How Food Paves the Path to Forgiveness and Faith

**Originally published in The Christian Online Magazine, December 2012 Issue**

Food is more than a tasty treat, a temptation for over-indulgence, or an excuse to spend obscene amounts of money at fancy restaurants. No, food has a much greater significance. Food is a ministry—at least it can be. The following article highlights just a few examples from the Bible concerning food and its significance in our lives beyond tickling the taste-buds.

Food for Forgiveness

     Passage: Genesis 41-45

In the midst of a seven year famine, God paved the way for a divine appointment of familial restoration. Joseph’s brothers were forced to travel to Egypt to save the lives of their family by purchasing food from the Egyptian storehouses. Of course, they had no idea their brother Joseph, who they sold into slavery over a decade prior, would be the one standing between them and their hungry tummies.

In what is probably one of the most famous stories of the Old Testament, we see that Joseph chose to extend forgiveness to his wicked brothers (after first giving them the scare of their lives) instead of retaliating in anger. They came to him helpless and hungry, and through the use of food, God ushered in one of the most famous verses used by millions of Christians throughout generations:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done.” Genesis 50:20

God used a famine, a store-house full of grains, and some hungry men to bring forgiveness and healing to many wounded hearts. The food was the vehicle, but the deeper purpose was restoration. We need to look at our lives and see if there is unrelenting bitterness, anger, or resentment either in our hearts or the hearts of our loved ones. We are fast approaching Christmas but how many families will remain divided because of unresolved hurts? Maybe we are the vehicle God wants to use to bring the family back together. Ultimately we are only responsible for our own attitudes, but we can “set the table” for the rest of our loved ones to give that thing called “forgiveness” a try. Perhaps a holiday meal would be the perfect time for such an act of peace.

• Food for Faith

     Passage: Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus had just been told the news: John the Baptist, his cousin and beloved friend, had been killed. At a time when most of us, in the light of such news, would have curled up in the fetal position and checked out of life for a while, Jesus was afforded no such luxury. Instead, he was followed by mobs of people anxiously awaiting His every move—would he heal again? What would He say next? No one wanted to miss a thing!

The disciples urged Jesus to force the crowds to leave; besides, it was late and the people were probably hungry—they should just leave Jesus alone and let Him grieve. But what was Jesus’ response? He chose to sacrifice his own comfort and focus on the needs of the people. They were hungry—he fed them. In fact, he fed five thousand of them!

When we are met with difficulty and pain, we tend to turn our focus inward and withdraw from companionship. But in that pain we are offered an opportunity to reach out and help someone else. And yes, we can do that with food. Someone out there is hungry; someone out there has a need. Perhaps God wants to use our pain, not to feel sorry for ourselves, but to reach out and touch someone else with the generous spirit of giving our Lord demonstrated for us.

So as another year comes to a close and we gather at tables full of buttered biscuits, pumpkin pies, carved hams, and candied yams, let’s purpose to reflect a spirit of love, forgiveness, and selfless service to the world around us.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:48 (MSG)

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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 following this blog and following her on twitter and facebook.

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The Worst Illness a Christian Could Get….

It’s one of the worst illnesses a Christian could get. Evidence of this cruel disease has popped up everywhere over the past several decades. No doubt, it has infected more believers now than ever before. Perhaps you have already contracted this disease without even knowing it. The symptoms are silent and deadly, spreading through thoughts and rationales. And how am I qualified to speak on such an illness? What gives me the right to draw attention to its ravages amongst the bride of Christ? Well, as the saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” I, too, have been infected with this deadly virus.

Where it all began…

Recently my husband, daughter, and I went to a favorite restaurant. We were quickly seated at the table where we proceeded to browse the tempting appetizers, entrees, and deserts colorfully displayed throughout the menu. Our mouths watered with anticipation. As the waitress approached I smiled as I usually do, getting ready to show my best Christian politeness while ordering. But the waitress kept on walking. She hadn’t even looked at me. A little disappointed I reasoned, “She probably has another table that was seated before us. No biggy.” But over the next fifteen minutes servers walked by our table, nary a one looking us in the eyes. My husband was irritated as my five-year-old grew increasingly hungry and restless.

“I think they’ve got ‘Somebody-Else Syndrome,’” I told my husband.

“What?” He asked looking confused.

“Every single one of them seems to think ‘somebody else’ will take care of us. And because they all have that mindset no one ends up helping.”

