Counting the cost

It seems a peculiar expression to consider when thinking about pursing Jesus, are we prepared to pay the cost? We know that our salvation comes as a free gift from Jesus so where is the cost?

During the process of trying to lose weight I pleaded with God to show me what it would take, I was prepared to do anything to have this burden taken away.

The answer came back: give up alcohol and chocolate These were the two things that brought me comfort when I was tired, fearful, celebrating… whatever the emotion. I couldn’t image living without either.  When I was first married I would hate being at home alone, so I would say to my husband that he could go out if he bought me the biggest bottle of wine and the largest box of chocolates.  These became my means of comfort, my abatement of fear, my means to numb the loneliness.

In Matthew 19:16-22 the rich young man asks Jesus that whatever eternal life will cost him, he will willingly pay it.  Jesus speaks to the young man knowing that because he is dependent on his money he would find it difficult to choose between the new life Jesus offered or a life separated from God but united to his money. When faced with giving up his idol (his treasured possession) it was too much for the rich young man to pay.

This is the cost and the choice before us.  The question is: Are we willing to pay the price?

For those of us who have struggled between the desire to overeat and the desire to lose weight we have probably made many promises to ourselves or with others or even tried bartering with God. In our moment of despair, we promise that we would do anything to end this turmoil.  There are times where if we thought it would help we probably would do a deal with the devil!  We often use expressions of ‘I would chop off my right arm’ and other over exaggerated claims. But the truth is when push comes to shove we aren’t prepared to change, the truth of the matter is we want it all.  We want to be able to eat what we want when we want to, without the consequence of putting on weight.

Jesus knew this when he challenged the rich young man and Jesus knows this when he looks at our own hearts.

So, what did it cost me?  Well, I was to find out that it wasn’t just about the alcohol and chocolate. Other things I need to willingly let go of are, gossip, slander, unforgiveness, bitterness, revenge… the list seemed endless and sobering (Galatians 5:20).  I was to learn over the years that the craving for alcohol and chocolate was just a mask for what was hidden deep within.  The sin was so ingrained in me that I didn’t even know the extent of it.

King David knew both the cost and benefit of pursing God : Psalm 139 :23 – 24 ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’.

But it’s alright for him he’s a king! How on earth can I even begin to get my head around pursuing Jesus when all I have known is following my own ideas, my own purposes? It all sounds too difficult and too alien how can I give up all that I have known so far?

Jesus gives us the solution, when we choose to put our faith and trust in Jesus, he gives us a helper, a guide, a teacher…The Holy Spirit.  This is God’s gift to us to teach us how to trust and obey Him.

The prayer of David was a prayer I prayed just over two years ago and what turmoil followed.  Jesus turned my life upside down and inside out.  He exposed roots of bitterness and an unwillingness to bend.  He exposed the root of shameful sins that were too horrific to confess.  He exposed a desire to control and a reluctance to submit. He exposed a propensity towards slander and jealousy rather than a desire to love and serve.

He also showed me that I still had a choice to make, I could still choose to stay with the sin or I could choose to follow him through the refiner’s fire to be purified.

Isaiah 48:10 ‘See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction’.

It is our instinct to seek after things that bring us comfort, not many of use choose to go into an area of affliction, we assume if things feel difficult then our circumstances need to change.  However, I have learnt that, what appears to be a mess to us, is the very place that Jesus prepares our hearts to change. It is through these times of affliction that our hearts are turned towards Jesus, it is during these times that we are humbled to hear from God and his word, it is during these times that we truly see God’s power.

When life gets messy, we start arguing with those we love or life just seems too difficult to handle, are the times the devil uses to persuade us that God has abandoned us in these moments of despair and trial.  The devil wants to swamp us with self-pity and draw us further into ourselves so that we lose all hope of ever coming through it. It is during this time that the devil wants to start the blame game and encourage us to become angry and defensive.  We all have sinned and we all have fallen short of God’s glory, so instead of blaming one another if we pray the prayer of David, desire a change of heart, then we will see God’s hand, not only on our lives, but on the lives of all those around us.

This is where hope comes in, the hope that comes from Jesus who by the power of the Holy Spirit has something to teach each of us through every one of life’s circumstances. Romans 8:28 tells us that God will use all things for our good and for our benefit to grow into the image of Christ.  When our hearts are open to change and have a desire to put the past behind us, we begin to see our relationships and our circumstances through the lens of God’s grace.

Matthew 16:19 tells us we can’t have our cake and eat it we need to make a choice.  The choice isn’t between eating or not eating it is between giving up control of our lives to Jesus or depending on our will power.

So, what is stopping us why do we find it difficult to face up to the choices we are making?  We have already thought about sin and its control of our lives however we need to consider who Jesus says He is.  When we begin to understand who Jesus is and the choices he has made for us we gain a different perspective; a different way of viewing our lives.

Jesus made a choice for us, incredibly He came down to earth from his honoured position in heaven to take our place so that we could spend eternity with him.  He willingly died on the cross to make the payment for our sin.  Why did Jesus do this, to appease an angry God, to enable us a means to continue to sin?  Absolutely not, he did it because he loves us.

Our skewed thinking stops us from truly believing that Jesus did all of this out of love.  His sole purpose is to draw us into a loving relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to restore us to the perfect relationship that God designed from the beginning of time.

However, the cynic within won’t allow us to believe it, this cynical view can be for a variety of reasons, maybe we don’t know what true love is, maybe our past human relationships never met with our expectations, maybe our trust has been misused or maybe we consider ourselves unworthy to be loved.

For many years I have been crying out to Jesus to rid me of the burden of weight gain, the burden of the uncontrollable cravings, to take away the guilt and shame. Jesus has demonstrated to me on numerous occasions that my weight problem was one with the heart rather than a physical one.  The physical outworking of weight gain was a sign of the hurt within, was a sign of the misuse of the body God had blessed me with.  These moments of purification are so that we become more Christ like, that we desire things that he desires, that we crave to spend more time with him in his word, that we have a passion to share with others who Christ is and how he wants to love and transform their lives too.

Moment by moment, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I am learning to live in the freedom that Jesus has provided and I constantly pray for a willing heart to learn what it takes to follow Him.

Won’t you join me?

Choosing the right path

So here we are at a crossroads. Which path will you choose?

Repentance is a difficult thing to do.  Not only do we have to face up to the fact that we did something wrong but we also need to realise that we can do nothing to fix it. We so want to fix stuff it seems to be in our very DNA.

Why are we so focused on sorting out everything for ourselves?

The trouble with this approach is that we become proud.  We become judgemental and live a life where we constantly compare ourselves to other people.  Sometimes we put our energies into trying to fix other people or to change them.  There are times we are desperate to find solutions for other people’s problems or suffering but in and of ourselves there is nothing we have to offer because all our solutions are earthly bound. Our compassion is a wonderful gift to have however it can be foolhardy to think we hold all the solutions to everyone else’s issues.

The amazing thing about repentance is that it doesn’t stand alone; it comes with forgiveness.  In 1 John 1:9 the bible tells us ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’.

When we repent, turn away from our desire to be self-reliant and recognise that we can’t fix ourselves, never mind other people; God is waiting to forgive us and purify (clean) us.

The bible teaches us that God wants to have a relationship that involves Him and us.  The love story of relationship that God has weaved throughout the bible is a wonderful gift to receive however our sin stops us from being able to receive this gift, the gift of life God had planned for us.  It is not until we see that we are not the source of life but the recipient of a gift, that we can choose to follow the right path.

Are you willing to receive this gift of an abundant life of love rather than overindulgence. Are you willing to accept the life Jesus is offering that always points us towards something greater, something eternal?

It doesn’t sound that hard really does it?  Who has ever heard of someone not receiving a gift?  Imagine it’s your birthday and you turn away everyone who comes to you with a present; it doesn’t make sense. It would be ungrateful. Unthinkable.  God is the giver and we are the receiver, but many people do choose to say, ‘no thank you’ to God’s free gift to us because it would require them to change, it would require them to say I am no longer going to control my life but trust in the one who created me.

In John 14:6  Jesus stated that, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.

Jesus gives us an alternative to living in sin, he provides a different path, a different route, Jesus says follow me.  The path has been laid before us. It is our choice whether or not we choose to follow it.

