What’s Making America not-so-Great and Killing the Evangelical Church

      A few years ago I began writing a new manuscript. Thirty thousand words later and a two year sabbatical, I am once again reminded of the importance of sharing this message. So, below I have decided to share one of the chapters of this unfinished work with you, in hopes that God will speak to both you and me about the dangers of the Entitlement mentality. How often I forget to leave this door closed! Perhaps you can relate? It doesn’t take much effort to look around our world and our churches to see its nasty infiltration. Let’s pray that we, as a church and the bride of Christ, will come together–laying aside our expectations–and learn to be content with the peace of Jesus alone.

Excerpt from:

The Devil’s Alphabet: 25 Doors You Don’t Want to Open

CHAPTER THREE

Door #5: Entitlement

Counterfeit: easily offended, anger towards God, feeling as if we are owed something

            Truth: We have no rights, all our rights belong to God, we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The Origin of Entitlement

“For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’” Isaiah 14:13-14, NLT

Most of us have heard it said, “Satan’s downfall was his pride.” But I would challenge that statement. Opening the door of entitlement often leads to other doors, doors like pride. But pride begins with entitlement. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines entitlement as: “the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something; the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges).” Before pride, Satan saw something he wanted and decided he deserved what he saw. Satan saw God, His glory and His throne, and believed he deserved those things for himself. This entitlement mentality was the beginning of the end for Satan. It’s one of the things he used to tempt Eve as well; she doubted God’s word first, then began to believe she had a right to the knowledge God was clearly withholding from her. Whether we realize it or not, we stumble through this door more often than we think.

Entitlement Mentality with God

            Anger towards God, I think we’ve all experienced this at times. But what is the source of this anger? The source, more often than not, is an entitlement mentality. As Christians we tend to fall victim to thinking life is supposed to go a certain way because we’re obeying God. We’re promised blessings when we obey, right? While obedience to God is a promise of blessing, it is not a promise of good or pleasurable circumstances. The blessings we are promised aren’t necessarily material in nature (though they certainly can be). You’re going to read this repeatedly and I say it again now to continue to drive the point home: one of our greatest blessings is having a “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Peace has no price-tag, and those who have this peace know exactly what I’m talking about. The moment we start to believe God owes us something is the same moment our spiritual peace begins to erode because like it or not, our circumstances will not always be pleasant.

“Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?” Romans 9:20-21, NLT

Those are difficult verses to swallow, especially if we’ve walked through the door of entitlement. It doesn’t help that there are an abundance of religious leaders today teaching and writing about things like health, wealth, and prosperity. This never ceases to amaze me. How can this teaching be so prominent when our Bible contains much of the opposite when it describes the lives of Christians? Look at Job! Look at Paul, John the Baptist, or pretty much anyone who followed the teachings of Jesus. They were persecuted, punished, tortured, and murdered because they followed God. Materially speaking, they were anything but prosperous. And while Job was wealthy, he also lost all of his wealth, health, and property; he even lost his entire family. None of his friends understood his suffering because of their own entitlement mentality. “Surely God only allows such horrors to befall the wicked, evil, and rebellious, not the righteous,” they reasoned. And the same thing happens in our lives. We suffer and our fellow Christians judge our spiritual lives because deep down they too believe good things are synonymous with obedience to God.

Sometimes life is great, we’re showered blessing upon blessing, good things raining down from the heavens abound. And other times it seems the only thing raining on us is hydrochloric acid; burning, painful, searing loss after loss. In either case, God owes us nothing. Certainly God wants to bless us, but it’s the spiritual, inner blessings He is focused on. It’s the transformation of us into the likeness of His Son that he knows will be our ultimate bliss.

As a mother, I strive to teach my daughter healthy eating habits, but that’s not easy with a young child who seems extraordinarily picky. Rest assured, when my daughter opens up her school lunch and sees fruits and vegetables, her reaction isn’t gratitude. ‘Round and ‘round we go fighting about it, but in the end she either eats the produce or goes hungry. She believes I am torturing her, but I know, as much as she dislikes it, that I’m doing the right thing for her body, growth, health, and development. I could let her eat artificial cheesy snacks and chocolate cookies every day, to show that I love her and care about her happiness, but a better way to show I love and care about her is to withhold those things from her, saving them as an occasional special treat. In fact, she appreciates those things a lot more when she doesn’t get them every day. Similarly, God wants to show us He loves us and cares for us, but His idea of love is far different (and greater) than ours. Our prayers sometimes sound like a six-year-old begging for cake; God hears those prayers, but many times chooses to answer with carrots and apples. When we have an entitlement mentality, the raw produce version of answered prayers or life circumstances will probably anger, baffle, and discourage us. When that is our reaction to the circumstances in our lives, we need to stop and ask God for a heart check, as we’ve likely walked through the door of entitlement.

