, I turned on the Christian radio in my bedroom. God-forbid I entertain silence for a moment!
Have you ever felt: Like God has deserted you? As if you’re all alone and your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling? Like you’re fighting a losing battle? What if you quit fighting? What if you stopped praying and listened?
Exodus 14:13 “And Moses said unto the people, ‘Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.'”
If God doesn’t build the house,
the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves? Psalm 127