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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Week 5 - Accepting God's Grace and Forgiveness


What you believe determines how you behave and how you behave determines how you feel. Your true beliefs then are reflected by your feelings. Quite honestly, my feelings haven't always been in line with my beliefs. Each of us in the group acknowledged that we believe that God forgives sin. It's a fundamental belief of Christianity. However, truly believing that God forgives sin means that your behavior is to repent, ask forgiveness of that sin and consequently feel free and cleansed of your sin. In the bondage of an eating disorder, we each expressed feelings that it was hard to feel forgiven or "free." In which case, our beliefs were not truly that God forgives our sin, but that God forgives other peoples sin.

We must choose to believe that what God says is true. His word remains TRUE whether we believe it or not. His word remains TRUE whether we act like it or not. (Romans 6:6-9)

In certain circumstances, our feelings and beliefs may not line up. In those instances, we have a choice to make. We can either allow our feelings to dictate our beliefs, or we can choose to behave in a way that will change our feelings. When we make the choice to trust in God's word and behave contrary to what we are feeling, God will honor our choice. When we choose God, he lavishes His love on us and will change our hearts to be in line with His truth.

Forgiveness must be displayed in two ways; by forgiving others and forgiving ourselves. People with eating disorders are generally perfectonistic and addictive in personality. For this type of person, forgiveness of themselves does not come easy. We each acknowledged that we are much more willing to forgive others than ourselves. Along with unforgiveness comes shame and guilt that we have failed God, others, or ourselves.

We took some time to journal about what source of unforgiveness or guilt we are still feeling today. Upon some reflection, we tore these pages out of our journal and went outside. In a small galvanized bucket, we put our papers up in flames. Forgiveness is certainly a process. While we acknowledged the work that it takes to experience forgiveness, we took this first step together in giving God some of our hurts and struggles. Our prayer at this time went something like this...

"God, You already know everything that is written here. Thank you for walking this earth and for understanding all of these struggles and pains. Thank you that you love us so incredibly much, that you have already died for these things. You died so that we could experience freedom from sin and unforgiveness. Thank you for your promises that you will never leave or forsake us and that you will never recall our sins or hold them against us. You have said that nothing can separate us from your love. Your love for us is so great that you will never let go of us. Please walk with us on the journey to let go of these things and to trust you. Guide us as we continue on the process of forgiveness and truly accepting forgiveness of ourselves.
Thank you that through Christ's death and resurrection we can experience true freedom."

We listened to this song by Casting Crowns and reflected on what it means to be free in Christ. God gives us the choice to lift our chains and give Him the ultimate power over our lives. Jesus holds all the power on Heaven and Earth and WE ARE FREE in Him.

"Our old self was crucified with him so that sin is done away with, that we are no longer slaves to sin, because anyone who has died is free from sin. Sin is no longer your master, because you are not under law, but under Grace."
Romans 6:6-7, 14

Monday, March 16, 2009

Taking a Break...

It's time for Spring break, which means that we won't be having class tomorrow evening, March 17th.  We'll pick up with our 2 remaining classes on March 24th and 31st.  
FYI - We will start our book study of "Loving Your Body" by Deborah Newman after our classes are done.  Stay posted for more details about the book!

Enjoy your Spring break, girls! See you next week.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Week 4 - Finding Comfort in God's Love

This week we talked about the differences between the world's perception of love and God's love. The world's love is based on conditional things. The world says that we can fall in and out of love. It is based on our feelings or emotions at a specific time. The world's love is based on performance, that somehow we have to earn love by doing or being someone we're not. But God's love is unconditional. God's love for us is not dependent on what we have done or how we feel. We are perfect beings created in His image and He is well pleased with us. No matter how far we stray, he loves us. He always desires to draw us closer to Him and reveal his amazing, unconditional love for us.

God's love can be described like this...