Are you ready to recognise you are currently on the wrong path and choose a different direction, one that leads to a transformed and purposeful life?

The life God had planned all along for you!

A biblical health warning

This all sounds well and good but in our position of pride we can think God needs us to change before we come to Jesus.  We convince ourselves that we need to clean up our act before Jesus can truly rescue us but we need to remember the story of the ‘Lost Son’ in Luke 15.  When the son came to the Father he came warts and all, he was still stinking from the pig’s pen.

There is nothing we can bring to Jesus to make the deal better all he wants is our willingness to trust Him. Jesus wants us to come as we are, he doesn’t want perfect people because He alone is perfect, when we come face to face with who Jesus is we have a realisation of our limitations, we have a realisation of how unclean we truly are.  Coming into the light of Jesus shines up the sin in our lives not to bring us shame but to bring the sin into Jesus light so he can defeat it.

As a Christian, it is easy to fall into the trap that now we have accepted Christ that we need to live a perfect life, that once Jesus rescues us then it is up to us to stay out of trouble, that once Jesus has cleansed us then it is up to us to stay clean.

We do this in many ways, we give others the impression that we don’t make mistakes, we try to keep the peace and don’t confront difficult situations, we try our best to not get angry or jealous or whatever attitude we think is wrong.

However, what we need to consider is that even as a Christian we have nothing to bring to the table, we are still sinners within the identity of a saint.  It is Christ that gives us a new identity however the process of changing to be more like Christ is a process.  Jesus redeemed us so that we can take up our true identity and become an eternal heir along with him however we don’t know what it means to be perfect, we don’t know what it means to be holy because up to the point of accepting Christ we don’t know what holy is.

Jesus turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh that is changeable, by spending time with Jesus in prayer and reading scripture he changes us to be like Him.  Every experience we have, every situation we find ourselves in, Jesus uses to expose our sinful hearts so that we turn to Him for resolution.  In and of ourselves we can do nothing but this is the very place of hope because we have the promise that Jesus doesn’t just rescue us but he also takes us from the place of sinner to saint.

In the book of Phillipians the apostle Paul tells the church that he is confident that Jesus will complete the work he began when he rescued them.

‘I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ 1Phil 1:6 (NIV).

Once we become a Christian the process of change begins, this process is called sanctification.  During this journey with Jesus he teaches us through the power of the Holy Spirit of who He is and the more time we spend with him the more we take on his likeness.

Quite often we don’t trust this process and we try to step in to speed it up, instead we just slow it down.

I have seen this time and time again with the sin of overeating.  Each time I make a breakthrough I think yes this is it all I have to do is follow the diet plan better and then I will start losing weight which will solve all my sinful issues.  In hindsight I tried to perfect myself by bypassing Jesus’ influence and guidance.  I was trying to make myself more acceptable, to become clean so that Jesus doesn’t get angry or judge me unclean.

Jesus knows me much better than I know myself and it is with the state of my heart that Jesus wants to deal with, it is with anger, bitterness, jealousy etc these are the issues that Jesus has spent the last 32 years helping me with.

However, I still overeat, I still eat too much on occasions. Does this mean that I am still trapped in my overeating, does it mean that Jesus is waiting for me to get it right before I can be completely free from the sin of overeating?

No because it is Jesus that is perfecting me not by my own efforts, even in my moments of sin he teaches me, even in my sinful attitudes he demonstrates his love for me.  The wonderful liberating truth of Christ is that our sin isn’t big enough to destroy his mercy.

The darkness of sin can never have any impact on the light of Jesus, Jesus has defeated sin and its eternal damnation therefore when we sin as a follower of Jesus it provides us with an opportunity to be reminded of our need of staying close to Him, our need to learn from him and a reminder of the extent of his mercy and love towards his disciples.

Jesus loves us so much that he doesn’t just call us to him he also enables us to continually share the journey with him.

The bible is filled with sinners and not one of them were worthy of rescue but because of their trust in God’s power to rescue and change then they were considered faithful (Hebrews 11).

We are faithful because we are willing to follow Jesus not because we are capable of being faithful.

Jesus knows who we are and still loves us, his forgiveness covers all sins past, present and future this is the mystery and wonder of his amazing grace.

So be warned, there is nothing we can do to keep ourselves from falling into sin except to simply stay close to the Saviour who will shine his light into all the dark places of our hearts so that we can be transformed into his likeness.




Getting away with it!

As with any good Father, God wants us to learn from our sinful behaviour.  He isn’t a cruel God seeking retribution, he wants his children to learn and grow into his likeness, this is the redemption that man requires.

Hebrews 12:11 tells us ‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it’. (NIV). God’s good purposes are always worked out in all he does, God desires to restore his children to himself so that we can become heirs of his kingdom and in this he wants his children to become a reflection of who He is.

However, as children we not only fail to understand the consequences of our sin, we also have a desire to cover it over.  We see this with our own children if we confront them or catch them in the act it is their instinct to deny it or pass the blame elsewhere.

God’s solution is for us to turn to him and confess our sin and he in turn promises to forgive us but when we try and cover over our own sin we agree with the accuser who says God hates not only our sin but us too.

No-one likes owning up to something they have done, in fact our immediate reaction is self-protection and to come up with some imaginative way of getting away with it.

The trouble with sin is that we don’t want to face up to it because we are convinced that God will reject us or punish us.  In Genesis 3 we saw Adam and Eve hide away from God after they had deliberately chosen to disobey him.  Even though we consider ourselves far more sophisticated and more learned than those early people, mankind hasn’t really changed over the thousands of years.

Instead of running away we need  to run back to the Father because he is waiting with open arms.

Read Luke 15:11-31 This is the picture of true repentance.

In our sinful state we cannot repent, we will continually be deceived because our hearts are naturally sinful.  The bible tells us that our hearts are bent on not only deceiving others it has the power to deceive ourselves.

There is no greater place than the sin of overeating, do we come face to face with this fact.

How many of us want to eat what we want regardless of how many calories it has in and hope that the scales don’t reflect the over indulgence?  We blame the scales for not working or it’s the wrong time of day or any number of excuses except the fact that we ate too much.

Lies, blame and running away is how people have always dealt with sin.  The devil encourages us to do this too, just as in the Garden of Eden the serpent encouraged Adam and Eve to turn away from God’s good purposes for them; Satan entices us to turn to food for our emotional satisfaction or emotional stability.

Food was never designed to provide a relationship, food does not have the ability to subdue our sinful impulses it only serves to increase our appetite for sin because we are addicted to the food.  This is because we are trying to demand a relational response from food.  Food was designed to provide us with the nutrition our bodies need to grow and be healthy.  We choose to abuse and misuse food, we demand that food provides us with emotional stability when we know this isn’t possible.

Why is sin so tempting?  Why do we find it hard to turn away from temptation?

John 3:19 tells us that ‘This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’.(NIV)

Because we’re instinctively sinful, this is where we feel at home.  It takes so much more effort to always make good choices, to always follow the diet plan, or learn new healthy choices but in our sinful state these good things become rules to follow which sets us up to fail at the first hurdle.

Following rules to achieve what only God himself can achieve is called legalism and in our sinful state we use diet plans as a form of legalism, as a means to control our actions and this is why they continually fail.

But we are bombarded with adverts and testimonies of how wonderful the diet is or we see before and after photos of body transformations that draw us further into the diet plan.  ‘See it does work’ we scream at the TV, ‘so why doesn’t it work for me, what is wrong with me’?

First, we need to recognise and admit that we are addicted to food.  Food has become our everything.  This is what makes us different, for those of us addicted to food diets won’t work long term because it doesn’t have the power to break the relationship it only serves to draw us further in.

However there is a positive aspect to our constant failure it provides us with the opportunity for us to learn something new.  This moment of failure teaches us again that we need to do something else because this just isn’t working, it also shows us where our hearts truly are.  When we fail to stick to the plan we see a pattern emerge; we hide the failure by diverting the attention onto others through blame or we choose to lie.

Lies are a means to justify our behaviour, the trademark of the deceiver Satan.