Eventually I went to the hostess at the front of the restaurant and explained our plight. It was still another five minutes before a server came to our table. As annoying as that situation was, God used it to speak to my heart.

So, what now?

I have no idea if any of those servers were Christians or not. It doesn’t really matter because the principle lies within the thought process. It goes something like this: the preacher brings attention to a need within the church and you nod, even pray about. “Lord, please meet this need. Please bring the right person along to help.”

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with such a prayer, but it fails to really address the issue. Whether consciously or not, it has an underlying tone of, “Lord, let someone else take care of this, because you know I can’t do it.” Obviously there are legitimate needs that cannot be met by every individual. I know when my pastor shows slides of the orphanage our church funds in India that I cannot fly there and personally get hands on. I understand these things. So, before you post an angry comment, this is not about giving people a guilt trip. As I said before, I too have prayed such prayers and thought such thoughts.

But what would happen if we prayed, “Lord, what can I do to meet this need?” You see, such a prayer puts the ball in our court, and that makes us uncomfortable. Because the reality is, in most circumstances there is something we can do.

Here are some of the excuses I have used to rationalize away any personal responsibility in helping others in a hands-on way.

“I don’t have enough money. God wants me to get out of debt first before I donate financially.”

In this day’s economy, I have a feeling I am not the only one who has used this excuse. It’s tantamount to saying I need to stay at home and study the entire Bible inside and out before I go in to the world and share my faith or serve in the church or surrounding community. It’s a clever ruse tempting to keep us in the stagnant waters of selfishness.

“I don’t have enough room, I don’t have enough resources. I don’t have enough time.”

Once again I refer to the above explanation. If we wait until we are “ready”, until we have enough, are enough, or own enough, then we will never—I repeat—never make a tangible move forward because we will never be “ready”. There will always be more bills to pay, more books to read, more personal “needs” to gain. I am convinced this is one of the single greatest deceptions among believers and it has immobilized the church. While some are willing to write checks, few are willing to get their own hands dirty. Like I said, I have been there too.

If all of us sitting in the pews on Sunday are infected with Somebody-Else Syndrome, the needs of our communities, even the needs of our brothers and sisters, will never be met. And what a shame that is. Indeed, I know many unbelievers who are far more generous with their time and resources than Christians. And this becomes a roadblock for them. After all, why should they believe in God when the people who say they follow God are so self-absorbed and inward focused?  If that is what God is all about, just judging, pointing fingers at sins, and not actually doing anything else, then what is the point?

Service not Serve-us…

A couple of weeks ago my pastor used this phrase, “service instead of serve-us”. How true is this, though? If we had a mindset of “what can I do, Lord” instead of, “Lord, let somebody else step up” more needs would be met.

If it sounds like I’m worked up, I am. I write this with high emotions as I watch a friend in need being turned away. Too many Christians infected with Somebody-Else Syndrome. Initially, when I heard of her need, I prayed, “Lord, please meet her need.” You know what He said? He said, “You can meet this need.”

He reminded me of a verse I had recently posted on facebook and twitter:

“I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute.” Is. 58:7

“But Lord, you know this type of situation has turned out badly in the past. You know our circumstances, finances…blah blah blah.” It was clear what God required. I was given an opportunity to practice what I preach, to get my hands dirty; to sacrifice comfort and resources. And I admit, I hesitated. But I am glad that after a few minutes of spiritual wrestling I submitted.

But here we are again. The same friend in the same situation and I am left wondering, “If this person was a missionary or speaker, or someone famous, the same people who say they cannot help would be willingly opening their doors.” Maybe that is too cynical, but it’s what I am left with after weeks of watching my friend struggle.

Once again I know what God requires of me, and I am willing now because I have seen the blessings and spiritual rewards for following His voice. But I am still reeling over the occurrences of Somebody-Else Syndrome that has infected many believers today.

Who is willing to sacrifice comfort, time, and resources to meet the needs around them? Who is willing to take a dose of God’s word, God’s truth, and eradicate this disease lurking within? Who is willing to serve Him by serving others instead of serving self? It’s time we rise up and get uncomfortable. Our brothers and sisters are hurting and are being rejected by their own spiritual families. This ought not be! It’s time we say “Lord, I want to share my food with the hungry and bring right into my own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute.”