"The love of God beckons you to come. It does not send you away, it is not hard to find. It calls out like a mother for a child. Like an angel that proclaims the glory of God, it never ceases. God calls out to you, "Come!" His voice echoes across all that is, "Yes you, come closer, deeper in. Sit upon My lap, let Me look at you. Let Me hold you My child, I love you. I love you. I will always love you."
I am so thankful that God doesn't treat us the way we treat others. Our relationships in this world differ so much from God's relationship with us. When I have felt wronged or hurt in relationships, I have wanted to pull away and give less of myself to that person. We remember hurts and hold on to pain. Yet how often do we ignore God's voice? How often do we wrong and hurt Him? How often do we make poor choices? Yet, God never walks away from us saying that we've hurt him too much or been away for too long. Instead he continues to pursue us. He relentlessly tries to win our hearts so that we may experience comfort in Him.

God's love is exemplified in this song by Matt Redman. God's love will never let go of us. The song states God's truth, that even in the midst of life's storms, God is near. We each reflected on a time in our lives that we experienced loneliness. At times when God feels far away we often rely on our feelings to dictate our basis of love. In these storms we believe feelings that we are unloved, unaccepted, and undeserving of God's comfort. In the midst of these storms it may be hard to experience God's ultimate love, but looking back we can see how God was carrying us.

Scripture shows us over and over what God's heart is for His children.
This is the Father's heart for us...
  • "He chose us before the foundation of the world" Eph 1:4-6
  • "He totally and unconditionally accepts and loves me just the way I am" Eph 1:4-6
  • "He will never abandon me, leave me or forsake me." Heb 13:5
  • "He exults over me with great joy and singing." Zep 3:17
  • "He takes great pleasure in me" Psalm 149:4
  • "He does not recall my sins or iniquities and does not hold them against me." Heb 8:12
  • "He will never fail me or fall short of meeting my needs." Psalm 89:33-34
  • "He gathers me in his loving arms and carries me all my life." Isaiah 40:11
  • "He will not let anything separate us from his love." Romans 8:35-39
  • "He loves us with an everlasting love." Jer 31:3
Using God's promises of love for us, we wrote a love letter from God to ourselves. What would God being saying to us about how much He loves us? How does He want to show us comfort in times of loneliness? What does He want us to believe about ourselves?
This is the letter that I wrote when we ran classes from the fall (October-November 2008)...

Dear Jen,
You were made in my image and I love you just the way I created you. Even at your birth I had great plans for your life and have only had good in mind for you. I unconditionally accept you because you are my child and I take great pride in my creation, as any earthly father lavishes love on his son or daughter.
I know the struggles and pain that you have been through. If you trust in me, I can wipe all of your tears and take away every pain. In any trial that you face, I will never abandon you, leave you or forsake you. I am with you from now until the end of the age. I will never fail you, even when you think that you have failed me or yourself. If you simply put your trust and hope in me, I can meet each one of your needs. I know your needs before you even ask because I know more about you than you know about yourself. I know every anxious thought in you and I can promise you peace so that you will never be anxious or worry again. All of your anxieties and pains are not too much for me to handle. Find rest in me and be strengthened by my promises when you are tired and too weak to go on.
You cannot do anything to make me love you more. I cherish everything about you and love you so much that I sent my son to die for you. He died so that I could have a relationship with you; so that you could love me and I could love you. Your sins are not counted against you anymore because you are forgiven and worthy of love.
I am the same God that was with you through times of loneliness and in times of joy. I will always be with you and I will always rejoice in you, my child.
I love you,
Father God.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Week 3 - Fear Not

Our classes have been structured to follow the progression of a typical eating disorder.  The first week we discussed the issue of control.  An eating disorder often starts because we believe it is a way to find control in situations that are out of our control.  Last week we discussed the issue of worry.  Our worries are often what trigger destructive behaviors associated with eating disorders.  This week we discussed the idea of fear.  Even when the eating disorder is brought to light and we no longer want to struggle with it, fear often has such a grip on us that we can't let go.