Entitlement Mentality with People

            Let’s face it, God is God and He’s going to do and allow whatever He wants. For some of us that truth isn’t terribly difficult to accept. After all, He’s God and we’re not; but when it comes to other people, well now, that’s a different story. We expect others to forgive us, treat us with kindness, care about our hurts, ask us how we’re doing, sympathize and empathize with us, and basically fulfill our emotional needs in every way we were designed to get from Jesus. God forbid someone fail to meet our lofty expectation, that’s when our entitlement mentality rears its ugly head. We know we’ve walked through that door when we find ourselves easily offended, overly sensitive, resentful, bitter, gossipy, judgmental, and critical of others; basically an overall jerk of a Christian (those who knows me well are laughing right now, because they know I have struggled with all of these character flaws). Somewhere along the way, someone failed to meet our unspoken, assumed expectation, and that hurts, especially when we feel we’re entitled to a certain response or action from said person.

It’s Not All About Me (or You)

“I’ll never forget the day I decided to try a new church. Just months after being widowed, I had moved and was looking for a church that was similar to the one where my husband had been pastoring. That day, I had gone through the process of finding the place where my children would go during the service and after leaving them in the capable hands of the teachers, I walked to the sanctuary. As people were milling around, I waited for someone to introduce themselves to me…but no one did. With my heart pounding and my hands sweating, I realized just how alone I was. New situations hadn’t bothered me before, but that was because I normally had my husband at my side.

“When I found a seat, I half expected the people sitting next to me to turn their heads and acknowledge my presence, but they didn’t. Then, as the worship began, I found myself fighting back tears. When your late husband was an amazing worship leader, pretty much any song sung in church reminds you of him. And so there I stood, alone, in an unfamiliar church, choking back tears. For a moment I was embarrassed because I felt I was making a scene. But that moment of embarrassment vanished when I realized my sorrow had gone unseen. For a while, that day really bothered me. How could those people be so self-focused that they didn’t even notice me? I felt invisible. I felt as if no one cared.”

Wow, that’s rough! Certainly my friend here had every right to be upset over the situation. I know I’ve experienced something eerily similar in many church settings, and I’m sure you have too. Unfortunately, it’s easy to walk in with expectations of how we are to be treated; failing to see that perhaps others have the same expectations of us. Before you know it, we’re all ticked off and offended with each other. Fortunately, God used the situation to speak to my friend about her own attitude, rather than the attitude of everyone around her (He has a way of doing that to us, doesn’t He?).

“Months later, as the intensity of my grief wore off I have come to see something. It’s not the people around me who have become more self-focused during my trials—it’s me. And honestly, at times I’m the most self-focused person I know. I had walked into that church feeling as if everyone should notice me. I stood during worship and had the audacity to think that the people gathered there would be looking at me instead of worshipping God.

“If I have learned only one thing the past few years, it’s that life isn’t all about me. And much like this memory shows, church isn’t all about me.”

It’s not all about me and it’s not all about you. The sooner we accept that truth the happier we will be. In a perfect world maybe our expectations of others would be met more often, but we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world full of difficult and unfair circumstances. One of the keys to living a more peaceful, less frustrated life, is to give our expectations to God, and leave our assumptions behind the closed door of entitlement. We’re going to be hurt and disappointed by people, because we’re all self-centered, sinful human beings, it’s a fact of life. We don’t appreciate it when others make assumptions about us and our motives, so it shouldn’t be a shocker that we need to treat others the same way we’d like to be treated—with grace.

Truth Encounter

            The door of entitlement is a tough one, one the Devil will place in our path time and time again. It’s what got him in trouble and what has plagued humanity from the beginning of time. The best defense is to get out of denial and admit we have a problem with this self-centered way of dealing with people and God. The following prayer can be used to help you refocus on the truth, and reject this door of entitlement. No matter what words you use to express your heart to God, say them out loud so the Devil can hear you and flee.