As someone trying to lose weight the amount of times I’ve convinced myself that one won’t hurt, everyone else is eating them or I’ll make up for it tomorrow! At the same time knowing that my soul purpose is to eat the leftovers or finish off the whole cake. Instead of running away from the responsibility of what we are doing we need to face up to our mistakes, recognise that diets don’t have the power to change our behaviours and we are in need of rescue from our own sinful choices.

We cannot change on our own, we cannot just make the effort to change or dig into our willpower because our sinful hearts actually deceive us.  We can be tempted by our own hearts, many of us are all too familiar with our ability to self-sabotage. Or we convince ourselves that we don’t need to lose weight after all God loves me as I am or overeating too many calories makes me happy which is better for everyone else.  The bible gives us  an alternative perspective:

Jeremiah 17:9-10 ‘The heart is more deceitful than all else.  And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the Lord search the heart, I test the mind.  Even to give to each man according to his ways.  According to the results of his deeds’.

God alone understands our hearts, he alone knows what we are capable but it is God alone that provides us with the solution.

God doesn’t need us to turn to diet plans or food guru’s to tell us what is right or wrong to eat, he wants us to turn to him in trust and obedience.  God’s plan and purposes for us are far greater than anything we can imagine; his plans go way beyond our desire or need to lose weight.  The problem isn’t with the food we eat, it is with our heart attitude, our ultimate desire to get what we want when we want it rather than seek God as to his plans and purposes for us.

The core problem is one with the soul, the soul will follow what the heart desires.  Our souls were created only to find satisfaction from the Father, our souls continue to look for the light and will continue to be dissatisfied until the day of redemption.

As someone addicted to food this actually puts us in a really strong position because we know by experience that all the things we put our hope and trust in falls short, it leaves us dissatisfied.  Our bodies are screaming at us to find the source of satisfaction, it is screaming for us to turn to the only one who has the power to restore us completely.  Our soul knows that it can have redemption we’re just not listening.

This is why, when we reach the goal we were set on, there isn’t an everlasting sense of satisfaction, there still seems something that needs to be achieved.  Or when we start to lose weight we are still dissatisfied, there seems to be something missing.  We don’t find the satisfaction we thought we would find, we find the promise of weight loss empty.  We are no happier, our lives still feel a mess, so we turn back to food because that seemed to help last time, at least we were emotionally happy.  Or we find that there still seems something that we need to move towards, so we reach for another goal but that still doesn’t completely fulfil or we convince ourselves that we are now happy but deep down there is still something missing, the problem is we’re not quite sure what that something is.

Our soul desire is found in Christ alone.

Ask God to show you what is driving you, what are your heart desires and are these contradictory to his plans and purposes for your life.  King David puts it this way in Psalm 139: 23-24 ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’. (NIV).

What is the solution to our sin, is there a way to turn away from sin, is there a means in which we can learn from sin and move closer to God.

The bible gives us a resounding Yes!

John 8:12 ’ When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” .(NIV). Just as God provided for the payment of sin for Adam and Eve, Jesus came to earth to make that final payment on our behalf but now it was for all people for all time.

Even though our hearts are deceitful and encourage us to live in the darkness there is hope and that hope is found in Christ alone.

When we accept Jesus as the payment of our sin we are repenting, we are recognising that our lives are empty and in fact we realise that all this time, instead of the high life, we have actually been living in the pit.  Just like the ‘Lost son’ in Luke we have been eating with the pigs instead of living in the glory God provides.

In this moment of repentance God provides us with all we need, once again just like the Lost Son, God clothes us with Christ, He gives us a new identity in Christ by giving us the Holy Spirit, who will guide our every step and give us the certainty that our feet are placed on solid ground.  These gifts are all symbolised in the Lost Son by the cloak, the signet ring and the sandals.

The Holy Spirit is the mark that we belong to God and no-one will be able to separate us from Him.  The Holy Spirit becomes our helper to guide our conscience into making better choices, the Holy Spirit is given to us to give us a choice not to sin. How is this possible?

The bible tells us in James 4:7 that to overcome sin as a follower of Jesus all we have to do is ‘to resist the devil and he will flee from you’.  WOW that sounds great but how does it work in practice.  The key is found in the first half of James 4:7 ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God’.  James is saying if this is who God is and if this is who God says we are then the only solution for every one of us is to submit to God. But our hope doesn’t lie in our ability to submit but our willingness to do it.

So what is the solution to getting away with it, choose to bring your sin into the light of Christ instead of running away; turn to the only one who can rescue you, turn to the only one who has made payment for your sin, turn to the only one who promises to guide you into an everlasting life.

The solution for our soul, the solution for our bodies, the solution for the darkness our sin drags us into, is turning to Christ himself because He alone is our Saviour, He alone is our Counsellor, He alone is our Comforter, He alone made the sacrifice needed to bring us back to the Father.

If we choose to put our trust in Jesus then he will teach us how to submit. This is a far healthier pursuit instead of the pursuit of weight loss because if we submit to God rather than the sinful desires of the heart we will gain both a relationship with God and a healthier body!

The Deceiver

I am sure many of you are wondering when are we going to get around to talking about relevant weight issues as mentioned in the description.  However, it is important for us to set out the principles to consider, these will form the foundation for us to work from and to return to as we share this journey together.

These foundational, but not always straight forward, principles will become clearer as we apply them to our daily situations.

The Deceiver

Satan has one plan and that is to destroy all that God created.  This includes God’s relationships with his children and with one another.  He has one tactic to achieve this, convince God’s children that they can live without Him.  This tactic comes in many guises; you’re not sinful; you can be your own God; you can make up your own rules; no-one can tell you what to do; you are entitled to your freedom; you don’t need anyone, etc., etc.

Satan misrepresents God and his word at every turn.  What God planned for good, Satan attempts to destroy. The greatest ally that Satan has is us and our sinful hearts. Don’t believe me?

Why is it that we don’t trust the God who created us and provide us with all we have?  Why is it that we are more willing to believe the proven deceiver who only has himself as his soul priority?

The bible once again gives us the answer

1 John 1:5-10 Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us’ (NIV).

Sinful nature

As we saw previously Adam and Eve had a choice not to sin; they chose to believe the lies of the deceiver instead of the truth of the Father.  Because of their decision to sin we have now inherited their sinful fallen nature; our hearts are born corrupt and bent towards sin which means we are born without the choice not to sin.  All our attitudes and behaviour are for the benefit of self, promoted by pride and resulting in damaged relationships. I know the devil is persuading you that this just isn’t true but bear with me.

Jesus alone offers us an alternative

1 John 1:5-10 explains that the only way we can live in the light is to offer our hearts back to God, agreeing with him that we live in darkness and have a desire to walk with him in the light through Jesus Christ.

This seems straightforward however, what we must factor into the equation is Satan, his plan is to ensure we stay separated from God, to convince us that we are fine just as we are.  The work he did in the garden is something he wants to defend; his sole purpose is bent on destroying God’s creation; he will always be a liar and a deceiver he has no capacity to change because this is his identity and character.

Jesus tells us that all those who live in the darkness belong to Satan.  In John 8:42 Jesus is talking to the Jewish leaders who are challenging his authority to preach.

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

This is true for all who refuse to turn their hearts fully over to God.  Jesus tells us that we all have a Father it is either the Our Father in Heaven or the Father of lies.

Satan, might be predictable but is subtle in how he deceives.  He persuades us that God is against us, is trapping us, doesn’t want us to be happy, whatever lie appeals to our prideful nature he will tell the tale and we will happily agree with him.

We see the subtlety of Satan’s lies from Eve’s encounter with him.  He lulls Eve into a seemingly innocent conversation, Eve might have even thought that Satan was interested in knowing more about her relationship with God.  His questioning appears to be a light hearted general conversation but quickly turns into something wicked and before Eve knows it she is trapped into sin.

We see how Satan sugar-coats sin, he makes it appear harmless and inviting, before we know it we have bought into it without having any idea of what the consequences could be.  Even in those times we think we know the consequences, as with Adam and Eve, we are unaware of what the eternal consequences will be.

As someone who has been tempted by the lure of food for much of my life these truths are something that have both worried, challenged and in the end brought me hope.

