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Monday, May 31, 2010

First Time Obedience

First time obedience is something that I talk about frequently in my home. My son is 3, so this is a daily topic of instruction and conversation. He has been learning the benefits of first time obedience for his life, his walk with Jesus, to his family and all those around him. As his parent, I can clearly see the benefits of first time obedience in his life. Ephesians 6:1-3 says that children should honor and obey, so that things will go well for them and that they will have a good life. When Connor obeys right away, there is more laughter and smiles in our interactions. Our entire family is happy and life is good. There is a blessing in first time obedience.

Today I wondered... if I can see the benefits of first time obedience so clearly in my son's life, why don't I get it myself? I expect him to obey right away when asked to do something, but so often I don't interact the same way with God.

I've learned 2 lessons from my 3 year old about obedience.

First lesson learned...
My obedience to God should be the same as what I expect from my son. When God speaks that I should do something, nothing else should come before Him or what He is asking of me. Even when I don't understand, I must obey. Even when I don't like it, I must obey. Even when it's uncomfortable, I must obey.

I don't want my son to obey out of obligation or fear, but because he loves us and because he loves God. I want my obedience to God to be with the same heart; a heart that I love God so much that I have no other choice but to immediately obey His word by laying aside my rules, expectations, or ideas. His plans are bigger than I will ever understand or imagine, and only He can see the ending. My obedience shows trust that He knows the plans He has for me, that they are good and that He will work out in me what He has started.

2nd Lesson learned...
There is grace through Christ when we fall short on first time obedience. When my son doesn't obey the first time I too quickly resort to frustration that he isn't getting it. I think that it should be easy for him to listen and obey. Yet in my own life, I often just don't get it. I wrestle with God and avoid talking to Him because maybe I might not like his answer. All the while, I am teaching my son that he needs to obey my words because I know what is best for him, even when he doesn't understand or like my answer. What a contradiction. Sometimes my son just doesn't get it. More often, I just don't get it.

Thank God, that there is grace when we don't obey Him. I am thankful that his grace covers my failings. I am thankful that he relentlessly pursues me and calls me back to obedience time and time again. Maybe I should begin practicing the same grace with my son as God daily shows to me. With any parent and with God, there is firmness in discipline that strengthens and trains us, but His grace shows that firmness is done with love and a quiet, guiding hand.

How different would my life look if I simply practiced first time obedience? Instead of debating, arguing, avoiding or second guessing God's directions, what if I obeyed right away? Even if I didn't understand, or didn't like the answer, or simply didn't want to do it - what if I obeyed anyway? I can think of many situations in my life that could have been avoided or been less painful had I simply obeyed him right away instead of trying my way first.

Remember the story of Jonah? He loved God, but he didn't want to go to Nineveh. He was afraid, he didn't understand why he was being sent there and he simply didn't want to do it. He didn't obey God right away. Because of this, he went through a painful experience before he learned that God's ways are always right and good. Jonah learned the benefits of first time obedience.

There is benefit in those painful journeys. None of us are perfect because we are human. We are going to struggle from time to time at first time obedience. In the struggles of not obeying God, I have learned so much, I have been renewed and my faith has been strengthened. There is great benefit to painful experiences and in the firm discipline that God provides to us, just as we show to our children. We all go through seasons of life that have painful experiences that grow us more like Him.

God welcomes our questions and He tells us that we can test Him. He is big enough to handle anything we bring to the table. Even with first time obedience, we will face trials and struggles. But in obeying him right away, we waste less time in fear and worry. In first time obedience we show faith in saying to Him, because you say so, I will.

In Luke 5:5, Peter was called by Jesus to put down his net to catch fish. Jesus asked him to put his net down at a time and place that made no sense. Peter responded by simply saying, "because you say so, I will." He may have asked questions later, but immediately, Peter responded with obedience.

I desire to be more like Peter. I want my daily prayer to be,
"God because I know that you are good, I understand that you only have good in mind for me. I may not understand your ways, but I trust in you. In whatever the day brings, help me to say, "because you say so, I will."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat: Chapter 11

Chapter 11: Crossing the Finish Line

In the final chapter, Fitzpatrick encourages us to keep going on the journey of learning to please God with our eating habits. While this is not an easy process, she encourages us to strive towards a heart that reflects Jesus.

In our relationship of learning to please God, she points out similarities in differences with a marriage relationship. Similarly, learning to please your spouse and God is a learning process. You may know that you love them both, but it takes time to figure out how to love them. As well, in both relationships, learning involves more than just knowing what to do, it is doing it with action.

