I prayed. I believed. I trusted. I hoped. And in the end, I was disappointed.
This December, like many before it, God’s response to my prayers is no. No, your son will not be home by Christmas. No, that baby in your womb will not live. No, that marriage will not survive. Dashed hopes and unfulfilled longings are familiar companions to my holiday celebrations. I know I am not alone. For many, this month will be as full of heartache as it is of joy. Deferred hope feels like coal under the tree, a confirmation that God has passed over you to shower His blessings on someone else this Christmas. But disappointment in December may actually be due to God’s kindness.
Are we giving food too much glory?
The Bible gives us the overarching concept that food is a symbol of a greater reality. Our need for daily sustenance, all the delightful flavors, the satisfaction of a full stomach after hunger are all pointing to Jesus, our Bread of Life, our Living Water, our New Wine, our fullness of joy and complete satisfaction.
There are two ways we can elevate the symbol above the Substance: celebrating the pleasure of food above Christ or celebrating the power of food above Christ. The former sees food as the ultimate satisfier and the latter sees food as the ultimate healer.
As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:1-2
Suffering produces an insatiable desire to blame. Surely there must be some reason why this poor man must suffer all his life without sight. We hunger and thirst for some impetus for it all.
Why are we so bent on finding fault? Partly because we hope to prevent future suffering by finding the cause. Just like you may avoid spicy food if it once gave you heartburn. Partly because if the sufferer is to blame, we can accept the hardship as a legitimate recompense to sin: “She deserved that,” or “I had it coming.” If someone else is to blame, we at least have someone to take our anger out on.
So how does Jesus answer the disciples inquiry about the cause of the blind man’s life of suffering?
Jesus doesn’t tell us of a world of needless suffering. There is a reason, but it is one that we have had no category for at all: suffering for the sake of the glory of God.
I can still feel the shame of being caught sneaking Oreos to my room as a kid. Though not the first time, it embarrassed me to know someone else had seen the grip food had on me. Over the years, I looked for ways to be alone in the kitchen to sneak more handfuls of goldfish or one more spoonful of Nutella. Gluttony became a familiar and unwelcome companion.
I assumed I just had bad habits that needed to be reformed, but God made it clear that I was an idolater who needed forgiveness, a slave to sin who needed a Liberator.
To choose a knowledge of food over a knowledge of the Word of God is a catastrophic mistake. It is tempting in a world full of the threat of cancer and new diseases or ailments to look to right eating choices to sustain us, but the Bible is very clear that is not the answer. God alone gives and sustains life. Knowing and obeying His word is far better for our health than the most researched, healthy and natural diet plan.
Whole Foods, a high end grocery store, printed this on their brown paper bags: “Buy Goods, Not Bads.” A follow up design stated: “Feed your better nature.” Whole Foods isn’t the first company to jump on the concept of food morality, of good and bad foods. Plenty of people are seeking to eradicate the bad foods and produce more of the good. Here’s the question: is the food bad or are we bad? Does bad food corrupt our bodies, or has our sin corrupt the food?
There are a lot of opinions from a lot of people on what we should eat, why we struggle with food, and how to fix it. While observing the trends in food issues, I started to ask myself the question: what does the Bible have to say about food.
The answer I found: surprisingly a lot!
This post contains link to many other articles in this series.
As my life ebbs and flows, so does my definition of success.No longer trying to ace my college exam, I’m fighting to stay on top of laundry. No longer trying to be a good Christian (aware that I can’t be good on my own), success equals dependency. But still, I live and die for success.
But in the landscape of success and failure, Psalm 27 gives me a new frame of reference.
How can you know if you are using the Bible to avoid Jesus? When it becomes a self-help manual instead of a platform to showcase your Redeemer. When the Bible produces to-do lists and not worship. When your Bible reading is devoid of prayer. Proper Bible reading first exposes sin, then offers a Savior. The Bible is a witness to the need for a Savior and the presentation of Jesus as that Savior.
When I consider the last decade of my life, I see a series of deaths:
Death of my pride through living in the shadow of my husband’s giftedness. Death of my fear of conflict through divorces in my family and among friends. Death of my fear of confrontation through difficult friendships. Death of my desires through multiple miscarriages. Death of my fear of failure through situations where I could not win. Death of my hope in myself through seeing my exposed sin in high-definition focus.
Each season of dying has felt just like that—dying. The choking out of something I have loved, desired, and clung to for hope, peace, and safety. The choking out of things in me, writhing, gasping for breath and praying, “Does it have to be this way? Can’t I follow You and also keep this with me? Does it really need to die?”
In God’s kingdom, pruning is caring. Jesus is the true vine, His Father the vinedresser. Every branch in Jesus that bears fruit, the Father prunes that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1–2).
God’s answer to my question is yes. Yes, it does need to die. It must be pruned. Without pruning, my life will become something even I don’t want—an overgrown, thorny bush with no fruit to offer.
I see in myself the need to flee not just from idle hands, but also an idle mind. As is true of many women, unless I’m sleeping, my mind is quite active. And if I do not give my mind a steady intake of good fuel to burn, I will often be burning whatever fuel I can find. The result? Lots of thoughts about aimless things.