I have a memory from when I was younger of dropping some sweets in the park when some girls tried taking them from me, I was so upset but too scared of picking them up again even though they had wrappers.  I remember well the feeling of loss and dreamt of those sweets for many days and even weeks later.  This was one of many instances with food where I was anxious because I was separated from it or where I craved a certain treat that I wasn’t allowed.  I vividly remember promising myself that when I became an adult no-one would separate me from my food and I spent many a night fantasying of all the lovely foods I would treat myself to when I was older.

As an adult, I can see how Satan had subtly subdued me into thinking that food was my everything, I was being programmed to depend on food so that I would never depend on God’s provision.

Over the years it has been sweet, sugary foods that I have craved and hungered for.  Foods that have no nutritional content but appeal to my sinful craving heart.  Why do we crave food that results in obesity, why do we feel the need to overeat on foods that cause ill health such as heart disease or diabetes?  Because we believe the lie that we cannot live without them, that life wouldn’t be worth living if I couldn’t have………!

So, where’s the hope, how can we escape this endless trap of entitlement?

Jesus is King over all things

The bible tells us that there is only one who has withstood the devil’s schemes and lies, we are told that there is one who defeated the devil and broke the hold of sin and death in our lives, we are told that only one has condemned Satan to an eternal life of torment and eventually eternal extinction.

In Genesis 3 we see God promising that one would come, in the future, to crush Satan’s head.  Jesus was the one who achieved this on the cross when he paid the debt of our sin, when he willingly gave his life in place of ours. It is at the cross, where Satan thought he had separated the Son from the Father, that he was defeated.

The cross paid for our sin debt once and for all, Jesus went into the darkness of death and in his resurrection proved that death no longer had any power, Jesus alone can and will give us new life, a new birth. This is the power of Christ Jesus, this is the power only the true King has.

The gift is ours to receive

This is the hope we have access too; the very place of sin that the devil tempts us is the very place of rescue, the place that we can offer over to Jesus to redeem us.

I have found this with my weight issues, rather than running away in guilt and shame after another bingeing session, I turn it over to Jesus. I come to Jesus, sorrowful at my weakness to have, once again, given in. I offer over my feelings of shame at the foot of the cross, I ask Jesus to teach me the areas in which I need to change, in the ways I need to change them.

Over the years, I came to recognise that I have no power in or of myself to overcome my eating disorder; I have no control over my inability to make the right choices; I have no control over the temptations the devil brings my way. I always felt powerless to change.

However, my hope lies in the fact that I have given my life over to Jesus, that he alone has the power to guide me through the devils lies.

Jesus enables us to be aware of the devil’s deceptive ways.  As we grow in our relationship with Jesus he teaches us how to overcome, how to move forward in our lives instead of allowing the devil to limit our ability; limit our effectiveness; limit our love.  Without Jesus we have no power, we only have will-power, as Adam and Eve demonstrated, that is no power at all.

Jesus keeps on giving

Jesus redeems us from the power of sin, he has restored us to a right place with God, restoring our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Jesus gives us a new heart, a heart that desires to follow him, he replaces our heart of stone, a heart bent on sinning to a heart seeking transformation.  Jesus has given us our choice back, in Jesus we can say no to the devil and his schemes.

For those of us in Christ, who have accepted the free gift of salvation, Satan can still attempt to turn our hearts away from God however we have the gift of the Holy Spirit that acts as a protection against the darkness re-entering our lives, the Holy Spirit who will teach us how to turn away from the darkness and walk further into the light.  This is a place of hope, that Jesus has overcome the darkness.

In and of ourselves we have no power to overcome the devil and his temptations.  Our hearts are drawn to the darkness, our hearts delight in sin, we get a kick out of gossiping, or we desire what isn’t ours, we are jealous of those who have more, and on it goes, the seemingly never ending cycle of sin.

Jesus is our only hope

There is only one who has the power against sin, the world and the devil. There is only one God who controls all things for the good of those who love him, who has demonstrated that power, who has overcome the darkness, who has provided a way into the light. There is only one who was perfect enough to pay the debt of sin, who is perfect enough so that he can teach us the ways of holiness, who can show us the way to the Father of Heaven, who is our advocate in heaven.

Jesus; is our redeemer, he is our Saviour.

The trouble is we don’t believe we need saving, we believe the devil’s lies that we’re alright, we’re not that bad, there are others worse than us. We believe that we can keep going and eventually we will have proved ourselves. For some of us, we believe the devil’s lie, that God isn’t worth knowing, after all he allows suffering he can’t be that good!

God knew before time began that these would be our reactions, these would be our obstacles to overcome but he also knew that we would be worth it, that he would do everything in his power to protect and provide for his children.

That protection and provision is Christ himself.

There is a warning for us all, if we allow the devil to use our pride to decide our future, by refusing to come into the light of Christ, then we will follow the father of lies to eternal damnation without any hope of redemption.

Now this is the choice we have been given!

The choice is yours!

The Blame Game

Last time we considered God’s provision for us despite our desire and ability to sin.  This realisation gives us a building block to re-programme the understanding we have of ourselves and of God. So far we have considered:-

  • Ultimately God is our Father in Heaven who created all things, we are his created children designed to be in relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; who also unites us together as church.
  • Our lives are fashioned to be the image of God therefore our lives need to reflect His glory not our own.
  • Mankind have inherited a sinful nature, after the devil deceived Adam and Eve, therefore being born seperated from God.
  • Jesus death and resurrection gives mankind a choice either to continue to live without God and keep ourselves on the throne of our lives or submit our lives to the Father who created us acknowledging he has the right to rule.
  • God provides us with the redemptive work of Jesus so that we can have the choice to live in the light with Him forever or we can choose to live in the eternal darkness of our sin.

Next we consider that through Jesus we are given a new inheritance, a new destiny, a life that  takes us further into the light and life of Christ. Let us learn together how these truths impact on our every day lives; how does trusting in Jesus affect our daily choices?

Trust and Obey

I love the old hymn ‘Trust and Obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey’.  Trust in our Father must come first, it is from this trust that we then desire to obey, this is the beauty of a submitted life to our God; no longer do we make demands but we seek God’s guidance in all we do.

We see from Genesis in the original sin of mankind that Eve considered what the devil was presenting and made the decision that what was being offered was good.  The devil offered her the ability to be self sufficient and make her own decisions however she had no idea this also meant seperation from God. Eve”s mistake is she didn’t trust God enough, if she had then she would have been obedient to God’s command rather than the devil’s temptations. Eve always had the choice to say no or refer the matter to her husband, after all he received the command direct from God. Eve had freewill to choose to follow God or follow our own desires.

Adam in turn had a choice to make, his wife had already eaten the fruit would he choose to be obedient to God’s commands or follow his wife into sin.

Satan had done what he had set out to do, to destroy the relationship between God and man, but God would have the last word.

We learn from Adam and Eve that in that moment of knowing sin, they felt guilt, and in their guilt, they chose to hide away from Him.  From God, their Father who had only brought them good gifts, given them everything their needed, offered them the ability to fellowship with him and one another.  God entrusted his kingdom to them and in return they helped Satan bring darkness into his world.

In their mistaken place of authority, they hadn’t realised that God has the power to forgive them and make them right before him again. They didn’t trust that God the Father would forgive them or use his power to do anything other than destroy them; they didn’t trust him so they couldn’t be obedient.

Then we see the effects of a sinful heart, when Adam and Eve were confronted about their sin, what did they do? They blamed each other; then they blamed the serpent, the deceiver.  Here we see God as judge; a judge who is just and assesses the situation fairly.

God curses the serpent for his deception and lies, Satan was condemned to eternal damnation without any means of redemption and he is promised that one will come who will carry out his eternal destruction. Satan will never be known of again and his tools against mankind, sin and death, will also be destroyed.  Satan knows that he will never gain the glory he had always been seeking; until that day of his eternal destruction he will attempt to deceive as many as he can so that he can rob others of God’s redemptive work through Jesus.

Satan’s sin was particularly grievous because he led God’s children away from him. If you are a parent you get a glimpse into how God felt; when others try to hurt our children, our instinct is to jealously protect them, we will do everything we can to ensure their safety. It is and always will be God’s plan to create relationships and jealously protect them and Satan’s plan is to destroy them to undermine God’s authority over his creation.

God had already warned Adam that the consequences of sin was death, which is separation from God therefore destroying the relationship.  However, the serpent had persuaded Eve that God had lied, that he was keeping some knowledge from them because he was worried they would become like him, unknown to Adam and Eve their sin had far reaching and grievous consequences.