But loving God is also very different from loving a spouse. There is no need to second guess what God needs or wants, because He gives us answers in the Bible. While we may misunderstand or miscommunicate with a spouse, God always provides us with answers in His Word. God also knows our heart, when no one else can. Even in our weakness, God can see the motives of our heart and blesses us when we try to do right, even when we fall short.

When we strive to please God we will always be blessed. A spouse may have sinful motives for asking us to do something, but God never does. As we obey God's word, we learn how to please Him, thus bringing about blessings in our life. God's word is filled with promises that he will reward us with blessing when we obey Him.

Learning to please God is an long, ongoing journey. In Colossians 1:9-12, Paul speaks of this process, knowing that we don't have much knowledge of God when we become believers, but praying that each Christian would gain it.

The journey is hard and many temptations lay along the path. Fitzpatrick points out encouragement in Isaiah 41:10, "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Fitzpatrick states, "When you're sorely tempted to give up, when you think it just isn't worth it, when you start to believe the lie that you'll never change, remember this verse. If you are His child, He promises that He is with you - to strengthen, help and uphold you."

If you are struggling now, take heart. Hebrews 12:11 states, "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." When God disciplines us it is meant for a greater purpose that is for our good. You can be encouraged that when God disciplines us, it is because we belong to Him. As we trust in Him through the pain, he will produce a crop of righteousness and peace in our lives that will overflow to others.

You can find encouragement to finish the journey you have started in these Scripture verses...

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win." (1 Corinthians 9:24) Run the race to please Him and to not be distracted by anything else!

Hebrews 12:1-3 says,
"Since we have a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet ad trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us. Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God. If you want to keep from becoming fainthearted and weary, think about his patience as sinful men did such terrible things to him."

Consider what this Scripture is saying...

"... a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands..."
Imagine all those who have gone before you, cheering you on. Picture Moses saying, "I know what it's like, I wandered in the desert for 40 years, but God kept His promise to me."

"...strip off everything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up..."
Hopefully you can identify the thoughts in your mind that trip you up. As you identify those areas that cause you to struggle, strip them off.

"... let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us..."
This journey will take time, but what better than to be running the race towards Jesus. Your life will be over in the blink of an eye so take heart in knowing that this struggle won't last forever. While this life is short, don't waste time wishing that you didn't have this pain in your life, or that you struggled with something different. God knows all about you and knows that you can learn through this trial.

"... keep your eyes set on Jesus..."
Don't look anywhere but at Jesus - not yourself or those around you. He suffered, bled and died for you. He took on your sin so that you could live in peace and joy.

The book ends with this prayer that you can offer to God...
"I hunger and thirst, my Lord, only for you. I long for my entire being-my heart, my mind, my emotions, my body-to glorify you and bring you joy. I put aside the meager pleasures of this life, especially those that I find in eating, and desire only you. You are my chief joy, my wonderful Shepherd. you've spread a banqueting table before me and I anxiously await the time when I'll be there, with you. Until then, I pledge to patiently run towards You, shunning anything that would keep me from my goal or cloud my sight. Keep me in your loving arms, my Father. I'm on my way home."

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat
Elyse Fitzpatrick
Copyright 1999

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat: Chapter 11

Chapter 11: A Word Specifically For You

"Little children, guard yourselves from idols." 1 John 5:21

In this chapter, Fitzgerald revisits the topic of idolatry. She redefines the word, idol, as anything that "usurps your love" for the one, true God. If there is anything that you seek after, love, or worship more than God, it is an idol.

She shares a story about a woman named, Marlene. Marlene was a bulimic and her goal was always to be thinner than her sisters, no matter what the cost. This desire was a god in her life because it dominated her thoughts, actions and heart. Her thoughts were focused on, "What do I look like? Am I gaining weight? Am I as good as they are?" She constantly lived with fear, anxiety, despair, bitterness, and self loathing.

Marlene was worshiping the god of being thin, not the one true God. With any god that isn't the one true God, there are certain rules that must be followed. Her god's rules were "Thou shall not eat sugar, thou shall not eat potato chips and thou shall exercise off 500 calories per day." If she violated any of these laws (sin), she would feel angry, worry and fear because she failed to be perfect.

Marlene's thoughts that she had to be perfect were false. Maybe you can relate to other lies that our culture tells us...

  • "You only have worth if you are thin. Only thin people are truly happy."
  • "I'll never be out of control like that other person... they are so weak. I am stronger because weak women are failures."
  • "I deserve the pleasure of food, but I don't want to pay the consequences of gaining weight because fat people are disgusting."
  • "I will only deserve to be loved if I am thin. People will think that I'm worthless if I'm not a certain size or weight."
  • "I have to be perfect."
  • "Life is so chaotic, I must be in control of something."
  • "I feel unloved and I deserve to be ugly so I will binge."
All of these thoughts are lies and if they consume our minds and lives, they can become idols to us. Instead of living in fear, self hatred, and dissatisfaction, you can turn your eyes to the one true God. Only He can bring you hope to change. God is able to bring about change in us when we replace the worship of the lies with worship of Him.