Fear can have incredible power and control over us.  We discussed the concept of fear in respect to VALUE.  Fear comes from the potential of losing something we value.  The greater the value something is to us, the more we fear it.  Therefore, when something has no value to us, we have no fear of losing it.  In this respect, when we are afraid to let go of our eating disorder we are giving it value in our lives.  However, God clearly states in Scripture that we are to fear only 1 thing... Himself.

Fear of God is recognition of His value.  Without God we have nothing.  Mark 8:36-37 states, "What good is it for man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"  Fear of God puts things in perspective.  Nothing we have, nothing we accomplish, and nothing that happens to us will last.  We should not fear losing things of this world because they have no lasting consequence.  When we fear God and value Him above all else, we realize that things of this world have NO value in our lives.  When we fear anything other than the God of the universe we are not in line with his plan for our lives.  

We spent some time listening to The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns.  This song is a powerful reminder about God's truth.  We will always be bombarded by lies from the enemy.  The enemy will always try to deceive and have us believe the lies that "we've tried before and failed."  The wonderful news of the gospel is that we have another voice to listen to.  The voice of truth tells us that we don't need to be afraid.  God says that everything we go through can be used for His glory.  God says that he can use a tiny stone to defeat a giant and that the waves are never too big for us to reach out to Him.  We have a choice to make.  While we hear many voices out there, we can choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.  God is holding out His hand to us saying, "fear not," come to me and I will give you the strength to stand.  

Make the choice today, and every day, to listen to the Voice of Truth.  

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline."  2 Timothy 1:7

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Week 2 - Casting Our Worries on Him...

Worry implies the absence of trust in God

This statement is such a humbling realization. I often worry so much and trust God so little. Sometimes I think that people just worry, it's what we all do. While it may be true that humans worry, God says to trust Him and cast our worries on Him. As I was planning for our meeting, I realized that I label myself as a worrier. I've held an unconscious belief that a worrier is who I am and it's just what I do. But as we explored this topic I discovered that God didn't create me that way. I was created to live in peace with my Creator. Worrying is something that we do when we're not trusting God.

Eating disorders are fueled by constant worry. These worries, our "triggers" are what take us from unhealthy thoughts into destructive behaviors of binging, purging and restricting. On a large posterboard we listed some of our "triggers." Our list included family situations, school stress, food, being alone, feeling that we're not good enough, and change.

So, what exactly does the Bible say about worrying?

1. Worrying accomplishes nothing
- Worrying steals our time
"Can all of your worries add a single moment to your life? Why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are." Matthew 6:27-29
2. Worrying is not good for you - It can make us physically sick
"Worry weighs a person down, but an encouraging word cheers a person up." Proverbs 12:25
3. Worrying is the opposite of trusting God - God promises us peace if we do 3 things. If we 1) give up our worry, 2) pray about everything, and 3) thank Him for what He has done, He promises us a peace that will guard our heart and minds.
"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
4. Worrying puts your focus in the wrong direction - God has a plan for our lives and He promises to take care of our every need. We have nothing to worry about!
"So don't worry about these things, saying, "What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?" These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."
Matthew 6:31-33

Even though Scripture tells us not to worry, we often find ourselves doing it. We continue worrying because the lies of this world have become strongholds in our mind. A stronghold is a place that is well defended; a fortress. For a long time we have self defended the beliefs we have in our minds. It's time to destroy those lies and for God to renew our minds!

To destroy strongholds in our minds we need to give God control of our thoughts. We can set our minds on Godly things when we repent of our actions, renounce the lies we are believing, renew our minds, and resist further temptation. It is a lie that God is anything less than pure and perfect and that He cannot be trusted. Instead, we can accept the Truth that God has been, and always will be, pure, perfect and trustworthy.

God is completely trustworthy. He promises us peace, security, comfort, peace, love, and contentment when we trust in Him. Why would we worry when we can cast all of our anxiety on Him? (1 Peter 5:7) Give your worry to Him today and experience His good, pleasing and perfect will for your life (Romans 12:2).