Nuggets: Cut Off Your Hand

In the span of 24 hours, three women I love deeply told me of their partner’s unfaithfulness. And it all began in their right hands.

That stupid phone.

That little gadget puts more power beneath our thumbs than between our ears. And more danger at our finger tips than in any previous generation.

All three women discovered that their husbands (one is a boyfriend) are having ongoing conversations with other women. Simple texts morphed quickly into rendezvous, emotional attachments and physical relationships.

And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I’ve always thought Matthew 5:30 seemed a little odd. At least Jesus was using hyperbole, right? I still don’t think Jesus intends for us to literally chop off our hands, but it’s more obvious to me now how segmented we pretend sin is.

It’s almost as if when sin starts (and stays for a while) in just our hands, and not yet in our hearts or the rest of our bodies, we excuse it: “It’s just a text right?”

It’s as if we think when sin is so simple, so easy it must not be as bad, right?

Jesus doesn’t think so. My loved ones know it isn’t so. Sin hurts, destroys, kills. And it can start in the palm of your hand.

 

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Pre-Parenting, Discipline and Sin

scold

A fabulous article entitled “Parenting is First About My Sin,” by David Mathis recently appeared on the Desiring God website. While the entire article remains an essential read, a summarizing quote is:

“The wakeup call for parents — and for fathers in particular — is that we are sinners too, adult sinners, and our sins have even greater repercussions than the missteps of our children, and tragically our children are often the objects of the dragon still within us. It’s not as if we’re sinners only in our relationships with other adults, and above the law when parenting our children. We are sinners in every facet, and often most dangerously so in our parenting.”

While they didn’t have a direct effect on the fact that my husband and I didn’t have children earlier in life, certainly the awareness of our own specific sins and weaknesses has made us cautious and prayerful as we approach parenthood. Each of us has struggled hard with a “pet” sin. I’ve addressed his struggle (with his permission) in other articles, but today I’ll simply highlight my own. Especially in light of the knowledge that we’re having a girl, my history of an eating disorder causes me to fear for her.

Does my past make her more vulnerable to the same sins? (Specifically in my own eating disorder I call these out as addiction, idolatry, pride and fear.) Will she fight for a sane and realistic body image her whole life? Will she battle fear in the face of social eating? Will she see herself as better than others when she’s fit and thin? Will she find herself devoting more time to her appearance than to her Savior? Will she learn these sinful behaviors from me?

Finish reading this article over at www.mydailyarmorschristiandigest.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Thorn in My Side

I was pretty stoked: God had given me an out! I had discovered the Bible verse that indicated anorexia was something I could struggle with my whole life.

Now, that sounds discouraging, but then, as someone who had fought the battle with anorexia for over a decade and continued to lose, it seemed like a welcome release. Perhaps I didn’t need to fight so hard, maybe this was something God had given me; my personal struggle. Maybe God wasn’t going to heal me or rescue me, maybe I could quit hoping and waiting and trying because this was just “my thing”.

Second Corinthians 12:6-10 says, “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

See, I thought, even Paul had something that he struggled with his whole life.

But as I prayed about this and tried to find the peace that proved I had found the solution to my struggle, it wasn’t there.

Paul’s thorn served a specific purpose. In the preceding verses, Paul says that the thorn was given to him to keep him from boasting in himself; it was not a random affliction such that “everyone has one”.

Paul had become an untimely apostle, having seen the risen Jesus after his ascension. After that, with many visions, his extensive schooling in The Law, his dual citizenship and rightful authority and notoriety as an evangelist, Paul had good reason to be proud. God gave him this “thorn” as a reminder that he was not self-sufficient and perhaps even as a physically humiliating attribute that kept others from idolizing him.

My eating disorder can never be compared to Paul’s thorn in the flesh. First, the Bible says that God tempts no one. I believe that my anorexic behaviors were evidence of idolatry—worshipping myself. God frequently commands us to have no god besides Him. He will not “give” me an idol.

Second, Paul closes this passage by saying that he rejoices in his weakness so that the power of Christ might rest on him. To resign myself to an eating disorder as simply “my thorn” does not express the power of Christ and honor Him as the supreme one and only God, as The Redeemer.

