W.W.J.T.?

**Originally published in The Christian Online Magazine, June 2013**

W.W.J.T.

By Rebecca Aarup

W.W.J.D. was all the rage during my teens. Everyone had a wristband, t-shirt, keychain, or coffee mug with the abbreviation of the question, “What would Jesus do?” It was meant to inspire change, to cause us to question our actions and think about what Jesus would say or do in a situation. I suppose it was meant to motivate us towards positive behavior, but I’m not sure it was completely effective in that regard. After all, Proverbs 23:7 reminds us, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” And Jesus told us, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart (Matthew 15:18).” Gritting our teeth and committing to behavioral change will only get us so far.

According to Science Daily, only 20% of people who lose weight will keep it off. Which means the other 80% will fail. Why is that so? Because we’re asking the wrong question and addressing the wrong issue. We’re attempting to alter our behavior without altering our thinking. We think we need more will power or self-control, and maybe we do need those things, but that is only half of the equation.

We also need to ask the question, “why?” and discover the thinking or beliefs that lead to the behavior we want to change. For many years I struggled with an eating disorder; gaining freedom from such a sickness involved a lot more than taking a medication or “just stopping” the behavior. In order to correct the action, I needed to allow God to correct my heart and mind. Once I began to understand how God viewed me as His child, and what an “identity in Christ” meant, I was able to experience a lasting freedom from the bondage of bulimia. But the healing began in my mind before it could be evident in my behavior.

The same concept applies to any undesirable behavior, whether it’s over-eating, laziness, or procrastination. If we want to see a lasting behavioral change, we must first uncover the lies we believe about ourselves or our circumstances. If we struggle with over-eating or unhealthy eating, for example, we may want to ask what we believe about ourselves. Do we believe our body is God’s temple (1 Corinthians 619)? Do we believe God created us for a purpose, and that being healthy will help us fulfill that purpose (Ephesians 2:10)? Do we believe God cares about us—mind, body, and spirit (Psalm 139; 1 Peter 5:7)? Most of us would answer “yes” to these questions, but if that’s the case, we must also ask ourselves if our behavior reflects what we say we believe. If it does not, then we might have some heart-work to do.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).” Rather than asking, “What would Jesus do,” it’s time to ask, “What would Jesus think?” Instead of focusing on the behavior, we need to focus on the thinking. Right thinking will lead to right behavior.

So, what would Jesus think? He thinks we are valuable (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), we cannot be separated from His love (Romans 8:38-39), we are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), we can do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13), he will never give up on us, no matter how many times we fail (Philippians 1:6), and He wants us to come to Him with all our concerns so He can direct our steps in His perfect will (Ephesians 3:12; Proverbs 3:5-6). And of course, He thinks many other wonderful things about us; we need only open His word to discover those precious thoughts as well as choosing to believe those things even when our feelings or circumstances tempt us to believe (and behave) something else.

The essence of being “transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2)” is finding out what Jesus thinks, and asking Him to align our thinking with His—in every area of our lives, even diet and exercise. It’s a prayer we can be certain Jesus is waiting to hear and answer.

© Rebecca Aarup

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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Developing New Habits

**Originally published in The Christian Online Magazine, May 2013**

 

A few months ago I wandered into the pantry for a snack, found a bag of sunflower seeds and got to cracking. Within two weeks I found myself constantly snacking on sunflower seeds and whenever my supply ran out, I made special trips to the store to get more (or I begged my spouse to do so). Eventually my husband called me out on my behavior, “You know you’re addicted to those things.”

 

Of course, being the honest, sensitive, open-minded person I am, I responded, “NO I’M NOT!” But my defensiveness told the story. He was right; I had become “addicted” to the seeds and it took a couple of months for me to break the habit.