“Jesus, I know I’ve often walked through the door of entitlement, becoming bitter, resentful, angry, or offended with you or others over my unmet expectations. I now choose to give all of those expectations to you (take a moment to think about and name specific situations where you were hurt or offended by someone, or angry at God for allowing a situation into your life); my expectations of how others should act, my expectations of how you should answer my prayers, and my expectations of how I think my life should go when I am living to please you. In the name of Jesus I choose to reject the lie that I am entitled to anything, and accept the truth that it is only because of your grace I am even breathing at this very moment. I am not my own, but have been bought with the price of Jesus’ blood. Teach me how to bring glory to you through my attitude, and by showing grace to others as you have shown me grace. Thank you for freeing me from the bondage of entitlement. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

 

The God of the Unexpected

The God of the Unexpected

Am I the only one who prays (i.e. asks God for something) with a generalized idea of how I think God should (or could) answer that prayer? Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Well, this summer has been a massive test in Faith-Building 101. I mean, I thought I had faith, but God showed me what’s up (and that I don’t have as much faith as I thought. Ok—that I am more or less riddled with unbelief.)

And basically what has come from all of these “trials” has been a new name for God: The Unexpected God. This part of God delights in answering my prayers in the most unusual ways—just to make sure there is no room for boasting on my behalf, I’m pretty sure. (Because pride is that ever present sour note seeking to wreck the symphony of life as I know it.)

And since you’re on the edge of your seat dying for specifics (surely I’m not the only one who wants to know all the details), I will whet your appetite with some examples.

Health:

This summer was the first time the “c” word came into play (cancer). I was hit with a crisis of conscience, so to speak, and faced with the reality that my life wasn’t as invincible as I thought. Maybe even that “I know the plans I have for you” could include leaving the earth sooner than I would have dreamed. I said I trusted God for a lot of things (like the safe-keeping of my one and only child) but faced with this possible crisis, my true heart was revealed. No, I didn’t trust God; I trusted my control and decision-making skills regarding the raising of my child—and not much else. And what would become of my precious baby if I wasn’t around to make sure it all turned out ok??? “Touché, Lord. I see now. I’m supposed to trust you before the crisis, not when trust is the only option I have left.” In the end, after a lot of uncomfortable testing, the issue turned out to be what I call, “The Un-sexy diagnosis”. God has a sense of humor too, does He not? I’ll spare the details, but this unfortunate illness, while quite painful and even embarrassing at times, is not going to send me to an early burial (and I am thankful for that!).

During the wretched times of waiting (as I’m sure any of you who have been thrust into the modern health care system have experienced) were many anguished prayers, “Lord, just give me another 15 years…” after all, that wasn’t too much to ask, was it? Then the Unexpected God swoops in to deliver an answer, albeit a bit slower than I would have liked. “No, child, you don’t have cancer, instead, you will undergo an array of embarrassing and uncomfortable tests only to find out you’re pretty much stuck with this for a while—oh, and you won’t really even want to talk about it, that’s how un-sexy this health issue is.” He did answer my prayer though—not in the way I imagined (and with more irony and humor than I would have thought possible), but an answer none-the-less.

Finances:

Towards the beginning of the year my husband and I decided we needed a little Dave Ramsey in our lives. We were tired of merely “existing” as far as finances goes—we knew there had to be a better way because playing the lottery hadn’t panned out for us (imagine that). So we sacrificed and sacrificed and said “NO” to our somewhat spoiled only-child as well as to ourselves. I mean, we said no a lot. It was kind of depressing, to be honest. I mean, who doesn’t like instant gratification? But we kept our eyes on the prize and pressed on. In only a few short months we managed to pay off three of the credit cards. At the same time, my twelve year old Ford Taurus was breaking down every five minutes, and my precious kitty (yes, I’m a goofball of an animal lover) was diagnosed with diabetes. It seemed for every financial move forward we took two steps backwards. The savings would be built up, only to be used again and again for health, car, or pet issues.

I can’t tell you how many times my prayers were uttered so eloquently (and with a screechy tone of desperation), “Lord—help!” Of course, I had my ideas of how this help would come—but so did the Unexpected God. Turns out, He had a two-for-one deal in the works.