Indeed, my eating disorder kept me on my knees before Jesus, more aware daily of how much I need Him. However, His power is made evident in my surrender to Him, not in my resignation to anorexia.

This article was first published at FINDINGbalance.com

Good and Naked

I’m pretty glad we wear clothes, and not just because they cover up a lot of things I’d rather not see.

However, if Adam and Eve were created naked, “and it was good,” why do we get dressed every day?

Adam and Eve were created in God’s image. All of their nakedness was perfection to Him and mirrored Himself. It’s a little strange to consider, but when Adam and Eve looked at each other relative to the rest of creation, it was obvious that they looked like their Father, their creator.

We often recall that the immediate consequence of their sin was clothing. They scrambled for fig leaves until God gave them a more permanent dressing of animal skins. But they had been naked all along. How could that have been sinful in itself?

I image that Satan curled slippery around the trunk of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. “You won’t surely die,” he whispered. “But God knows you will become like Him knowing good and evil.” There it was, Satan told Eve that God had lied, He really hadn’t made them like Himself. He really wasn’t a benevolent Father offering to them all that they could ever desire. 

Adam and Eve had been naked all along, nakedness wasn’t a sin. How did identifying their nakedness become the shame inducing moment that sent them running to hide from God?

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.”

In the seconds it took them sink their God-given teeth into the skin of a sweet fruit, the gravity of their choice hit them, painfully. The serpent had lied, they really did look like God. God really had made them in His image. It wasn’t that being naked was evil and they simply figured it out all of a sudden. No, the evil that they instantly became aware of was their decision to believe someone other God. They doubted the goodness and truth of their best friend.

Jesus calls Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life. Adam and Eve denied the very essence and nature of their Father.

He isn’t truth, they thought.

Adam and Eve first clothed themselves. They used it to cover their shame. And so, I believe that it was out of mercy that God clothed them.

Imagine a master potter. His choicest piece of clay spinning smoothly beneath his fingers. When He finishes, he sets the masterpiece in the center of His daily table, pleased with its beauty. One day, a mischievous child intentionally reaches up and throws the beautiful piece to the floor. The potter is crushed. It saddens Him to know its intended perfection and to now see it in shambles. So He picks up the pieces and gently, lovingly covers them with his cloak – clothing the shards.

Maybe that’s what God was doing – until the moment when He restores all of His creation to its original goodness.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,a we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3

 

wondering if i wander

is this living by the Spirit

unsure where i am and

untethered against next wind’s gust?

or

is this?

to live by increments

a divided clock and protracted heart

degrees of devotion to each good deed?

or

somewhere in the middle –

is there quiet and peace?

I know there is!

for

I have a shepherd who

promises quiet water trickles near

but though i trod, i fear.

how?

to walk with him without wondering

to walk with him without wandering

his Spirit in me?

If God is Good…

For about a week now, I’ve been fumbling with thoughts about pain. Sounds morbid, right? Except that I’ve been thinking about the Privileges of Pain.

Truthfully,  most of the world is hung up on, “if God is good, why Pain, Suffering, Death?” Authors have gone so far as to declare loudly, God Is Not Good, (Christopher Hitchens.) But before we turn away from this topic, which we have covered for two months, I want to suggest to you that pain proves that God is decidedly good. 

Let’s start at the very beginning, according to Fraulein Maria, in Sound of Music, a very good place to start. What is the very first recording of pain in the Bible? I imagine the animal that God slew in order to fashion clothes for Adam and Eve was the first creature to experience pain. (Genesis 3:21)

If you recall, Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first indication of their sin was that they realized they were naked, they became ashamed and they hid. Therefore, God made clothes for them of animal skins.

The animal whose life was forfeit in order to clothe Adam and Eve was the first picture of a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of man. Then, throughout the Old Testament, under the Mosaic covenant, death was required to pay for sin so that man might remain in relationship with God. (Hebrews 9:22)

Fast forward to the first four books of the New Testament. These Gospels tell us the story of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus endured pain’s grand finale in his death on the cross. His pain was the payment for our sin. Isaiah 53:5

But why pain at all?  Pain came with man’s sin. Man invited death, pain and struggle into God’s perfect world. (Genesis 3:14-20) But why does pain remain? And if God loves me why must I suffer? 