 

Whether it’s removing a food from your diet, exercising, or spending more time in prayer, new habits can be developed but it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind:

 

•Make an Attainable Goal

 

No matter what the goal is, make sure it’s actually doable. If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t make a goal to exercise an hour a day, eat salads at every meal, or lose six clothing sizes in a month—you’ll only be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, pray about it and make a goal that is reasonable. Maybe you’ll commit to exercising twice a week for a while, until your endurance builds up. Or maybe you’ll decide to cut your dinner portions in half and stop the late night snacking. Whatever it is, start small and make baby steps. Any progress is better than nothing.

 

The same concept applies to your spiritual growth. If you are trying to develop a good devotional routine, it would be unwise to commit to waking up at 3am and spending an hour and a half in prayer and study when you’re normal routine involves waking up at 6am and getting out the door by 7:30am. Again, make a reasonable goal. Maybe try to go to bed fifteen minutes earlier each night, and wake up fifteen minutes earlier each morning. Set yourself up for success by making goals you can actually achieve and stay committed to.

 

Make a Thirty Day Commitment

 

Whenever you commit to replacing a bad habit with a good one, make sure to take baby steps. Thirty-day goals are a great place to start because it’s easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Psychologically, there is a huge difference between saying, “I’m going to exercise every day for the rest of my life,” and, “I’m going to exercise three times a week for the next month.”

 

When your radar is set on “forever” it’s easy to get discouraged because there’s no end in sight—especially if you’re trying to develop a new habit. Maybe you can’t commit to avoiding fast food every day for the rest of your life, but you can commit to just thirty days. The same goes for any new habit, whether it’s removing a food from your diet or spending more time in prayer and Bible study. Focus on the short term goal and once you’ve reached it, make a new goal for the next thirty days. After a few months of this, you’ll find yourself with a new, good habit that has replaced the old.

 

You may also find it helpful to keep a list or calendar of some sort that you can mark off upon completing your goal. Each day when you see that “X” or check mark, you’ve come one day closer to your short-term goal. You’ll also find this useful on the days you fall short. Maybe you missed your workout, or you weren’t feeling well and caved in to eating that tempting treat. But knowing that you’ve only got thirty days to get through will encourage you to get back on the wagon as soon as possible. And once those thirty days is up you’ll realize it wasn’t as bad as you thought, and you can probably do it again.

 

The first few days are always the toughest but stick with it, because the rewards will far outweigh the temporary discomfort. And by the time your first thirty days is up, you’ll find that God did equip you to accomplish your goal and He will equip you to accomplish the next one.

 

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

© Rebecca Aarup

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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If you enjoyed this post, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

If you were encouraged by what you read here, please share with your friends and/or leave a comment.

Let’s Get Honest

**Originally published in The Christian Online Magazine, April 2013**

 

We need to get honest with each other. When God put, “Thou shalt not lie,” in the Ten Commandments, do you suppose He meant something other than lying? Did He have a distinction between a little white lie and a big ugly lie? God says what He means and means what He says, He’s not out to throw riddles at us. He wants us to understand His word so we will obey it. But every day we, as a community of believers, lie to each other. When we say we’re fine and we’re not, or when we put on a face that says, “I’ve got it all together,” when we’re really falling apart on the inside. Our own insecurities draw us into deception. It needs to stop!

 

To start the ball rolling I am going to be honest with you. While I get the awesome privilege of writing this column every month, drawing on my experiences in the health/wellness industry, I also want my readers to know that I haven’t got it all figured out. That I’m not a size two stick-figure who eats carrots and lettuce all day and that I don’t spend two hours in the gym every day lifting weights and preparing for marathons. That is not who I am! I am an average sized woman, with hips and a butt, who doesn’t always practice what I preach when it comes to health. Sometimes I sit at my desk all day without dropping a bead of sweat in physical activity, and sometimes I even drink a soda (gasp!). I’m a real person who strives to live a God-honoring life of balance (remember 1 Corinthians 6:12). But sometimes I get out of balance and fail to live out what I know to be God’s best.