He laid it on our hearts to look into purchasing a new car (something we have never done, and even when purchasing a used older car, had high interest rates nothing short of highway robbery.) I thought, “Buy a new car, God???? But that will just increase our debt!!!” “Trust ME,” He says. So we bought a new car—and got a loan with an extremely low interest rate. Turns out, paying off those three credit cards had significantly improved my husband’s credit score, even though it had only been a few months. On top of that, we were not required to give money down (Hallelujah—the savings account was SAVED!!!). So in the end, we sold our beat up Taurus for cash, and used the cash to pay off more debts. So much so that the monthly payment of those debts almost equaled the monthly car payment. And our new car insurance premium? It went DOWN! So all in all, the monthly cost of the new car was nearly entirely offset by paying off a few other things (vet bill is gone!).

I came away from that experience in awe, “Only You God, only You could have worked that one out in that way! Your plans seem to really work out well, especially when I stay of out of them.”

Just Be Real—Be You

 

I could ramble on about the dozens of other Unexpected God moments of the summer, but the moral of the story for me? Just be real. Be real with God (about your fears, doubts, and insecurities) because He can see through that façade of religiosity anyways. He knows how to get to the heart of the matter.

Part of being real for me is writing in a “real” way. I don’t want to be a “preacher” of words, but a “sharer” of life with my readers. Like two buddies having a beer together, (ok, two proper ladies having a tea-time—whatever floats your boat). For so long I have attempted to disjoint my personality from my writing to be more “likeable” and build a bigger audience (because trusting God to increase my platform is too hard, right?). But you know, life is too short for all that bravado and I don’t intend to waste any more of it. I especially don’t want to waste it on doubt, insecurity, and the most hideous of all diseases—pride. Because in the end, putting up a front, as they say, is just another form of pride; as well as telling God how to answer my prayers or make Himself visible to me.

After all, God really does know what He’s doing. Who would’ve known?!

In what ways has the Unexpected God visited you this summer? How has He increased your faith and trust in His plan for your life—and that all things really do work together for your greatest good?

Spiritual Warfare 101: Is it Real?

shieldoffaith

Spiritual warfare is real, whether you believe it or not. If you think I’ve gone off the deep end with my theology, consider the following evidences (I’m going to assume if you’re a regular reader of this website that you believe the Bible to be the true, infallible word of God):

•The Lord of Hosts

You can scarce read the Old Testament without running into the phrase “Lord of Hosts” (using the King James Version, anyways). The name “Lord of Hosts” in the following Scriptures all have the same Hebrew meaning, and there were dozens more I didn’t include for reasons of time and space.

“As for our redeemer, the Lord of Hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 47:4

“Again the word of the Lord of Hosts came to me.” Zechariah 8:1

“The Lord of Hosts is with us.” Psalm 46:7

“Therefore thus saith the Lord of Hosts…” Jeremiah 23:15

“Hear ye and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord God, the God of Hosts.” Amos 3:13

The word “hosts” (tseb-aw-aw’) is derived from the root word meaning assemble, fight, perform, or war. The term “Lord of Hosts” can be translated “The Lord of Armies” or “The Lord of War”. He is an active God of the ARMIES! Why do you suppose the term “Lord of Armies” would be included in the Bible, at least a hundred times in just the Old Testament, if it didn’t mean exactly what it says, that God leads an army? What exactly is an army used for? Battle!

The battle is so real, the people and prophets of God referred to their Leader as the divine captain of the largest host of armies ever amassed (Isaiah used the term “Lord of Hosts” more than thirty times in his book). Our Lord is not passive, He is active and fighting a very real, very serious spiritual war. So why aren’t we?

•The Apostles (After the Cross)

Paul (and the other apostles) had a godly view of spiritual warfare. Paul often spoke of principalities, powers, forces, spirits, Satan, the enemy, the battle, and other “spiritual warfare” terms. He spoke of it as if it were a fact, a reality, a real issue the Church needed to be aware of. (I’m purposely not mentioning the work of Jesus here [casting out demons…etc.] which will be discussed in later posts.)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 3:10

“Resist the devil.” James 4:7

“Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:9

•Noema

It doesn’t get more straight-forward than this, friends. Noema (no-ay-mah) is the Greek word for “mind”. Consider these uses of this specific form of the word noema:

“If there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (noema).” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds (noema) of them which believe not.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

“Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought (noema) to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Did you notice anything interesting? The same Greek word, noema, is used in three different passages of the same context—how Satan directly influences the minds and thoughts of people, believers and non-believers alike. Another definition of noema is perception. In other words, it is a satanic perception of circumstances that influence us toward unforgiveness (2 Cor. 2:11), and a satanic perception of circumstances which blinds the minds of unbelievers against the true knowledge of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4), and also a satanic perception of events that infiltrate the minds of believers which can lead them into sinful behaviors (2 Cor. 10:5).