Both Adam and Eve had choosen to entrust their lives to another turning their back on God.

Sin entered the garden

The eternal consequences for Adam and Eve were beyond their comprehension they knew that their sin would result in death so they ran away to protect themselves, they were ashamed and hid from God.  However, they had no idea that the consequences of their sin would affect the whole of creation and all of God’s children from generation to generation.  Here we come face to face with the death and destructive power of sin, we begin to see that our sin is so deadly. God gives us the opportunity to come to the realisation that we have no idea of who or what is affected in the future by the choices we make. Only God knows the full extent of our sinful choices. What we can be certain of is, our sin affects God’s overall plans for all of his creation.

Therefore, our only hope comes from our willingness to trust our Creator God that he alone brings ‘all things together in perfect unity’ Col 3:12-14 (NIV). If we are willing to trust then He will give us the strength and the ability to obey.

The immediate consequences for Adam and Eve was that the ground was cursed affecting Adam’s call from God to work the land, this made his work a chore instead of an act of worship and fellowship with God.  Secondly Eve’s ability to produce children was cursed and a promise of hard labour for her too. Their relationship with one another was cursed, from now on Eve would try and control her husband rather than the perfect submission relationship God had created which was a picture; a representation of the relationship between God and mankind.

Adam and Eve’s bodies instead of reflecting God’s image would always reflect the sinful choice of turning away from God, their bodies would age and decay, they would return to the dust they had come from.  Here we see the law of God’s collaboration between all that he has created, just like an orchestra, everything works together to create perfect harmony but we also see how each area of God’s blessing ended up being cursed because of the actions of Adam and Eve.

Because sin had come into Gods perfect creation all things will experience a physical death including the animals, plants etc., but it means for human beings; that for each of us our death will also be an eternal separation from God and it was this death that Satan wanted to achieve. Satan wanted to separate Adam and Eve from God’s love through their sin because it would result in future generations being eternal damned.

In the garden, there were two trees one was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the other was the tree of life.  Adam and Eve now had knowledge of good and evil because of the fruit they had eaten, however this didn’t have the desired effect of being like God instead it made them aware of their inadequacies and gave them a realisation that their hearts were sinful and unholy in comparison to God. God made it clear to them that eating from these trees would result in their death but this death would be both physical and spiritual.  If in their fallen state, they had eaten from the tree of life then they would be eternally condemned without any means of redemption.

By banishing Adam and Eve from the garden God was protecting them from the eternal damnation that their spiritual death would have brought.

We then witness a miracle, we see God provide redemption for Adam and Eve’s spiritual death. God clothes them using the death of an animal, a sacrifice to pay for the debt of their sin. Romans 6:23 ‘for the wages of sin is death’. I love God our Father for his honesty, God always says how it is; he warns us of the consequences of our choices but in his love, he gives us opportunities to demonstrate our willingness to trust.

Don’t we love it when our own children put their trust in us; when they willingly follow our instructions, it fills us with even more love towards them, how much more does our trust in God bring joy to his heart.

So much destruction, so many consequences that were not fully understood by the participants, this is the power that sin has.  Only God himself knows the power of sin in our lives, he alone knows of the full consequences of our sins that not only have an impact on our lives but on the lives of others, from generation to generation. God alone sees creation and its fullness, he can look from the beginning and the end of time as the same moment. God is the ‘I am’ nothing came before Him and nothing is beyond Him.

We attempt to live independently of God but we were created to be our best only when we have a submissive relationship with God.  Just as the world must comply with the natural laws of gravity we too must comply with the law of God’s love. So why curse what you love and provide for, why did creation have to be cursed?

God can never compromise his holiness for without his standards then we are all eternally doomed no one will ever be able to escape the clutches of sin or death.  We need to understand that ‘curse’ isn’t God’s means to persecute but is the consequence of sinful choices however we see even in the moment of curse God still provided for the survival of mankind, in that moment he was preparing the world to receive the kingdom he had promised, in the moment of judgement God provided redemption. However, the animal sacrifice could only pay for the debt of Adam and Eve’s death it wasn’t possible to accept an animal to pay for all future sins but this didn’t stop God from making our redemption possible.

When we sin, we have no concept of who or what will be affected, all we focus on is the impact that (we think) it will have on us and how to run away from the consequences. If we choose to put our trust in God and his redemption for all mankind, then just maybe we begin to see that God is holding all things together in perfect unity, to bring all that he has created into the light of his goodness and provision.  Maybe then we begin to desire to be part of God’s kingdom, then maybe we begin to believe that we can choose Him only because we have woken up to the realisation that he has already chosen us.

Then and only then can we learn to trust God, as we put our trust in Jesus redemptive work we can then begin the journey of the most amazing discovery possible. A loving, growing relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Are you willing to believe?

Soul Searching

This has been a really difficult blog to write as it covers the subject of sin.  This is a huge topic and I wanted to be faithful to God’s view of sin however, it will take a lifetime for us to fully grasp the power that sin has on our lives.  We need to keep in mind that only God himself fully comprehends all that sin is so I suggest we pray as we consider this aspect of who we are over the next few weeks.  

Our Western culture not only encourages self-focus but provides ways for self to flourish. We are persuaded that getting what we want when we want it is our right, a sense of entitlement.  We are also becoming a much more individualistic society where one is more important than many.  This makes no sense on any level.  Surely our strength is in our ability to care and provide for one another.  Isn’t community better than individualism; can’t we achieve more together?

The bible paints a different picture to that of our human efforts to mould society into the shape we think it should fit.  God has a different plan and purpose for mankind.  Genesis 1 tells us we were birthed from a relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be both in a relationship with God and with one another.

The reason we are drawn to the ‘dog eat dog’ mentality is because at the heart of each of us is sin, the desire to demand self-glorification rather than a submissive love relationship with our Creator.  It is our sin that drives us forward without us even being aware of it, we have an inner drive to perfect self, to promote self, to make self number one, not only in our own lives but also in the lives of others. In our sin, we manage to persuade ourselves that we are not that bad really, after all ‘I give to charity’ which is providing for others, or we list off all our achievements that justify our existence.  Or we compare ourselves to others ‘I haven’t murdered anyone’ or my little misdemeanours ‘haven’t done anyone else any harm’; ‘I don’t need to worry I can carry on trying my best’.

Unfortunately for us God’s standard is much higher than our own; God knows the power sin has and he demands its destruction because he knows that sin always brings us into darkness, this is an absolute truth that will never change.

God and sin is never compatible, sin cannot exist where God resides, sin is darkness and God is light, light will always extinguish the darkness it is what light does; it is what the character of God is, fortunately for us God cannot and will not change because light, life and love is the essence of who he is.  We all need God to be God for our very existence to be compatible with life rather than death, we all need the light to survive just as plants need light to grow and be healthy.  The world will not exist without God, He is the source of all that was and is and is to come.

No-one will ever be like God as Genesis 1 shows us; the power and majesty of God in speaking into being all of creation, he also breathed life into Adam and created Eve from a rib.  No other being or creature has this power because there was nothing before God.

In fact, there is no comparison, we are and will always be the ones who were created whether we accept this or not.  Just because we don’t believe something is true doesn’t mean it isn’t. Mankind will never be the measure of what is absolute truth so all mankind has left is the desire to prove there is no absolute truth.

Let us consider some lessons from Genesis 1-3.

In the beginning, we see the beauty of God’s creation and the provision for man to help God rule his world.  However, we read in Genesis 3 the ability of man to destroy all that God had planned. Satan spoke to the pride of mankind so that Adam and Eve believed they could be just like God knowing all there is to know.  However, this was never possible because only God is all knowing, only God is all powerful and only God can be in all places at all times therefore he alone understands how all things work together for his glory and to fulfil his purposes.

As we consider Genesis 3  that describes the fall of mankind, the desire to be like God, the desire to be in control of their own destiny, the desire to be independent of their creator we are shocked by what comes next. Surely we are expecting retribution, anger and wrath, surely this is what God’s character demands.

As we continue to read through Genesis we see God seeking Adam and Eve, even though they had committed such a world changing sin which ruined all that God had planned for them, it was God who looked for them, not in revenge or anger but in seeking them out as he had always done.