Think of a little child who brazenly ignores his mother, climbs up on his step stool and promptly places his tiny palm flat on a hot burner. What if there was no pain? Not only would the child not remove his hand from the burner where it would continue to destroy his flesh, but also his pride and embarrassment would keep him from running to his mother. If the child was not forced by his pain to seek out his mother – who would soothe his wound, apply ointment and offer comfort?

God knows that if we don’t experience pain in this broken world, we will ignorantly continue to invite sin and death into our lives, essentially playing Russian roulette until one day, unaware of our self destruction, we will die – forever. If pain and death were not the result of rebellion against God, what would drive us into His arms and restore relationship?

I do not mean to imply that pain and suffering are a direct result of sin in an individual’s life. Even those who love Jesus with all their hearts and have trusted him for salvation, experience pain and eventual death. Now look with me into the heart of Christ’s ministry, right in the middle of the Gospels’ stories.

In John 9, we meet a blind man. Because he had been born blind, the snickers and questions circled as Jesus healed the man. “Who sinned? This man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man or his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

God’s glory arrives in the midst of our pain. When HE saves us. When HE comforts us. When HE is enough. When HIS strength is proved perfect.

God’s glory arrived in the midst of Christ’s anguish. When God showed that HE was willing to go to the farthest length to restore man. When God showed that HE loved us enough to walk among us. When God showed that HE was stronger than death.

So maybe we should quit saying that God allows pain to teach us something. Often that causes us to look inward and try to change what surely must be wrong with us. What if pain is simply so that He can show to us and in us the change He has already made: that He conquered death, that He reversed the power of sin from the very first painful experience in the Bible.

Book Review, Day 2

We are continuing to review Michael Leehan’s book, How Satan’s Solider Became God’s Warrior.  If you missed it, go back and read Monday’s post for an introduction. 

I found it startling that on a daily basis, Leehan wasn’t so different from you and me. He studied and went to college. He dated and married, had kids and divorced. He started his own successful business and was socially accepted by his neighbors and friends. Leehan even went to church with his girlfriend. The Bible tells us that Satan is the master of deception.

I began to wonder how deceived I might be – in a very different way, but perhaps just as deceived as Leehan was. In Ephesians 6, God tells us that we do not war against flesh and blood but against the rulers and authorities of darkness. But do I live like that?

Daily, I confess, I live a myopic life. I tend to believe that from the moment I wake, all my choices are my own and I make them dependent upon what will best serve my purposes. If I’m feeling especially altruistic, I will think about what will make my husband happy or how to meet my friend’s need. But I regularly fail to see myself as an eternal being whose actions today have eternal consequences now and forever.

 A couple things I did realize: we are not alone in our little biospheres – and we really never have complete privacy. Someone or something is always peering into the minute world of our experience.

After years of seeking and experiencing spiritual prowess and knowledge, it became apparent to me that we are truly spirit beings just on this earth for a short season…I knew with certainty the spiritual realm was more alive and active that the world I was born into.

That quote puts a lot of things in perspective. Here at Predatory Lies, I confess on a regular basis the shallowness of my daily concerns. I spent (and continue to struggle to refocus) 15 years trying to create and maintain my perfect earthly body. You can relate your own terrestrial worries to this truth; but I assume with few exceptions that most people muddle along with their minds buried deep in issues that have nothing to do with their souls.

How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior demolishes this misconception. It is a  book-length anecdote that will startle you awake to the certainty of eternal life. Where will you spend it?

Shhhh…It’s the Quietest Gospel

The Quietest Gospel. Kind of self explanatory, but Wax explains there are a couple angles. For the sake of baiting you to read the book, I’ll only explain the version that I struggle with the most.