 

The Holy Spirit is quick to convict, though, and I am learning how to repent in a timely manner because eating right and taking care of my temple is not a choice, it is a command. It is a command we, as believers, have all been given. Though I know this and believe it, I sometimes fail to behave it. So I’m getting real with you. I am a real person with real issues who sometimes struggles to apply what I know to be true in the area of health and fitness.

 

Is this really about weight loss, having a beach body, or looking like Brad Pitt (for the men out there)? NO! It’s about honoring God with our choices. Every time we choose a fruit or vegetable over a processed, chemical-laced boxed product, we honor God. Every time we choose to incorporate some exercise into our day, we honor God. This is the essence of maintaining our God-given “temples.” It’s a process: one choice at a time, one minute at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time, and one year at a time.

 

We need not feel ashamed if we’ve fallen short in this area. Instead, Jesus commands, “Go, and sin no more (John 8:11).” So, if you’re like me, and you’ve had trouble, at times, applying what you know to be true to your physical and spiritual life, confess it to God, dust yourself off and press on! And while you’re at it, find a support partner who will hold you accountable. Both spiritually and physically.

 

Most importantly, choose today to get honest with God, yourself, and the people in your life. We’ll never progress in our spiritual lives if we continue to wear masks in our relationships. Sometimes that even means admitting we can’t do it on our own and we need help—accountability and prayer.

 

And finally, let’s choose to honor God by respecting and taking care of what He’s given to us, showing others—through our actions—what being a good steward of God-given gifts really looks like.

 

“Let everything you do reflect the integrity of your teaching.” Titus 2:7b, NLT

©Rebecca Aarup

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

_______________________________

You can support Rebecca with one click! If you enjoyed this post, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

If you were encouraged by what you read here, please share with your friends and/or leave a comment.

 

Spiritual Reboot: Four Ways Fasting Benefits your Body and Spirit

**Published with The Christian Online Magazine, November 2012**

Spiritual Reboot: Four Ways Fasting Benefits Your Body and Spirit

A lot of controversy surrounds fasting; a quick Google search reveals doctors who wholeheartedly support it and others who are adamantly against it. As Christians, we need to look to Jesus and what His word says when it comes to these issues. In the book of Matthew (4:1-2) Jesus was led by the Spirit to fast, and later He outlines some simple fasting guidelines (6:16-18). So, fasting was not only practiced by Jesus but also taught by Him.

Fasting Benefits Your Physical Body

  • Reboot your “system” with a cleansing fast.

During the first 12-24 hours of a water-only fast, your body begins to break down glucose stored in your liver and muscles, converting it to glycogen to use as energy. After this energy has been depleted, the body begins to use fatty acids for energy. As the fast progresses past two days, the brain uses glycerol (a product of fat tissue) and amino acids from broken down muscle tissue as energy sources.

“Since the bulk of the toxins in your body are stored in your fat reserves, the longer you fast on water only, the more fat you’ll burn and the more toxins you’ll eliminate from your system.” Dr. Ben Kim

Simply stated, fasting for a few days helps the body get a fresh start as harmful chemicals from processed foods and other materials are removed from the body. Some medical studies have even indicated that a fast may help boost the immune system.

  • Put an end to bad eating habits.

Recently I began a ten-day fast and initially I felt freed from the burden of food. I knew, at least for several days, that cooking and wondering about meals would be eliminated from my daily routine. (Don’t worry– I still cooked for my family!)The first day was great—then the second day hit. I would be lying if I said it was easy, because it wasn’t. But what I did come to realize was just how often I was putting food/drinks in my mouth. As the days progressed I eventually felt very little hunger. After the ten days was over, I realized I needed very little—far less than what I had been consuming—to be satisfied and supplied with energy. Now that I’ve come through the fast and am still very much alive and well, I not only feel better physically, but several bad eating habits were effectively broken. (Anybody else have a problem with late-night snacking?) Of course, the spiritual benefits far out-weighed the physical.

Fasting Benefits Your Spiritual Life

  • Obeying the Word of God provides inner peace and contentment.