This was God’s response to their sin, he absolutely knew what they had done before he even asked the question.  So why did God ask them why they were hiding?  Was God trying to trick them, was he trying to catch them out? In God’s initial response to Adam and Eve we begin to understand that God never ignores sin he seeks it out and calls us to deal with it because it is God’s desire for us to live in his light not in the darkness and eternal damnation of sin.

There were still consequences to their sin that had to be dealt with, God’s justice had to respond to the sin of all involved, as we continue to read Genesis 3 we will see God’s wrath against sin. But for the time being we need to consider that it was Adam and Eve who hid, hid from their Creator, their provider, their source of life.

When God seeks Adam and Eve in the garden we see God’s love and grace for his children, if we look closely we will see a Father who must judge justly but also provide completely.

Why me?

Many of us ask why am I here?  What do I contribute to this world? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why me?

Are there times that you feel insignificant and have feelings of worthlessness? Are there times that we need to prove to ourselves or to others that we are worthy, that we must have some value to someone? Do we wonder why bad things happen to us, we don’t deserve to be treated this way! Sometimes it seems nothing we do provides the reassurance and purpose we are looking for.

When I was 32 I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and ended up on medication for nearly two years.  As a Christian I grappled with whether I should take the medication the doctors were recommending or trust God for the solution. I saw it as an either/or scenario.  I don’t know why it was such a big issue at the time because on reflection if I had broken my leg then I would never question whether or not I needed medical intervention.  So I agreed to take the medication which helped, over time, to stabilise me so that I could function and achieve some daily tasks.

Mental health is a difficult illness that, as a society, we either ignore or overreact to. Responding to mental health problems is something that isn’t always in our realm of experience however it is an area that is increasing in our society and whether we are the patient or a concerned friend or family member there is something for us to learn.

God has something to say

We ask ourselves has God really got something to say to us in our 21st Century world, a place of incredible technology and wonders that are only being discovered? Does God have a solution for us today?  Is God even interested in our modern-day problems? We begin by acknowledging that God is not an alternative to medicine.  We can, and indeed should, have access to both faith and science.

Where do we start to come to terms with this disease of our modern culture and society?

As someone who has suffered, for what in hindsight was a brief time, I can categorically say that God does care, God wants to help us and has the means to do it. The question is are we ready to listen?

Depression is a lonely place, a place no-one knows unless they have been there themselves.  My first experience of motherhood hadn’t been ideal, I was a single parent until my daughter was 5 years old, I had feelings of inadequacy and always believed that I fell short as a Mum.  During that time my parents were amazing and did everything they could to support me, my Mam even gave up her job to look after my daughter so that I could earn a wage to make ends meet.

It was a different matter for my second child, I had met and married my husband Neil and together we planned to save to pay off all our debts before we added another child to our family, this took us 5 years to achieve.  I had great expectations of how different our family life would be and that bringing a child into an established family, with not only a Father and Mother but a big sister too, would be the perfect setting to achieve my goal of being the best Mum I could be.

However, my expectations were too great, I wanted to be the perfect Mother, I didn’t want to give into my previous feelings of inadequacy, I wanted to show the world that I could be the Mother, God had called me to be.  But the reality was so different; I hadn’t understood that God’s gift of a child was to be shared by many not a means to justify who I was.

After 6 months of attempting to live the perfect life; of getting up at 6am to do housework, raising a new born, ferrying my 11 year old to her various activities, supporting my husband with his demanding job, volunteering at church for various events, the cracks began to appear.

One day it was as if a black cloud arrived overhead, it seemed that the entire world had stopped; I couldn’t even summon up the energy to get dressed each day. Our eldest daughter, who is now 31, has memories of me sitting in a chair unresponsive to my baby’s cries, she would find him in my arms needing a feed or in his cot being ignored, I in turn have no memory of these events at all.  It is only by God’s grace that the family has managed to grow together during this experience as opposed to being torn apart.

The expectation of being the perfect Mum had turned my focus onto my performance, my drive to show the world that I was a good person, that I had value.  For most of the relationships I had had I felt inadequate, I felt I had nothing to offer anyone, that if I wasn’t here no one would notice.

On reflection the 18 months of the depression was a blur however what shines through the whole of that experience is God’s intervention. I learnt so much of what it was to depend on Him, to know his care and compassion.  He taught me how to combat the depression, how the depression was my body’s way of telling me it wasn’t coping. He taught me how to overcome the desire to give up and give in.  He showed me, through his word, that I had a choice of whether I stayed in the darkness or stepped into his glorious light.

The schemer of lies

It’s obvious now that all the negative feelings and thoughts were lies, lies that the devil wanted me to believe.  During the time of depression it became impossible for me to discern between what feelings were true and which were lies.

One day I wrote a list of all that I thought or felt and asked my husband to write down next to each one what was the reality.  This must have been really difficult for him to do because much of it was personally aimed at him which must have been hurtful. But the breakthrough really began when I started to apply God’s word to my feelings.  I would work through the bible and ask God to show me what he had to say about these negative feelings. Could God really show me the truth, could the truth of who Jesus is really set me free?

However, the most challenging part of the entire process was coming face to face with the core issue….my focus on self.

Self is the source of the problem

Depression is a difficult condition to deal with because it has both physical and emotional consequences. On a physical level, we do need professional intervention and as a society we have some solutions that can bring some stability for a time however on a spiritual and emotional level we need someone who really knows us, someone who really loves us.  Whilst our friends, spouses and relations try to do all they can, it can feel that it isn’t enough…that our needs are not being met. The more people try to help the more demanding we can become because we believe no-one understands where we are coming from or what we are going through. Depression turns us in on ourselves; our only focus becomes a selfish one and we begin to see the world as a self-serving place.

However, this doesn’t just apply to mental health issues, the focus on self isn’t a modern-day phenomenon, from the beginning of time humankind’s core problem is the need to seek a self-focused life. Our modern-day solution says get in touch with your inner self, be kind to self, we are encouraged to reinforce self.

Depression isn’t something that only affects the sufferer it also has a significant impact on our family and friends who can struggle to know how to help or even know what kind of help is needed.

It is difficult for family and friends to find the right balance to help those with depression especially if they have never come across anyone with this illness before.  Sometimes we can encourage the sufferer to feel self-pity through our desire to see them cured, we can over empathise or even try and blame their circumstances however this often only serves to reinforce that they are alone in their problem without the prospect of a permanent solution. This is because the sufferer looks for everyone else to be their rescuer and each time it doesn’t work they sink further into the darkness of hopelessness.

For me I learnt that it was my focus on self that stopped me from being objective about the decisions I made before and during the illness.  My whole life I had been self-focused, obsessed with finding someone to love me, someone to take notice. I was one of seven children and never wanted to share my parents I always wanted to be their number 1. The depression only served to highlight this obsession with self; this need for significance wasn’t sustainable, something needed to change. My emotions couldn’t cope with the pressure of my own expectations so I ended up shutting down altogether not trusting that there was a way out of the darkness.

Serving self

Our focus on self traps us in an endless cycle of serving self which motives us to have our needs met by anyone and everyone we meet.  The bible teaches us that our dependency and trust on anything other than God is sinful, the focus on self is the source of all sin.

In fact the bible takes it a step further and demonstrates to us that the emotion that holds us in our sin and traps us is pride.  Pride is an interesting word we either consider it as a positive thing ‘to be proud of our or other’s achievements’ or relate it to people who see themselves better than others, however there is another side to pride for us to consider which is much more subtle than that.  Today, there is a lot of focus on low self-esteem which, shows up in our feelings of inadequacy, this only serves to pursue a focus on self. We are encouraged to find ourselves and seek others do what we need them to do or be what we need them to be, we strive to have our needs met and become angry or have fits of rage when we can’t get our own way, which is only pride in disguise. Feelings of self-pity or a victim mentality ‘it always happens to me’ has its source in pride. Lust – the pursuit of more has its source in pride and self-gratification.

1 John 2:16 ‘For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world’. (NIV).

It seems the world is a bit of a merry-go-round without a solution to our core problem. What has God got to say about sin, what is our maker’s solution?

John 3:16 ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. (NIV)

We need to be rescued, we need a Saviour.