Opportunity Knocks-Loud and Obnoxious

Yesterday was a bad “grace” day. By mid-afternoon I was pleading with God to take my physical discomfort away, reminding Him (because He needs reminders) of all the things I needed to do and how my pain was hindering His kingdom work.

I didn’t get a response.

Sometimes, no response IS the response as He allows me to see the foolishness of my human thought processes.

As I contemplated what to write about today, maybe a new 2-Minute devo, God finally offered a suggestion.

Be honest.

Oh, right, good idea.

The truth is, after my latest blog series on respect, serving spouses, and nagging, God gave me ample opportunities to practice what I “preached”. The problem is, The Little Man was pounding away at the base of my neck and showing grace to my husband took a backseat to my personal discomfort.  I mean, should I really be required to serve, respect, love and honor my husband (who was having a “Let’s pick on my wife” kind of day) when I feel like a ten ton truck is running through, over, around, and under my head?

It’s a hypothetical question, of course. No matter how I feel, I still have the Holy Spirit within me, and I can still choose to follow or ignore His voice.

I wanted to come back from the weekend victoriously triumphant of my successful obedience to God’s word (hello, pride, not good to see you again).  I wanted to proclaim how listening to Psalm 119 every morning and night had radically altered my attitude. But the reality is, no matter how much I’ve learned or how much I’ve grown spiritually, I am still susceptible to miserable failures and as I stated previously, yesterday was a bad “grace” day. I failed to show my family grace.

The overwhelming voice of the Holy Spirit beckoned me to humble myself to my husband last night, and I did. We didn’t go to bed angry, but the day was largely wasted on hurtful words and angered silence.

My dad once told me God will take us around the tree as many times as needed until we learn the lesson. Well, I’ve been going around this tree for years. I have suffered with several chronic health problems, and despite diet changes and commitment to take care of my body, I still have issues. However, being in pain doesn’t give me a license to mistreat my family. It never will. Sooner or later I will need to let God show Himself through my attitude while I am sick, not just when I feel great.

Around the tree I go.

As I read Luke 15:11-24 I am moved to tears once again. This story is so meaningful in my life, and it rings true this morning. God hasn’t condemned me for falling on my face yesterday; He has celebrated my return to His way today. He stands with me in my pain and assures me he won’t give me more than I can handle (1 Cor. 10:13). He has allowed this circumstance and He can use it for His glory now that I’ve confessed my pride and selfishness.  There was no room for God to work in my life yesterday because I was arrogantly taking His place.

Today is a new day. I am not a failure but a victor. I don’t always get it right, but I’m beginning to recognize the signs of pride and put them to death quickly on His cross. Whether a prodigal for ten minutes or ten years, He is always waiting to celebrate a humble return to His throne.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Where much grace is shown, much should be given.

Nagging Emasculation

There are few things more emasculating than an incessantly nagging wife. It sends him the message (over and over and over and over…) that he is not good enough, he’s a failure, he’s an idiot, and he’s completely incapable of being the husband she wants. Living under these circumstances for any length of time a man starts to give up; he can’t do anything right anyways.

I don’t bring it up to say I have conquered this problem. Part of me wonders if nagging is a gene inherent to wives, but I know the truth. Nagging is inherent to my fleshly nature and desire to have my own way when I want it, how I want it, and any cost to my husband’s self-esteem.

“A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day.” (Prov. 27:15) In other words, a nagging wife is tantamount to ancient Chinese versions of water torture. Ouch. The last thing I want is to torture my hard-working husband with my words. Shaunti Feldhahn notes this principle in her book For Women Only, as she interviews thousands of men to find out what they really think about these issues.

“Instead of affirming, a wife reinforces her husband’s feelings of inadequacy, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if we focus our attention on what he is doing wrong in the relationship, we can unwittingly undermine what we most want–for him to do what is right–I discovered a dismaying fact. Of the men I surveyed, only one man in four felt actively appreciated by his family.  And 44 percent of men felt unappreciated at home. More pointedly, men in their prime years of responsibility for home, children, and work–men between the ages of thirty-six and fifty-five–felt even less appreciated. ” (p. 68)

Ladies, what’s going on!? Surely we can do better than that! Biblical standards don’t change based on our circumstances (working or staying-at-home). A glance at Proverbs 31 easily testifies to this. The virtuous woman not only works, but “watches over the affairs of her household” (vs. 27) receiving the praise of her husband and children. I didn’t see anything in that chapter about nagging her husband to take out the trash, pick up his clothes, fix the garage door, or close the toilet seat.