Satan is real, his influence is real, and the battle we face every day is real. God is fighting, his angelic armies are fighting, but are we as the bride of Christ fulfilling our role in this area (see Eph. 3:10)? Why aren’t we talking about this in our churches, teaching this in Sunday Schools, and hearing this from our pulpits? Perhaps the greatest deception of all is the belief that no “battle” exists, and if it does, I certainly don’t need to get involved. After all, didn’t Jesus defeat the enemy at the cross?

Well, if that is what you have believed I pray your eyes will be opened now to see the dangerous “perception” of that thinking. If you’re not fighting, Satan is gaining ground in your life. As I pointed out in the above section “After the Cross”, all of those Scriptures were written for believers after the death and resurrection of Christ. Obviously, we still have a battle to fight.

Now it’s your turn. What role do you actively take in spiritual warfare? Do you believe it is important? Why or why not? Is it an easy battle for you? On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest) how would you rate your daily participation and awareness of spiritual warfare?

As the scales begin to fall from your eyes and you take a more active role in fighting Satan’s schemes (noema), you will face more spiritual (and physical) opposition, I can guarantee it. Write the above verses down, keep them with you and memorize them, because you will need the truth to fight. Without the truth, you are defenseless and will be rendered an ineffective, unarmed soldier.

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In my next post I’ll be discussing the voices in our head (the Holy Spirit, Satan, and our Flesh) and how you can recognize what voices are coming from where (remember, Satan quotes Scripture too!). If you need to catch up on what all this spiritual warfare talk is about, check out my last post. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to subscribe to this blog (it’s free and your information is not shared) in the space provided on the upper right hand area of this web page so you can receive future posts. I look forward to getting to know you and hearing what your battles in the spiritual realm have been like. Comments are encouraged (however, insults, personal attacks and foul language will not be allowed on this website).

First time here? Learn more about me here.

So, what is YOUR word?

psalm143“What will you do?”

As I’ve heard sermons, read books, and sat through lectures throughout the year, I’ve heard the voice of the Spirit resounding loud and clear, “So, what will you do about it?” God has strategically batted that ball back to my side of the net over and over—spurning me to embrace an active faith, and it makes me uncomfortable. But then I remember a prayer I uttered, albeit not well-thought through at the time, for God to make me uncomfortable. Really, that prayer should be right at the top of the list of “things you don’t ask God”, right behind praying for patience or a spirit of forgiveness. Well, I’ve learned my lesson—God answers prayers for sure, especially the character building ones.

At the start of 2012 a friend of mine posted a blog about a challenge (read it here: MY One Word), a challenge to ask God about what “word” to focus on for the following year. That sounded neat, so I gave it a go. I cheerfully got on my knees and asked God what my special word for the coming 2012 year would be, I anxiously listened, hoping to hear prosperity, success, purpose, or anything along those lines. Instead, after a few moments of silence, I heard “perseverance”.

“Um, Lord, really? I mean…really?” Some of my friends were getting words like “go” and “action” and I got perseverance? I didn’t like it; I wanted to take back the prayer. What was God thinking, anyways? I had always been somewhat known for starting things and losing interest over time, eventually abandoning the project or idea. But looking back on 2012, I can see how God used the trials of one of the most difficult years I have faced to break my pride, provide me with ultimate spiritual freedom, as well as teaching me self-discipline and yes, perseverance.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to start a new year, because even though it’s just another day on the calendar, somehow turning the page and writing a new number (2013) just feels like a fresh start. I’m looking towards 2013 with great expectation—expectation in God’s revealed will (HIS Word) and not my own clever ideas. I still haven’t prayed about the new word for next year, but I’m not as scared about it as I was last year. Looking back I know that no matter what, God knows what He is doing and I can really, in fact, trust Him in all things, even the hard, painful, and uncomfortable things. That no matter what the situation, His character is constant, even if I’m not feeling like it is.

His character is constant, yes, perhaps the biggest lesson I learned this year. My character? Not so much. Which is why the prayer, “Lord, change me” has been cried out more times than I can accurately recall.