Jesus is our only hope because he was the one who willingly gave up his own life that we might live. Jesus gave himself as a payment of our sin not because he had to but because he chose to.  Jesus humbled himself, made himself lower than anyone else to pay the debt of our pride.  But why was a payment necessary, why did Jesus do what he did?

Not only does the focus on self, result in modern day illnesses and feelings of meaninglessness but it separates us from our maker, from our Creator God who created us to be in relationship with him. This is the process that God describes in Genesis 1-3 the incredible provision and beauty of God’s creation to mankind’s ability not only to destroy God’s best for them but worse to seek equality or autonomy from God.

Jesus provided a way for us to be rescued from ourselves, from the pride of arrogance, pride of self-preservation, pride of self-gratification, from the desire to rule our own lives to the life transforming moment of trusting that God loves us so that we can live a life learning of God’s best for us. Jesus tells us that this is called being born again, a new life.

A new start

This is the source of all hope, for all people. That Jesus promises us a new beginning.

Those of us who have suffered from mental health issues are at an advantage to many in the world because we know that the world’s solutions are filled with emptiness, nothing in this world really resolves the hurting heart, the seeking of significance, or the need of rescue. That is why the words of the bible are applicable for all today because at the heart of man we haven’t changed in thousands of years, we still think we are the focus, we think that the universe exists for our benefit, we think that others in the world are there to meet our needs.

God provides us with a permanent solution to our sin, one that not only deals with today but with our eternal future. Humility is the result of facing up to the sin we have committed against God, when we accept what Jesus has done for us while realising it was necessary for him to do it, we then gain a heart of humility so that we can begin to desire Jesus’ solution for our problems.

Have you considered what is God’s best for you?  Is it that second helping of roast dinner, is it to win that argument, is it to accumulate more and more?  It really helped me to take a stock check of my life, I made a list of all that ‘makes me happy’, how I spent my time, what activities did I engage in to cheer myself up.  Then I considered ‘is this God’s best for me’?

When we learn to trust Jesus, he turns us away from self and he gives us a new focus.  We begin to look to Him for all our needs.  The bible calls this repentance. We can begin a new life with a new purpose; in the book of Philippians Chapter 2 verses 3-11 we are given a picture of what that new life looks like in comparison to the old way of doing things:

‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father’. (NIV)

One size fits all

I have always hated trying on clothes.  Sizes vary so much from place to place, in one shop you can be an 18 and in the next shop you are a size 20 to have anything that fits.  I don’t know about you but I like to go into a shop, choose something I like the look of, pick it in my size and buy it.  However this isn’t always possible in the clothing department of many of the shops we visit.

Since the age of 13 I have felt overweight, I weighed 9.5 stone and hated what I looked like.  I would never wear clothes that would show any stomach, I always wore t-shirts or blouses that went over the top of my skirts or trousers or I would wear a jumper so that no one would suspect how fat I was; there is even photographic evidence of me wearing a jacket in the Summer and I remember the feeling of not wanting to go out unless I was covered up.

It’s difficult to piece together all the ways in which I convinced myself that I was overweight, back then obese wasn’t a term used but in my mind’s eye that’s exactly how I saw myself. Looking back over old photographs I came to realise that I wasn’t fat I was just a different shape to other people.

Today it is considered a fact that we come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are apple shape, some pear and some banana. (The scientific terms are endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph).  Whether we are concerned with which item in the fruit bowl is more reflective of our shape it is certainly true that our bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

That is why in some shops we can be a size 16 and in others a size 18 because the clothes haven’t been designed with our differing shapes in mind.  When we desperately want to be that smaller size and we know we have lost some weight, we anticipate the acceptance a smaller size will bring us then to have that hope dashed when we can’t even squeeze into the next size up. The American system has taken the shape factor into account, for each of the sizes you can get a small, medium or a large.  This is a much more realistic and practical approach to buying clothes, customers can actually buy something to wear based on what will fit and what suits their body shape rather than squeeze into something that feels uncomfortable; it then becomes a much more practical purchase rather than an emotional one.

One diet fits all

The same can be said of the dieting industry. We see the success of dieting displayed on TV and in our magazines, the hope and promise of a thinner life; a certain diet has proven to be the answer for the lifelong struggle to lose weight.  So, we buy into it, invest our time and money, holding onto the vision of the success of another.  Why didn’t it work? What’s wrong with me? Am I just set up to fail every time? Maybe I haven’t found the right diet! So, we try the next one and the next one only to continue the merry-go-round of futility.  We ultimately conclude that we must be the problem, we must have done something wrong if it works for all those other people.

Maybe there is something else we should factor into the equation; maybe dieting doesn’t work for many of us because our problem is one of the heart.  Dieting doesn’t deal with the inner turmoil of needing to fit in or the feelings of inadequacy. Dieting doesn’t address the relationship with food and the need to overeat.  We have all had different life experiences, different upbringings, we all have different viewpoints of how this world works or doesn’t work, dieting doesn’t take any of this into consideration.

Measuring up

I am sure many of you share in the humiliation of standing on the scale and realising you gained weight rather than the loss you were hoping for, this major disappointment, for me, always resulted in overeating to fill the gap of inadequacy. Or the simplistic idea that all you must do to lose weight is eat less calories and exercise more.  This advice only works if you don’t have a relationship with food, if you don’t have a dependency on the food to provide you with emotional stability.

The diet industry is left wanting because it doesn’t deal with each of us as individuals, it deals with us as a mass of fat and offers the promise that this will melt away if you do what you are told.  However this approach only serves to reinforce our belief system; that we have no power over our lives and that we are failures anyway so why bother trying.

So why is God’s approach different, what has God got to say about our struggle with overeating anyway, isn’t it a modern phenomenon?

Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made….

God created each one of us to be unique, to differ from one another; we have different finger prints, different DNA, different races.   So why do we spend so much time drooling over magazines and imagine ourselves as the supermodel with the super figure; we were never meant to be the same.  In fact our differences is what makes us the same, we are all human, we all had the same creator, however it is our differences that shouts out that our God is creative and imaginative.

It’s about perspective

In Psalm 139 we see how much time and thought went into our creation, we see that God knitted us together in our Mother’s womb. In Luke 12:7 Jesus told the disciples that each of the hairs on our head have been numbered. Jesus goes on in Luke 13 to explain that he desires to gather up all his children as a mother hen gathers her chicks.

This is God’s starting point that he loves the whole world and wants to be in relationship with his creation.

Instead of allowing society to dictate who you are or who you should be let us consider God’s perspective; consider the loving way in which you were created, consider how much love it took to mould your body into being.

Don’t limit ‘you’ into being the same as everyone else; celebrate your uniqueness by turning to the God who knows you best.

The next time you look in a mirror ask God to show you how He sees you and one day you too will be able to join in with the praise of the Psalmist.

Getting to the heart of the matter

However God also knows our heart, he knows that we have all fallen short of his glory, he knows that without his intervention that we will never measure up to the only standard that matters. This is why dieting doesn’t work because deep down we know we are a failure, deep down we are aware there is something that needs fixing we just don’t know what it is.  So we keep looking for the solution in the world, we exercise more, we buy into the latest food craze or we give up altogether and use the very thing that is killing us to make us feel better.

What a mixed-up world we live in however this is not a place of despair in fact the very realisation that we need fixing but we can’t fix ourselves is the very place we need to be; to recognise that we need someone to intervene.  We need someone who not only understands our heart condition but someone who can do something about it.

Romans 3:21 – 26 explains to us both the problem and the perfect solution ‘But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus’. (NIV)

The solution to our heart problem is Jesus himself, Jesus who willingly came to earth to rescue us from ourselves; the sinful nature that so easy entangles us into sin.  God’s standard is the standard of righteousness, in other words to be made right with God.  This is at the core of our heart problem, we can only be made right not through what we try to achieve ourselves but by faith in Jesus.  By accepting that Jesus both knows our condition but is also the solution to the problem then we begin to find hope; hope that there is more to life than constantly seeking a freedom that seems to elude us.

Hebrews 12:1-3 ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’.(NIV)

By accepting Jesus as the means to being right with God we begin to see that we can also live right for him.  We have the opportunity to put off the sin, put off the desire to overeat, to put off the self-satisfaction we find from eating the 3rd bar of chocolate or to put off the desire for perfection.