After nearly nine years I have finally given up the battle to change my husband. Instead, I am replacing the nagging tendencies with those of praise and support. God is allowing me to recognize my husband’s deep seated insecurities and giving me opportunities to combat them with supportive attitudes and actions.

I can take out the trash myself, or tear down my husband the second he steps in the doorway because he didn’t do it.

I can keep the house clean so when he comes home he’s not tripping over toys, or I can allow my daughter to do whatever she wants while I’m busy plucking away on my computer, telling my husband I’m too busy to care what he thinks of the house.

I can scoop the dog poop myself, or I can spend an hour complaining to my husband about how disgusting the yard is, scheduling work for him to do on his next day off.

I can pick up his dirty socks from every place but the hamper, or I can send him an angry text message explaining how once again, I cleaned up after him and he needs to grow up.

Simply put, I can keep my mouth shut. Turn off the faucet. Stop the incessant dripping.

I can ask God to replace the nagging words with those of praise and affirmation. I can spend all day cleaning up my husband’s messes, and still choose to tell him how much I appreciate his hard work, refusing to bring attention to his short-comings.

“Men need a place where they can make their mistakes in peace.” For Women Only (p. 71)

I want to treat my husband how I’d like him to treat me. I want to show him–with my actions more than my words–the love of Jesus. I want to actively refuse to point out his faults and choose to let God expose my own. I can forgive his down-falls like Jesus has forgven mine. I can show mercy like I’m given mercy by my righteous Savior. By God’s grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit alone, I can turn emasculation into affirmation by simply seeking God’s desire for me as a wife.

“Your beauty…should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”(1 Pet. 3:4)

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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.

Just Need a Little R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I awoke at 3:30am to the struggling gasps of my husband. I’m not going to lie, it frightened me. He’s struggled with his weight and some other harmful habits, so I wondered if he was having a heart attack. He got up, gasping, and went to lie on the couch. Later he said he thought he might have had a bad dream, but wasn’t sure what had caused the difficulty breathing.

I found myself praying for him in ways I don’t usually do. Along with prayer, I was reminded of the way I’ve struggled to be a Biblical wife. Our relationship tends to resemble really good friends who sleep in the same house but otherwise live different lives. I know I can’t control how he acts and feels, but I can allow God to re-shape my thinking.

First one on the list is my respect level. Admittedly, it’s hard to respect someone who disagrees with me about nearly everything, especially spiritual matters. Regardless, I am called to respect (Eph. 5:33₁), and submit to my husband (1 Pet. 3:5₂, Eph. 5:22₃, Col. 3:18₄) whether or not he is acting as spiritual leader of the home. (“Submit” in Greek literally means to obey, be under obedience, put under, subdue unto, or subject and “respect” [used in Eph. 5:33] can be translated reverence, fear, or to be in awe.)

Every time I roll my eyes, think to myself how right I am and how wrong he is, talk about him in a negative manner, or choose to do something he has made clear he’s against (even if it’s a church function),  I have disrespected him.

Just because I am a Jesus follower and he is not, doesn’t mean I am any better than him (Col. 3:23-25₅, Phil. 2:3₆). He still commands my submission, as my husband. Most hear the word submit and assume it demeans the woman, involving slave work. I  look at it as “servant” work. I am to serve my husband, whether I work outside the home or not, he is my husband and I am his wife, he is the head, I am the help-meet (Gen. 2:20-24₇). Sometimes that means allowing him to make the decisions, even if they’re not Biblical. Who do I think I am, anyways? Do I not serve a God big enough to change my husband’s heart? Does God really need my help to show my husband “the light”? I think not. My biggest witness will be my attitude (1 Pet. 3:1-2₈).

So I am on a new mission to revisit some books and studies I dug into last summer about Biblical womanhood and living in a spiritually mismatched relationship. This morning I opened up “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn. In this book the author interviews thousands of men about issues like respect, sex, and self-esteem so the entire book is written for women from the view-point of men. It’s an eye-opener for sure.

