Living a Healthy Life

I think sometimes we approach working out the same way we approach grace and Christianity. Too often, the main reason we reach out to God is because we think we messed up somehow. “Oh, I sinned again. I need to pray.”

It’s similar with working out – we do it because we want to fix something. “Oh, I messed up my diet again. I need to work out.”

Both of those things stem from guilt. But when you start seeking out God because you love Him and truly grasp how much He loves you, it removes that layer of guilt staining the relationship and you are able to just enjoy His presence. He loves us regardless of what we do right or wrong.

Your workouts change, too, when you don’t do them to punish yourself because you think you need to lose weight or because you ate something that wasn’t on your diet, but because you love your body and you want to take care of it. There is a big difference between working out because you hate your body and working out because you love your body, and see it as a gift.

Scripture tells us that our bodies are temples (1 Corinthians 3:16). So instead of focusing on what we want to fix or change about our bodies, let’s focus on what they actually are – God’s dwelling place!

Living a healthy life is a spiritual pursuit.

Cruise Control

This post was written by one of the amazing ladies in my life, Tiffany.

We’ve all had those days (or weeks) where it seems like everything that can go wrong, does.

The past couple of months have been a whirlwind, but this week was a breaking week.
My family recently received some sad, confusing news. My blood work didn’t come back as I had hoped and the new medicine I’ll be on is much stronger which results in me feeling even worse. 

And then this morning, I got pulled over for speeding. Not going to lie, I cannot stop laughing about it now. When the trooper pulled me over, of course he explained why and then asked for my license. After taking a few moments to look through my bottomless pit of a bag, guess what? No license. Obviously I’m stressed so he tells me not to worry about it and instead takes my name and date of birth- also asking why I was speeding.

My answer: “I’m not making excuses but it’s just been a rough week. Then one of my favorite songs came on and it said “when I walk through deep waters, I know You will be with me” and I just got carried away in the moment.”

Expecting him to look at me like I’m crazy he just said: “Yeah, God will do that to you.”
He walked back to his car and when he came back he said, “I’m letting you off with a warning- also I’m pretty sure I went to high school with your dad.” As he was walking away he turned around and said, “Next time you’re talking to God, use cruise control”.

Today I am thankful for Gods sense of humor.

Great Faith

A few months ago, God started speaking to me about great faith and where it comes from. The message I want to share focuses on three men in scripture: Abraham, Elijah and Thomas. My mother-in-law laughed at me when I said that I wanted to talk about Thomas as a man of great faith, but he’s in the lineup all the same.

First let’s look at Abraham, or Abram at the time. In Genesis 15:7, God essentially promises Abram land and Abram responds by asking, “But how will I know for sure?” We know that Abram was a man of faith. In the very verse before this one, God told Abram that he would have a son and Abram believed the Lord because of his great faith, and it was counted as righteousness.

Similarly, when we look at 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah running in fear and hiding in the wilderness. He left his servant behind and crawled into the desert, wanting to die. In verse 4, he calls out and says, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He is consumed by fear, but we know that Elijah, too, was a man of faith because in the chapter before this He called down the fire of the Lord because of his great faith and defeated the Prophets of Baal.

And then there’s Thomas. I have a co-worker who recently said, “I’m pretty sure Thomas has the worst PR rep in all of the New Testament.” Thomas is remembered for John 20:25, where he speaks to the disciples when they tell him that Jesus had risen. He told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” I’ll admit that it probably wasn’t the best response he could have given, but what makes it so much different from the disbelief of Abram or the fear of Elijah? In fact, if you look back at John 11 when Jesus is going to see Lazarus in Judea, where the Jews were waiting to stone Him, Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” He was willing to die with Jesus because of his great faith. And even though we remember Thomas as “Doubting Thomas”, it’s important to realize that that’s not how God looks at him.

God is so faithful that He never lets our doubts in moments of fear define who we are to Him. I want to go back through these stories and really focus on how God responds to each of these men in their moments of doubt.

Let’s start in Genesis. God has just told Abram that he will possess the land and Abram asks Him, “But how can I be sure?” God responds by making a covenant with Abram – an unbreakable promise that requires nothing from Abram. Verse 18 says, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land’.” And what happens after that? Abraham becomes the father of all nations. Scripture says because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.

With Elijah, the Lord was patient with him in the desert, letting him rest and regain his strength. He had angels bring him food and then led him to Mount Horeb, where God appeared to Him and told him to anoint his successor. Again, what happened after that? Elijah went on to prophesy and grow his faith and he never had to face death. God sent chariots and horses of fire and took Elijah up to Heaven in a whirlwind.