Romans 3:23 tells us that we have all sinned and have all fallen short of the glory of God.  No matter what our upbringing, no matter what our learned behaviours, even if we consider ourselves a success or a failure one day we need to realise that Jesus is the only fit that we need.

Jesus is the ‘one size fits all’ solution because he deals with us as unique individuals.  Ultimately what our heart is seeking is a relationship with Jesus, this is the gap that needs filling in our heart.  Until we give our hearts to Jesus we will continue to wander aimlessly seeking the solution that the world offers but can never fulfil.

But as the writer of the book of Hebrews says we do not grow weary or lose heart because Jesus is the source of what we need, the solution to who we were, who we are and who we are to become.

What’s in a name?


Last time we considered who God says he is, I wonder how many of us scrolled through the scriptures to find out?

Maybe you thought it really doesn’t matter that much or you thought it was just a waste of your time and energy!

When studying the bible, you get the impression that names are important to God, we see him giving people names and sometimes changing their names too. He even gives different names for himself at different times.  Why is this?  What can we learn from the names that God uses in the bible?

Let’s turn to the bible and see if we can unravel a bit of this mystery of why names are important to God and maybe should be important to us too.

In the first verse of the bible God introduces himself to us using the name Elohim in our modern-day translations it simply says ‘God’ however, in the Hebrew God’s first introduction to us is ‘Elohim’, it is not a singular name it has a plural meaning here we see God introduce us to the Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How can we come to this assumption because in Genesis Chapter 1:26 it says ‘Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ NIV.

God refers to himself as ‘us’ so we can deduce from these two references that God introduces himself in terms of a relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit therefore we now know that our existence stems from the purpose and means of a relationship.

Just this small amount of information demonstrates the plans God has for his creation and confirms that relationships are God’s ultimate purpose for us all; in fact, we were created out of a relationship for a relationship with God.  This truth is well worth pondering and considering how this can and should impact on our lives.

I don’t plan on unravelling every term God introduces himself as but I will continue with a couple more examples of the importance of names.

In Genesis 17:4 God changes Abram’s name to Abraham why, why would God change his name after all Abram is what he is called why is it important for God to change his name? The Hebrew meaning of Abram is ‘high father or exalted father’ however Abraham means ‘father of a multitude’ here God demonstrates Abraham’s change of status from being a promised father to the fulfilment of becoming the ‘father of a multitude’ God changed Abraham’s name as a fulfilment that God would carry through his promise to make him into a great nation.  This was also true for Sarai his wife her name originally meant ‘princess’ but by changing her name to Sarah God was declaring that she would become ‘mother of nations’.

Therefore, we see in the example of Abraham that God uses names to describe who the person is or will become.  The ultimate example of this is Jesus himself, God told Mary and Joseph that their baby must be called Jesus which means ‘God saves’ which is the promise to God’s creation that he plans to rescue them however further on in the New Testament he is referred to as ‘Christ Jesus’ this is a means to explain that he not only saves but was the promised ‘annointed’ one from God therefore fully explaining that Jesus has come from God to save /redeem his creation.

In Isaiah 9:6 we are told ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’. NIV

In Isaiah, we learn more about who Jesus is and what he came to do approximately 700 years before he did it; in this passage of the bible we see that Jesus takes on the image of the Godhead Father, Son and Holy Spirit he is a complete representative of all three aspects of God.  Jesus declares himself to be fully human and completely God therefore he is the only one who has the right to be called ‘The Christ’ because he is the only one who came from God to be fully human and was God therefore is also completely holy.  This demonstrates to us that he is the only one who has the both the weakness of flesh and power of holiness to take on the sin of the whole of creation, pay for the debt of our sin and have the ability to overcome death therefore showing us the way to eternal life.

Spend sometime reading through Isaiah and wonder at the detail God shares with us so that we can understand and respond to his purposes for our lives.

The greatest impact of Jesus’ name for me came a few years ago, when I was suffering from an emotional breakdown, life felt completely out of my control and I felt I was losing my mind.  Nothing made sense, my relationships were messy and my marriage seemed to be falling apart.

However, it was in the midst of this mess that Jesus challenged my thinking and challenged me to consider who He really was, not who I thought He was.  He showed me that I had been treating him as some sort of lucky charm turning to him when things were difficult but not fully giving my whole heart to him.  Over a period of a couple of months he showed me, through passages in the bible, that I was holding back my emotions from him and trying to present myself to him complete and in control.

The phrase ‘Do you believe I am who I say I am’ kept coming to my mind.  It took me awhile to turn to Jesus and say ‘OK then who do you say you are’ then the passage of Isaiah 9:6 kept repeating in my mind particularly ‘Wonderful Counsellor’ it was then that I realised that there was someone who could deal with my unruly, demanding emotions, Jesus himself.  He wanted me to stop expecting my husband or other people to be the solution to my demands expecting them to meet the needs that seemed to want to burst out of my heart.

Jesus himself wanted me to be honest with how I felt and in that declaration of honesty he showed me the healing I needed, he showed me that he was the only source that could provide me with emotional stability.  It took a lot of soul searching and a willingness to trust Jesus with every emotion going including; anger, bitterness, rage, jealousy the list seemed endless and painful. In time, he showed me the people I needed to forgive, those I needed to apologise to and those I needed to serve.

Today I can declare that I have emotional stability that I no longer demand my husband meets the needs I have, I no longer expect another human being to come along to solve my problems, my first port of call is Jesus himself; now I know what it is to make Jesus number one in my life and I am continually learning day by day how to do this.

This has resulted in an ability to trust others, to see their hurts and have a desire that others know Jesus the way I do, so they too can know of Jesus’ desire to care, ability to transform and provision for our eternal life.

The apostle Paul declared in 1 Timothy 1:15-17 ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen’.

Not that I am comparing myself with Paul’s standing with Jesus but I understand his motivation; that the reason I want others to know Jesus is that I know the power of Jesus’ forgiveness.

So what’s in a name? Our identity, the very essence of who we are.

One more bite!

Have you ever thought what life would be like if you could just have everything you wanted when you wanted it?

Worded like that it seems silly; to have everything we ever wanted, deep down we know to have everything we ever wanted doesn’t bring any sense of achievement or satisfaction. However, If we stop to consider what drives us we realise this is exactly what many of us pursue.

It has a real childish sound to it, doesn’t it?  We are quick to discipline our children when they demonstrate this kind of behaviour so why as adults do we have these same demands and expectations?

Some of you may be aware that there is an increasing obesity epidemic. Everywhere we go there are advertisements encouraging us to lose weight or join a gym.  In our schools our children are being taught about healthy eating and how too much sugar is bad for us. Health officials are even going round schools weighing our children and advising parents that their children are obese.  Governments around the world are investing huge amounts of money to encourage more people to lose weight as they believe this will save the country medical funds later down the line.

However, what if our focus is in the wrong place, what if our focus on healthy eating and exercise isn’t the starting point, what if our maker has already shown us the problem and has the solution available but we just can’t see it?

In the bible, we are made aware that our core problem is sin, what if the solution to the epidemic of obesity is recognising that we are sinners and are in need of a saviour?

Sounds too simplistic?

For 25 years I have been seeking Jesus solution for my addiction to overeating; the problem was I wasn’t ready for the answer that came back.

In the book of Colossians Chapter 3 verse 5 we read ‘ Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry’.

Here I came face to face with my problem; the source of my overeating was self-satisfaction in other words greed and the source of my greed was idolatry.  In other words food had become my God. How did this happen? How can I, a grown woman, be caught out like this and use food to medicate myself, use food to encourage myself, use food as a means of celebration, use food as a relationship replacement!

All these years of trying to lose weight, trying to exercise when I didn’t have the energy or the inclination, the lost years of trying to deal with internal issues by focusing on external solutions.

But this is what we do as human beings we try and fix the problem ourselves, we think if only I was size 10, if only I had more time to myself, if only people liked me……the list is endless.

The problem of my overeating was the age-old problem of sin and the only solution was to submit my whole life to the only one who could rescue me, the only one who knows me completely, the only one who willingly went to the cross to pay for my debt of sin.

Jesus Christ is our Saviour for a reason, because we needed him to be.


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