Miscarriage is the membership card to a club you never asked to be in; a union of women sporting badges of infertility, stillbirth, miscarriage, and even abortion. Women who share your emotions, questions, crisis of faith, and isolation, women whose desire to be a parent has been abruptly interrupted by suffering. This post is an effort to encourage those who are grieving and to help friends and family members trying to help.
Jesus is a kill-joy. That’s right, the “happy God” (1 Tim. 1:11 ) of our salvation, who gives life to the full, intends for you not to be happy. Not to be happy, that is, in anything less than the best things.
Jesus is shocking in the way He exposes counterfeit happiness. In fact, His whole ministry turns our understanding of joy, satisfaction, and success upside down. The inaugural words of His first sermon are startling: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3, emphasis added).
The beginning of the book of Exodus is hard not to enjoy. With the burning bush, the Nile turning to blood, the dramatic exit through the Red Sea, what’s not to love? With so many big events, it’s easy to miss the details. Details like the fact that most of the main characters in the first two chapters are women. Each one of them acts in the interest of children, even when their own safety is threatened. Without these five women, Israel’s story of redemption doesn’t happen. Without these five women, Moses doesn’t survive the infanticide occurring in Egypt, and there is no leader to be God’s instrument of deliverance.
At the first snow of manna in Exodus 16, God introduces His people to a Sabbath day. Two-and-a-half months after leaving their former slave drivers, God’s people hear an odd command from their new Master—rest.
Though we might not be slaves, our present culture prizes productivity so highly that taking a day off also sounds absurd. “Maybe God meant take a rest from my normal work and do a different kind of work. I can’t just waste time.”
To be honest, this is exactly how I think. If making to-do lists was a viable hobby, it would be mine. I treat productivity like a sport, seeing if I can beat my previous record of tasks completed in one day. Sad but true.
I see my generation on the other side of their childhood dreams, entering their 30s somewhat disillusioned. For some working 9-to-5 jobs, the greatest success is keeping the bills paid and the boss happy. For many moms, the biggest accomplishment of the week is a clean kitchen and 15 minutes of Bible reading. Others did some “great” things for God right after college… 2 year mission trips, interning in a ministry, striving to hit it big as a [fill-in-the-blank-with-ministry-job], but seeing that work dwindle they are wondering what’s next. So much for changing the world for Jesus.
Spiritual gifts and noble desires sit on the shelf unused, itching to find an outlet to prove their effectiveness while whispers of what could have been hang in the air.
I want to pose a very important question. A question my soul needs answered every day. Does God want us to do something great for Him?
The amount of information available to us each day is overwhelming. While often helpful, the sheer amount of books, blogs, articles, and Pinterest ideas often clutter the only information that is truly life-giving: God’s Word. It’s a hard choice, to pick up your Bible, old and unchanging as it is, when a world of new and fresh info is being put out as fast as you can hit refresh. The continual presentation of new articles and information (just one click away) can suck you in for hours before you know what hit you.
Do you feel distant from God? Do you feel at odds with Him? Do you desire to draw closer to Him? There is one mediator between you and God. It’s not your favorite author. It’s not a book or Bible study. It’s not your pastor, your counselor, your friend, or your parents. For there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for all. Your pastor or friend or favorite blogger have not given themselves as a ransom for you. Only One person has done that… the man Jesus Christ.
Do you have loved ones who are far from God and hope to see them reconciled to Him? Does it seem like it’s all up to you? Like you’re the only one in their life speaking truth and pushing them to God? Remember, there is one mediator between God and men, and it’s not you. You have no power to reconcile others to God. The best you can do is point to the man Jesus Christ who gave Himself as a ransom for all.
Most stages today aren’t like the ones in your old high school auditorium. A stage can be anything that creates an audience for you. Twitter and Instagram, blogs and YouTube channels, websites and books are all forms of stages. Through these online avenues, you can now create your own audience with little to no risk at all. You don’t have to stare people in the eyes from your stage. It can be a stage on your own terms.
In addition to the easy access to a stage, our culture celebrates audience building. Wowed by those who’ve made it to the top, many long to join the ranks of those vloggers and bloggers with millions of followers. But for those who follow the Jesus who taught us that true greatness is servanthood (Mark 10:43–45), is it ever okay to pursue a stage? To promote a blog? To write a book? To seek out new followers? If the stage is so dangerous for our hearts, how do we view platforms we might already have?
Being left out will always be a litmus test for pride. As soon as you realize you didn’t get the invite, you aren’t in the inner circle, or you are on the outside, one of two responses happen.
The first is the most common: hurt, disappointment, and/or anger. Under those surface feelings are deep roots of entitlement (a.k.a. pride). A feeling that you deserve to be included or that you have merited inclusion. Or that you are owed the opportunity to be included, assuming that it’s the fair thing to do. But our God isn’t fair, mercifully so (read more about that here). We live under grace and that changes the game.
To boil it down, being included is about being honored. Like the kids picked first for the kickball team, being chosen for any group is position of honor. No one wants to be last on the team, or worst of all, not picked at all. We want the places of honor.