And how did God respond to Thomas? Jesus came to him and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” He met him at his faith level and Thomas immediately confessed his faith, saying, “My Lord and my God”. He went on to travel and preach the Gospel, baptizing and bringing many to faith.

Be encouraged, seeing that not only does God meet you at your faith level – he also doesn’t leave you there.

So many times, when I’ve had a moment of doubt, my first instinct is to try to hide it from God or pretend it’s not there. But I truly believe we serve a God who loves to use those moments of doubt to grow our faith. He will always meet us exactly where we are, whether we are standing outside looking at the stars, hiding out in the wilderness, standing among friends, or sitting in a quiet room praying for a sign. All we have to do is call out to Him and He will meet us and bring us closer to Him.

There are two verses I want to leave you with. The first is for when you ask yourself, ‘What exactly is faith?’ Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” And the second is for when you ask yourself, ‘What can faith do?’ Matthew 17:20 says, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

The video below is one of the most powerful videos I’ve seen on doubt and the role it plays in the Christian walk.

“My child, when it seems like you have all the right questions, but never enough answers, and your faith is small enough to fit in the cracks of your palms, I told you: Faith the size of mustard seeds can rearrange whole landscapes. Before you doubt me, doubt your doubts. Doubt your doubts and you will see they are just as empty as the tomb that I walked from.”

 

Flawed Definitions

The words sound empty and hollow, even to me.
I’m on autopilot, saying the things I know would get me an A in an English course,
but mean nothing to the one I’m talking to.
I say sorry for the millionth time,
and for the millionth time we both know I would do it again.
Maybe even tonight.
Repeat. Repent. Repeat. Repent.
Please, God, break this shell. Get through to me.
Forbid me. Punish me.
Fix me.

I was going through an old journal, and found this entry I wrote about prayer when I was in high school. I was struggling with an addiction at the time and felt like repentance was losing its meaning. I would apologize, agonize, and then fall into the same temptation again. The problem was that I had a flawed definition of repentance and I was trying to break an addiction by myself.

The word “repentance” is metanoia in the Greek, which means to change one’s mind. Repentance is not self-punishment. The punishment has already been dealt, on the body of Jesus. The atonement has already been made. Repentance is to turn toward Jesus, to recognize the power of what He did on the cross, and to walk in His plan for you. For me, it was admitting that I couldn’t do it on my own and trusting that He had something better for me.

Reading through this journal entry years later, it’s hard to read the opinion I had of God. Punish me. Forbid me. That’s not the way God works. He doesn’t punish, because the punishment was already given. He doesn’t forbid, because part of repentance is making a choice. The beautiful truth is that God literally loves you into repentance. He doesn’t just tell you not to do something; He replaces your worldly desires with His desire for you. The finished work of Jesus Christ is the only thing that has the power to destroy an addiction that has your heart.

I love the song “Out of Hiding” by Steffany Gretzinger, and I encourage you to just meditate on these lyrics. Let it sink in how deeply God loves you. God loved each of us enough to send his own “beloved” son (Matthew 3:17) to be tortured and killed for people who did not ask for a Savior, who did not want a Rescuer, and who were too proud to think they needed a Sacrifice.

I loved you before you knew it was love
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
And you were the one that I was thinking of
When I rose from the grave
Now rid of the shackles, My victory’s yours
I tore the veil for you to come close
There’s no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You’re not far from home

God’s Promises

When I graduated from college, I was in a relationship with someone I greatly cared for. He had stood by me as a friend and boyfriend for three years as I tried to work my way through a sudden loss of stability. My parents had divorced, my childhood home was being sold, my church had split down the middle and the sense of displacement was staggering at times. However, the boy I loved didn’t believe in the God I was longing for. He would go to church with me and he would sit quietly while I prayed, but he didn’t know how to help me find the peace I was searching for.

The first promise I remember God giving me was a few months after I graduated. I knew I needed to end my relationship, but I was terrified of losing the one constant in my life. I was sitting in church, praying about the first thing God asked me to do that I didn’t want to do. Immediately, Matthew 19:29 came to me, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much.”

For anyone who has met my husband – let’s talk about how God keeps His promises. Matt wakes up with the Gospel on the tip of his tongue and He loves me in a way that can only come from loving Jesus more. His faithfulness in constantly and patiently pointing me toward Jesus has helped me find a new stability that isn’t dependent on anyone else. The Word of God is living and active and it will not return void.

A few months after Matt and I were married, I started having terrible pain in my lower abdomen. After months of pain and multiple infections, we found out I had endometriosis. The doctors told us that it was likely we would have a difficult time having children in the future and that, due to the type and condition of the disorder, I wouldn’t be able to have children at all without first having surgery. Following the surgery, Matt and I tried for months with no results. As we were beginning to hit a low and wonder if it was going to happen for us, our entire family was dealt a blow when Matt’s dad, Jack, passed away unexpectedly.