The conservative version maintains the appearance of prophetic speech by speaking out against certain sins. But it often reduces the gospel announcement by relegating its implications to personal fulfillment in a way that makes the church irrelevant to public discourse. (pg. 140)

Flight into the invisible is a denial of the call. A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow Him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (quoted on pg 140)

The problem is I observe plenty blatant sins in my daily life. It’s easy enough (though sometimes I wimp out even still) to declare that am pro-life and abortion is wrong, that taking God’s name in vain is a sin, that stealing is wrong and so is sexual immorality and lying and abuse and sorcery and… you get my drift. Many people, priding themselves on morality, would support these assertions. However, the true Gospel calls me to more than that.

Where is a Christian living out the bold apostolic Gospel that defies evil even when to do so will cause pain? Where is the Christian willing to take the true Gospel for all its political assertions, for its nitty-gritty implications on everyday life? I suggest to you that there aren’t many living in the United States.

It is frequently heard from our pulpits, “Just preach the gospel.” I have heard many Christians say, “I don’t really say much about my faith, I just hope people see Jesus in my life.” That’s not the Biblical Gospel.

Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, Amos, and Ezekiel had no trouble holding together the proclamation of good news with the prophetic call to care for the poor and needy, to stop economically unjust practices, and to return to a heartfelt worship of God.” (pg. 145)

I think on a smaller scale of other examples of a quietest gospel: when we’re afraid to raise our hands in church or kneel in worship because of what others may think; when we don’t give money to that homeless person because we don’t know their real motives; when we don’t tell the truth about where we’ll be on Sunday morning when asked to make other plans. Anything sound familiar?

This morning I began my quiet time as usual with my journal open on my lap. Suddenly, after a few pages of drivel and standard prayer requests, the Holy Spirit dug deep into my heart. He asked me, “Abby, if there were no hell, would you love me?”

What?

“If there were no eternal consequence to sin, no fiery hell to be avoided, would you love me? Or would you say, ‘A little longer, I’ve almost got it right down here;’ or, ‘I’m actually enjoying this for now.’ How passionate is your love for me? Is it greater, louder, more fulfilling than your comfort, your reputation, your self-esteem?”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 12:1-4

What Fell?

Did you ever think about what fell in “The Fall”? Usually, we think about sin entering the world. Before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, we know that there was no death, no hate, no sexual impropriety. There was no lying, fear, anger, bitterness or rebellion. There was no cursing, fighting, disobedience, murder or cheating. But what about pain?

The Bible says that in heaven there will be no tears, no pain. Revelation 21:3-4

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

This morning I drudged my way through “Kinesiology and Functional Anatomy” in my course book for the NESTA personal trainer certification. It’s a tough chapter. But even as I flunked my first attempt at the practice test, I have to admit, it’s incredibly interesting. Just as God had an original intent for our lives: the praise of His glory, He had an original, perfect plan for our bodies.

Just a couple examples:

The heart has its own pacemaker and is self regulated. Not once have you ever had to tell your heart to beat

Our bodies were made to work and our muscles, even our bones, grow stronger in response to this stimulus

But what happens when we abuse or damage one little thing? I had to go to the doctor today because I’ve been experiencing some knee pain. At first, I rolled my eyes when he told me that my knee pain was related to the callus on my big toe. He quickly explained that the callus was indicative of over-pronation in my foot, which in turn was affecting my knee. Wow!

It’s similar in our spiritual lives. It only took one sin – the intentional act of disobedience of eating a food God forbade – to introduce the painful sins and consequences that we experience today. In many ways, the continued degradation of human behavior is a consequence of the first sin. That doesn’t mean we’re innocent! Just because Adam’s sin started the downward spiral doesn’t mean we are simply victims of sin.  

Jesus Christ came to redeem sinners. Think of it as: Jesus lived a perfect life, building up antibodies to the illness we are suffering from, sin. Then, on the cross, he poured out His blood, gave His life in order to offer us the cure for sin and death. But we cannot become well if we refuse to accept and consume the cure He has made freely available. If we arrogantly despise the sacrifice, forgiveness and healing of Jesus Christ, we can know for sure that our sin will continually, progressively destroy us.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

Every single heart beat of every single day, your body is preaching to you the message of salvation. Please listen!