So, mingled in with words like illness, death, betrayal, loneliness, slander, hatred, consequences, loss, depression, despair, relapse, and uncertainty have been the words of truth—healing, restoration, freedom, hope, peace, purpose, fulfillment, grace, mercy, understanding, and love. All of the awfulness has actually taught me how to be an optimist of sorts. An optimist in God, not in myself. An optimist in His character, not in my ability.

I’ve asked, He has answered, and none of His responses were as expected. Through all of this I am learning that maybe, just maybe, He really does know better than I do.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Palm 143:10

What theme has God brought to your year? What “lesson” have you learned through trials or blessings? Post your comment here or join the discussion on facebook.

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is an author and freelance writer. She is also a health columnist for The Christian Online Magazine, a contributing writer for Encourage 365, creater of S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Sisters women’s ministry (online), and has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of publications. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Arizona with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

Even the Pomegranates Cry Out

Chop. Chop. Chop.

I seem to have the best God-moments when I’m feverishly hacking away on a helpless piece of food, trying to work out my anger. It has come to be a habit. We fight—I cook. It’s how I wrestle with my emotions, think, pray, and take several deep breaths while annihilating a target other than my spouse.

“Ok, God, I know what you said in 1 Corinthians 10:13, I’ll never forget that verse…but, I’m starting to think You enjoy taking me to the edge of what I can handle.”

Chop. Chop. Chop.

Silence.

“Ok, You’re not talking. That’s ok, I have plenty to say…”

If God could get frustrated, I am sure I’d be His number one cause of irritation. “Oh, here’s Rebecca again, whining like it’s the end of the world. If only she knew how bad it could really be, maybe then she’d be grateful.”

Of course, I know God isn’t really thinking that towards me, in fact, what He is thinking about me is too mind blowing to comprehend. For example, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—the fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)

Oh, and speaking of fruit? Yeah, I was carving up several pieces of fruit to make a fresh fruit salad while conversing with God in a less-than-humble way.  He never spoke to me in those heated moments, not audibly at least. But He did find a way to cut through my incessant ramblings of self-pity.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy seeing God in nature—all facets of nature from animals to the weather to food. My social media friends are well aware of this due to the multitude of pictures I post of the food I’m cooking, the clouds in the sky, or my dog acting exceptionally cute. Creation is beautiful, and in it I am made aware of God’s presence in the details.

Slice. Slice.

285-Pomegranate

 

And then it opened and my breath was taken away. As the crimson juices ran over my fingers and the seeds spilled out my thoughts were interrupted. “Oh, Lord, it’s so beautiful! It’s like a honeycomb giving birth to rubies!” And for a second I was so captivated by the gorgeous intricacies of that pomegranate that my self-centered complaints were replaced with worship and gratitude.

How could I ever doubt a God who took so much time carefully designing every piece of fruit to not only taste good, but look good as well? But doubt I do—and often. It’s so easy to forget in the heat of the moment. To forget all things good and grateful and focus on the ugly and distasteful.

Fortunately, God is not surprised by any of this. He knows what I will say, how I will react, and whether or not I’ll confess it. He knows I will continue to grieve His spirit unintentionally when I allow bitterness to take root, and He knows the exact moment I will fall on my knees and give it all to Him and choose peace.

When my voice fails to speak of His love, surely the pomegranates cry out in my place.

“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” Psalm 63:5  

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a health columnist for The Christian Online Magazine, a contributing writer for Encourage 365, founder and creater of S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Sisters, and has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of other publications. She just released her latest Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. 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 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

A Jesus Diet?

I didn’t grow up in a “fasting” household. I knew about fasting, but had never seen anyone practice it, much less preach about it. As an adult I’ve only been led to fast a handful of times, once for 3 days, and all the other times for only a day. A few days ago a friend of mine posted a link on her Facebook page to this site: www.40daystosaveamerica.com and I clicked on it. Immediately God impressed upon me the desire to do a 40 day fast while not only praying for our nation before the elections, but seeking a personal spirit of revival and repentance.

No matter what comes of the elections, or what side of the street we stand on concerning politics, I think we can all agree that the world needs revival—Christians need revival. This is something we can all be praying for in our own hearts and the hearts of our brothers and sisters.

Not everyone will be called to do a 40 day fast, and many will feel led to give up something other than food. I know some who are doing a Facebook fast, a coffee fast, or giving up other things and exchanging those wants for prayer. Fasting or not, earnest, sincere prayer is essential for the Christian.