To replace the lies we must think of things that are true. Philippians 4:8 says that we should only think of these things, "whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things."

You may be filled with fear at the thought of change. Ask yourself these questions:
"What is the worst thing that could possibly happen if I gave up these idols? Will that stop me from reaching my goal of worshiping God? What would happen if I would run to Christ instead of the refrigerator to save me from trouble?"

Consider the laws that you have made for yourself. Do your laws help you to love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength? Do your laws help you to love your neighbor as yourself?

Working at change is a battle worth fighting. If you struggle with an eating disorder you will need to force yourself to eat in a way that pleases God. As you attempt to do this it will be a huge struggle. If you keep fighting, God promises to be with you. God will continue to work with you, even in your imperfections.

Just as he embraces you, you can embrace what God says in Isaiah 45:21-22,
"There is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, there is no other." Only the one true God can bring you fulfillment and purpose. He's always waiting for you to turn to Him.

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat
Elyse Fitzpatrick
Copyright 1999

Monday, May 3, 2010

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat: Chapter 10

Chapter 10: Practice, Practice, Practice

"You shall keep my statutes and practice them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you."
Leviticus 20:8

In this chapter, Fitzgerald talks about the challenges of addressing a continual sin pattern. It can be frustrating to continually be caught in the same cycles of behavior and feel like you aren't getting anywhere. She shared that change began in her life when she embraced a verse from 2 Peter 1:3 that says, "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness; through the true knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence." She didn't need to keep searching for contentment, peace, or comfort from food because she learned that God had already given her exactly what she needed to overcome her struggles through the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word. Change doesn't happen overnight, instead it takes a lifetime. She reminds us that our goal in this lifetime is to glorify Him through the victories in our life. In every small victory that we have towards removing food as an idol in our lives, we can give glory and honor to the one that empowered real change in us. A lifetime of change is possible because He is always with us, guiding and encouraging us along the way.

It is possible for God to bring about immediate change, but the New Testament often shows change as a process that is practiced. God uses our struggles to cause hatred of your sin and to increase your love and dependence on Him. Fitzpatrick says that He "trains your hands for war." She reminds us that God has many uses for our struggles, if we continually depend on Him to bring about change in those circumstances rather than trying to find a way on our own.

She moves on to talk about Step 4 of the change process that states,
"Continue to practice these new thoughts and behaviors, even when the struggle gets hard."

Practicing Godliness...
The Bible includes many Scriptures that talk about practicing godliness. 1 Timothy 4:7 says to train yourself to be godly. Fitzgerald defines the word "train" as exercise or discipline; or in the greek to "train naked." The point Paul is trying to make is that we must take away anything that is causing us to stray from godliness in our lives. We must pursue life with thinking and actions that won't distract us from the goal of glorifying God in all that we do. She gives the example of a runner wearing clothes that wouldn't trip or negatively hinder his performance for a race, just as we should not hinder our pursuit of godliness in our eating habits.

Hearing the truth is important, but to be changed by it we must respond to it. In Phillippians 4:9, Paul states "the things you have learned and received from me, practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you."

It takes a lot of time to continually practice creating new habits. However, after some time of being intentional and deliberate about your thoughts, eventually you will train yourself to a new way of thinking automatically.

Fitzgerald recommends keeping a journal, which is something that we encourage in the True Reflections classes. In this journal, address the D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E-D eating questions. When you eat, are you violating any of these things? Memorize these questions and the Scripture verses that go along with them. As your journal these things, you will begin to see what areas cause you the most trouble. As God reveals those areas to you, you can begin to pray for God to change your thinking in this area. As you journal about your thought patterns and eating habits, you will discover your weaknesses so that God can change you.

As you spend time in prayer each day, consider praying at the same time each day. Praying at the same time every day will make this become more of a habit. If you're not sure how to pray, use the acrostic, ACTS. The letters in the acrostic are for adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.

She also encourages daily bible reading. Bible reading is just as important as our mealtimes. We are not meant to live by bread alone, but the word of God. You will only change your thinking if your mind is consumed with truth from His word. You can read it out loud or journal what you are reading . Try to do this as well at the same time every day.

Journal your victories. What areas has God been changing you? Write down areas that still need growth, then ask God to help you in those areas.

Find an accountability partner. Discuss your journals together. Share your victories and weaknesses together. Pray for each other as you travel on your journey towards real change.

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat
Elyse Fitzpatrick
Copyright 1999