Those who follow God’s words are blessed, full of joy and peace, and satisfied (Psalm 1; 119; Proverbs 3:1-8). Obeying God through fasting is no exception—it is yet another way we can place our dependence on Christ and get our eyes focused on Him instead of what we think we need. Spiritual eyes are opened during a time of fasting and prayer and when we choose to eat and drink of the Word we are truly blessed in our spirit.

  • Fasting and prayer encourages spiritual awakening and the breaking of sinful habits.

Joel 1:14, 2:12; Nehemiah 1:4, 9:1-3; Ezra 8:23; Acts 14:23; Esther 4:3; Deuteronomy 9:9; 2 Chronicles 1:3; Daniel 9:3–all of these Scriptures reference fasting by God’s people for repentance, direction, instruction, or intervention. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of examples of fasting believers. I hope you’ll take the time to browse the passages listed and see how many ways God chooses to work through fasting.

With only a few days remaining until a critical presidential election, perhaps now is the time to consider fasting for personal and national revival as well as godly leadership in our nation. Or maybe you are struggling with a sinful habit. In any case, seek God first and follow His voice—He is the only one really qualified to lead you in this area.

As always, consult your doctor to make sure it is physically safe for you to fast (but do be prepared to meet mixed opinions from medical professionals on this topic).

What Does it Mean to be a “Healthy” Christian?

**Published in The Christian Online Magazine, October 2012**

What Does it Mean to be a “Healthy” Christian?

You can’t go very far without hearing the word “healthy”. It’s on every newsstand, magazine cover, and diet book. Ironically, these publications will claim to know the secret to becoming healthy, yet none of their articles will point to the same solution. How is a person supposed to know what direction to take?

As Christians we are admonished not to follow the patterns of the world (Rom. 12:1-2), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t concern ourselves with our physical health. Yet even more important than our physical health is our spiritual health. The more “in tune” we are to God’s Word, the more motivated we are to make wise decisions concerning our physical bodies. Physical and Spiritual cannot be separated. We are to honor God with our whole bodies, not just the pieces we want to give Him.

So, that leads us to the question—as a Christian, what does it mean to be “healthy”? I recently posted this question on Twitter and received some responses.

@Gregparker16 tweeted: “Being on your knees in front of the Lord every night.”

@Hasten_Home tweeted: “Functioning in full contact & strength in the capacity God intended.”

Both of these answers are excellent. But let’s take it a step further and find out what the most important Book has to say. After all, is there any better advice then what is found in the Word of God?

3 John 1:2 “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul propsereth.” (KJV)

The best way to understand any verse is to go to the source of writing, that is, the original language. So much gets lost in translation. The Greek and Hebrew languages are very complex and many times a single word is given numerous meanings. So at all times one must consider the context of the passage when interpreting Scripture responsibly.

What we read in 3 John 1:2 is a typical greeting among brethren in the Church. Obviously they wished each other well, just as you or I would ask someone, “How are you?” Greetings such as these were acts of courtesy as well as genuine concern. What I found particularly interesting in this passage was the meaning of “health”. The Greek word “hugiēs” (pronounced hoog-ee-ace) translates: “uncorrupt” or “true in doctrine”. It also means “safe and sound” or “whole”.

And here lies the answer to our question. As a Christian, to be “healthy” is to be whole in spirit (including doctrine). Wholeness begins in our hearts.

We see this same concept displayed throughout Isaiah and Jeremiah. Several times the word “health” is used, and each time it refers to a spiritual wholeness for the sinful nation of Israel (see Jer. 30:17; 33:5-6, Isa. 58:8).

The most important health concern we have involves our spiritual health. A spiritually healthy, balanced Christian will make wise choices in the world, including that of food, activity, and finances.