“Several men confessed that they felt like their opinions and decisions were actively valued in every area of their lives except their home. Some men felt that their comrades at work trusted their judgment more than their own wives did…more than one wife has made the mistake of ordering her husband around like one of the kids.” (pp. 29-30)

Lord, help me.  There is so much dirt in my heart that still needs cleaning. Most importantly I must remember that service to my husband is not an attempt to manipulate or change him, but rather an act of obedience to the revealed will of God in His word. That alone should motivate me. I may not always get my way, and I may have to set aside my desires to allow my husband to make the decisions, but it will be noted by the One who designed the marriage relationship. After all, it is not really my husband whom I serve, but my Lord, Jesus Christ (Eph. 6:5₉)

The following Scriptures were taken from the New International Version

  1. Ephesians 5:33b “The wife must respect her husband.”
  2. 1 Peter 3:5 “This is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands.”
  3. Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”
  4. Colossians 3:18 “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
  5. Colossians 3:23-25 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.”
  6. Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
  7. Genesis 2:20b-24 “But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
  8. 1 Peter 3:1-2 “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
  9. Ephesians 6:5 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”

Validation

“You are truly one of God’s special ones…You are part of a rare breed, Rebecca, and I am thrilled to work with you,” my instructor recently wrote me, someone with a bachelor and master’s degrees in education and writing.

There’s been a consistent theme in my ministry of writing; I never seem to get validation from the people closest to me including family. In fact, most of them never read anything I write. I’m not sure why, but I think my past has something to do with it. Sometimes when you know a person well and the things they’ve done, it’s hard to see them in any other light then the failures they’ve mastered.

God has used these circumstances to do two things. One, he has shown me my own heart. I’m made aware of how I care what people think when only God’s voice matters. Two, he uses other people, people I don’t know personally, to confirm my ministry. In other words, he works in ways I don’t expect. Isn’t that how He usually does things? You’d think I’d have figured that out by now.

Right when I’m feeling bluesy that no one in my life seems to care, God gives me the gift of validation. Yes, abiding in his will is enough confirmation for me, but He knows how I have longed for the approval of loved ones and have rarely gotten it. Instead, he gives me little gifts like comments from my teacher or praises from my editor. He reminds me that these compliments are gifts from Him and he chooses to speak my love language out of his great compassion for me.

Reminded of his grace, my flame ignites hot to press on and continue my education as well as pursuing my God-given goals. He’s there encouraging me every step. He only gives me enough to chew on for the moment, though, and reminds me to continually seek Him in humility and gratitude.

This morning I’m about to leave for church and I eagerly pursue my opportunity to sing praises to the Lover of my soul, the ultimate Validator.

“The Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in honor and sing for joy in their beds.” Psalm 149:4-5

A Mother’s Joy

“May she who gave birth to you be happy!” Proverbs 23:25b

Suggested Reading: Proverbs 23:22-25

The Holy Spirit tugs at my heart and I am reminded that my parents are my parents forever, and they’re the only ones I’ll ever have. Life is short, and I still have a responsibility to them. This obligation goes way beyond physical needs being met, or nursing home bills being paid. I’m talking about the emotional state of my parents.

As Mother day draws near I am prodded to look deep within and how I am contributing to the joy of my mother. I can’t always give her what she wants or needs materially, but according to God’s word, my godliness (or lack thereof) has an effect on my mother’s inner joy. That’s a lot of pressure! I’m starting to understand what that looks like, though. Godliness isn’t just about “doing”, it’s about “being” all God has designed me to be, from the inside out. Seeing with God’s eyes allows me to appreciate how He feels about my mom, and how she deserves to be treated, regardless of past hurts.

The Master Creator formed my mother in the womb (Psalm 139) and created her for a specific purpose; He loves her and went to the cross for her. It is my honor as her child to replicate the love of Christ over her. There is no mention in Proverbs of how I was raised, what was said, or how I was treated; it simply has nothing to do with how I am to love my mother (or father). How I love my Mom (not the feeling love, but the active love), and anyone else for that matter, is only contingent on the value I see. If I see her through the eyes of my Heavenly Father, then I will be motivated to love, honor, care for, listen to, and encourage her with the love of Jesus.

I looked hard to find the perfect gift for mom this year, not because she needed it, but because I wanted her to understand my love for her through the giving of a special “thing”.  But Mother’s Day isn’t about breakfast in bed, pretty flowers, or new appliances; it’s about reflecting the love of Jesus to my mom every day of the year, and choosing to love her as God does, without expectation.

My mom, Sue, dressed up for an old west re-enactment.