Many people don’t get along with their in-laws – I’ve heard both the jokes and the horror stories – but Matt’s parents are my parents. They loved me as their own daughter before Matt even gave me his ring and I love each of them dearly. While all of us know that Jack is rejoicing and worshiping his Savior with his arms wide, the pain has been great.

Matt and I both struggled with the realization that our kids would not get to meet their Papa. The thought still brings tears to my eyes; however, the Thursday after his funeral, Matt and I attended a church service. A few minutes into the church service, God sweetly whispered His second promise – we would have our precious miracle. I won’t lie, I didn’t immediately recognize it for what it was. It wasn’t until an hour later, when the pastor prayed directly over our family and said, “How good you are to us, Lord – from death you always bring life” that I knew the promise God had made me. I cried as we continued to pray and from that morning on, I woke up every morning saying, “Thank you, God, for this baby. Thank you that you love us so much.”

Four weeks to the day that Jack died, I took my first positive pregnancy test.

It is so beautiful to me that God – the Mighty One who saves and who commands the wind and the waves – knows each of us so well, in such a tender and intimate way, that He can simply reach out and breathe a promise of His love directly into our hearts.

Are You Hurting?

I am so incredibly thankful – for my family, for my friends, for my job – but I am also hurting. In this time of grief, God put three things on my heart that I hope might be helpful to others who are also hurting:

1) “Your pain matters to Me.”

Your pain is not insignificant. Your pain is not inconvenient. Your pain is not inappropriate. If your pain puts you further from the cross, it matters to God. You don’t need to prove or defend your pain to Him, because He knows your heart and He sees the things that break it.

Your pain is not from God, but it is an opportunity to depend on God and trust in His Word.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 – We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can raise the dead.

James 1:2 – Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

2) “Your identity does not change.”

It is so easy to take on the things that other people say about you, but people are inconsistent. They might build you up one day and then lash out or tear you down the next. If you let that shape the way you see yourself, you might love yourself one day and hate yourself the next.

When God looks at you, He sees what Jesus died to give you. Shift your focus from what’s been done TO you to what’s been done FOR you. God sent His son to die for your righteousness. Claim your identity, cling to your identity, and refuse to let anything else shape it.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 3:27 – For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

3) “Do not condemn yourself when I have not condemned you.”

Self-condemnation can be just as dangerous as self-righteousness. Your thoughts can speak so loud that they begin to seem true and real. We are so hard on ourselves, thinking we are not enough, and somehow we convince ourselves that those thoughts come from God.

In my experience, when the Holy Spirit convicts you of something, He does it with love. When the conviction is from the enemy, it makes you feel condemned and defeated. When you feel that way, it can be easy to seek out people who you know will give you praise, which can lead you back to depending on people. The truth is that we aren’t good enough, but Jesus is. Resting in His finished work is the only way to find peace in your pain.

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 10:5 – Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I think one of the enemy’s greatest tricks is convincing us that God has turned His back because we aren’t good enough. Don’t let yourself believe that God doesn’t care. God is for you, He is with you, and He loves you “with an everlasting love”.

I Am His

Last year, after Lana was born, I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety. In the months before, I talked with several friends and mentors who had struggled with those same things, so I thought that if it was something I was affected by, at least I would be prepared.

But nobody told me I might not recognize that I was depressed.

I’m thankful for a doctor who did recognize the signs, even as I told her everything was fine. Looking back, I don’t know how I missed it. Words I constantly found myself using were: overwhelmed, guilty, disconnected, failure. I kept asking myself, “Why can’t I just get over this?” But there’s also so much JOY that comes with new motherhood, and I told myself that the extreme highs and lows were just a part of that new season. I told myself the fog was from the lack of sleep. I told myself that the sadness I felt to the depths of my soul was hormones.

I didn’t realize I was depressed until I wasn’t.

When I finally felt like I regained control of my life, I was left wrestling with the question “Who was that?” Who was that person who shut out her friends, who struggled to make simple decisions or remember anything, who woke her baby up every few minutes to make sure she was still breathing? Nobody told me how to deal with the after effects of postpartum depression once it was gone. Or how to find myself again.

For anyone who feels lost, wondering who they are, here are the words that reminded me.

I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12)
I am sanctified. (Hebrews 2:11)
I am anointed. (1 John 2:27)
I am loved. (1 John 4:10)
I am the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13)
I am the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)
I am healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
I am victorious. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
I am HIS. (Galatians 2:20)