God is in the business of restoration (wholeness). He often allows brokenness to bring healing—all to the glory of His Name. Psalm 51:8 “Make me to hear joy and gladness that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” The Hebrew word for “bones” in this passage is not referring to the literal bone matter holding David together, but rather the spiritual matter. Translated from Hebrew the word “bones” means “substance of life”—in other words, his spirit. God allowed David to experience spiritual brokenness so He could bring David through the valley of repentance towards the mountaintop of restoration.

Do you want to be a healthy Christian? It begins with God’s word–obedience to it and cleansing by it. We don’t drive a car without first using our minds to get in the car, turn on the engine, and press the gas pedal. Likewise, we can’t expect to make wise life-choices in any area if our minds are not aligned with the absolute truth of God’s Word.

“I have chosen the way of truth…I will run to the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:30, 32 (NIV)

© Rebecca Aarup

Letting Ourselves Go

**Published in The Christian Online Magazine July 2012 Issue**

 

There are many struggling with the discipline of exercise, and if you’re like me, you want to know what the Bible says about it. Is it really a big deal to work-out? Does God actually care if I take a walk or not? Let’s examine evidences supporting the idea that God does, indeed, care about our activity levels.

#1: God places value in physical activity.

“Physical training is of some value” (1 Tim. 4:8a). The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, thought it was important enough to mention. While God cares a great deal about our spiritual health (1 Tim. 4:8b), He also cares about our physical health. After all, we are His temples (1 Cor. 6:19), and part of being faithful stewards (Luke 16:10) is keeping our temple well maintained.

#2: Physical activity was often mentioned by the apostle Paul.

In various letters to the churches, Paul repeatedly uses “running” imagery (1 Cor. 9:24-27, Phil. 2:16, Heb. 12:11, Gal. 2:2, 5:7, 2 Tim. 4:7), suggesting athleticism was a relatable subject to his audience. Though his words were penned long before the convenience of automobile travel, drive-thru restaurants, and television entertainment, we can still gain valuable insight by understanding what was important to the people of his generation. Good principles don’t change just because times have changed.

#3: Physical activities have positive effects on both the mind and body.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest.” (Heb. 12:11) Paul is talking about the discipline in the parent-child relationship, but the concept applies well in the area of exercise. It is not always pleasant and often painful, but it produces a great reward; fewer risks for serious disease, longevity, increased energy, improved mental focus, less depression and development of self-control to name a few.

#4: Scripture admonishes laziness.

In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon challenges us, “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?” (Prov. 6:9) see also Prov. 13:4, 21:25 and 19:15 There is strong evidence in the Bible to support the need to stay active and avoid laziness.

So what’s stopping us from obeying?

#1: We have no motivation.

There are physical reasons why some cannot exercise, but the majority of us have the capability to, at bare minimum, walk every now and then. For some it’s difficult to get motivated. Several years ago I worked in a gym as a certified personal trainer, and even then I needed to hire my own trainer to motivate my diligence. I managed to work much harder when held accountable then I did on my own. (I wasn’t about to make myself suffer, but my trainer had no problem with it.) It may be useful to enroll the help of an accountability partner who will not entertain shallow excuses.

#2: We don’t know what to do.

We all have unique circumstances, but that shouldn’t hold us back from being active. I’m a mother to a toddler and training at the gym is not practical for me at this point in my life. But I can still garden, play soccer, catch or do any number of other physical activities with my daughter. Am I going to look like a body builder? No, I won’t. But God hasn’t called me, or the majority of us, to be body builders. He simply assures us we can do all things with his strength (Phil. 4:13). We need to get creative in our thinking, instead of boxing exercise into gym memberships, work-out videos, and expensive equipment. Get out of the box and ask God to show you ways you can increase your movement throughout the day.

There is always hope (Lam. 3:24)! Continue to run the race set before you and know God accepts you right where you’re at (Rom. 15:7). He will never ask of you more than you can bear (1 Cor. 10:13, Heb. 4:5-6), so trust His word (Prov. 3:5) and acknowledge his perfect plan for your spiritual and physical health, embracing the abundant life he created you for (John 10:10).

© Rebecca Aarup