And just in case I was feeling like maybe I heard God’s voice wrong (or even hoping I heard wrong!), I received the following devotional in my email this morning, which happens to be day #1 of my fast. It spoke directly to me, and I know you’ll be blessed by it as well. No matter what you choose to do for the next 40 days, I hope you will dive deeper into prayer for whatever God lays on your heart. This time will certainly not be wasted, as we know He saves every prayer for a future sacrifice of worship (see Every Prayer Uttered).

Blessings, my friends!

~Rebecca

 

A Diet in Jesus’ Name?
By Skip Heitzig

We focus a lot on food. Eating is one of our favorite pastimes, and we talk a lot about food. There are even place names that are foods. There’s Two Egg, Florida… Bacon, Delaware… Pancake, Texas… Hot Coffee, Mississippi.

One thing you don’t hear a lot about today is fasting. But did you know the Bible mentions fasting more times (nearly 60!) than even the “important” subjects like baptism?

Fasting is not a “diet in Jesus’ name.” It’s not a way to lose weight and be blessed. Fasting is done for spiritual motives.

In the Bible, fasting was done in times of danger, like when Esther was preparing to approach the king of Persia (see Esther 4). It’s a part of repentance: Both Daniel and Ezra fasted in response to the sins of the people, and the king of Nineveh ordered a fast when that city repented (see Jonah 3). Fasting was done in preparation for an important task or ministry. Jesus fasted 40 days and nights before He began His preaching ministry, and the apostles fasted before they sent Paul and Barnabas out (see Acts 13).

Fasting is a time when we take the focus off of ourselves, and put it on God and His will. (And that’s hard, in a culture where we worship self-reliance, self-determination, and self-worth!) Fasting reminds us that we belong to Him and that He owns us (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.). It’s a time when we discipline the body, and make our appetite our slave rather than our master.

In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus speaks of hypocritical motives for fasting. Note that he says “when you fast,” not “if.” Fasting is not to be for some group in a monastery; it’s to be the norm!

Jesus’ point was that God never fails to notice fasting that is heartfelt and genuine, and that He will reward it. (Note: We don’t fast to gain God’s favor or “twist His arm” so He will do something!) But how would God reward a fasting saint? Through deeper intimacy with Him. By letting us know His will. By giving us clarity of understanding in a difficult situation, or a new strategy for ministry.

There are benefits to fasting (and here I’m going from less to more spiritual):

Fasting is good for our health. During a prolonged fast, the body lives on surplus fat. It renews the body and the mind. It helps the body control weight and dispose of wastes.

It teaches us self-discipline. Many of us are slaves to habits, but fasting makes desire our slave rather than being our master. It reminds us we can live without a lot of things. The prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” will be more meaningful.

It helps us appreciate God’s gifts more. Fasting helps us feel our dependence upon God in this affluent, self-sufficient society.

It helps us see the needs of others: Going without food gets us in touch with people who live that way every day. That will make our prayer life more effective as well as activate us to help.

Fasting is always accompanied with prayer, and it will boost your prayer life. It’ll sharpen our praying—it changes the way we pray…and perhaps the results.

The pleasures of eating are fleeting, but the pleasures of fasting are lasting!

Copyright © 2012 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.

 

Festering Wounds

Psalm 139:21-24

Festering Wounds

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “Search me, O God…point out anything in me that offends you.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

I’m a self-admitted Band-Aid fanatic. As a child I fainted at the sight of my own blood, so I learned to cover my wounds with Band-Aids, no matter the severity. It’s a habit that continued into adult-hood, despite being told it was “all in my head”.

Recently I had a surgical procedure to remove a tumor and after surgery I did what I always do, covered the wound with ointments and Band-Aids. In a matter of weeks the incision site was infected. I couldn’t understand why, after all, I had taken excellent care of it with creams and dressings.

A good friend of mine suggested I leave the incision uncovered, open to air. As much as I hated the thought of seeing my wound exposed every day, I gave it a try. Within days the incision began to heal properly.

About as much as I enjoy seeing my physical wounds, I enjoy facing my sin. But the only way it can be eradicated is with the healing air of the Holy Spirit. When I keep Band-Aids on my spiritual weaknesses, deep infections develop in my life and I have to rip off the blinders of denial to let God reveal diseases that need healing. This is the essence of inviting God to search my heart.

PRAYER: Make me uncomfortable with what offends you, Lord, healing my heart with your Spirit of truth.