Jesus Came to Make Dead People Live

deadI have previously shared that I am enrolled as a student in Divinity School. In one of the lectures, the speaker said something so simple and yet so profound that I have been mulling this over for days:

Jesus Christ did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.”

I do not know who to attribute the original quote to. This was tweeted by Ravi Zacharias, but a version of this quote is also included in a newsletter for the C.S. Lewis Institute in an article written by Thomas A. Tarrants, III. Regardless of who originally said it, it’s brilliant, and I am grateful to have heard it because this quote succinctly encapsulates the Christian faith.

I am always disturbed when I hear someone assume that my walk with God is about my efforts to “be good.” Believe me – I have no illusions about my “goodness.” Nothing within me is “good” apart from God. I know where I have been and what I have done. I know that by God’s standards, I am a murderer. While I have never taken a physical life, I have repeatedly relished envisioning torturing and murdering my abusers in such sick and twisted ways that it’s a wonder even God could forgive such evil … and yet He has!

Not only do I know what I have thought and done, but I also know my complete inability to be able to overcome my deep-seated drive to be “bad” – to be selfish, play God by judging others, and inflict my will on everyone around me. This drive of “badness” comes as naturally as breathing. While I might look sweet and innocent on the outside, there’s nothing sweet and innocent on the inside beyond what God has redeemed.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace’s head sticking out of the ground in front of a tombstone that says, “I’m Dead.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Reflecting on the Value of the Detour

ready_for_takeoffContinued from here .

I am wrapping up a series based on Tony Evans’ sermon series on detours. I have been on a detour for a couple of years and sensed in my spirit that this season is coming to an end 8 months ago. I don’t know why God revealed this to me back in November while I am still sitting in the pit of this detour, but I have learned a lot that I would like to share.

When I reflect upon my character over the past 8 months as well as the past few years, I see many changes that will likely better equip me to do what God has called me to do. I have learned that God is faithful and quite able to equip me to experience joy, peace, and contentment while in a season of waiting in a pit. This lesson has not come easily. I have learned that I am 100% dependent upon God in every aspect of my life, even the little things. The more I cling to God, the more joy and peace I experience. Conversely, the more I try to power through on my own strength, the more miserable I become.

I have learned how to be sincerely happy and grateful as I help others get out the same pit that I am still stuck in. I could have spent this time mired in bitterness and driven by envy, but God has shaped my character so that my love for others outweighs my temptation to envy them. I do not question whether God loves them more than me. I can truly celebrate with those who celebrate without making their successes about my “failures.” In a society filled with comparisons, developing this characteristic is truly a gift.

In a broader sense, God has taught me how not to make my interactions with other people be about me. God has given me compassion and empathy that I did not have before. When people in the same pit share their own woes, I am no longer tempted to commiserate. Instead, my focus is on what they need. One gift I can give them is my faith – my deep-seated trust that even in the same pit, I know my God is faithful and will deliver me in His timing. My confidence encourages their confidence as we both shift our focus from our pits to our God.

As I see the light at the end of the tunnel approaching, I am viewing this life detour in a different way. This detour was never about punishment and condemnation. This has been God’s way of doing construction on my character so when I reach my destination, I will be the “mighty warrior” equipped to do God’s will in a way that never would have been possible without the detour.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace waving out an airplane window saying, “Ready for takeoff.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Finding Hope in Detours

helpContinued from here.

When I reached the part of Tony Evans’ sermon series on detours that addressed how to know that we are reaching the end of our detour, I cried through much of it because it explained what was going on my life that I found particularly frustrating. I found myself helping other people out of their pits while still being stuck in my own. The dynamic was similar to Joseph’s plight, where he wanted out of prison, helped someone else get out of prison, and stayed stuck in the same prison for two more years, wondering what the heck??

This got me thinking about something I learned from Tony Evans as well as from Joyce Meyer, which is the concept of giving to others what you want for yourself. For example, if I need financial provision, I need to give money to help others in needs. If I need a friend, I need to give friendship to others who need a friend. Joseph needed to get out of prison, so he planted the seeds for what he needed by helping someone else get out of prison. Without sharing the specific details of the pit I have been trying to get out of for 8 months, I have planted many seeds by helping others get out of the same pit.

I confess it’s frustrating to still be in this pit when I have helped so many other people get out of theirs. The temptation of envy is a shiny object, seeking to lure me into its snare, but I refuse to go there. I thank God for His provision for every single person I have helped get out of the same pit, and I am truly happy and praise God for the deliverance He has brought them. I also continue to help as many people as I can get out of their pits, not out of a selfish desire to sow my own seeds but out of sincere caring for them. I know how painful this pit is for me, so I want to help others get out as I can.

Continued here.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sinking in quicksand and yelling, “Help!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Why Does God Send Us on Detours?

whyContinued from here.

I learned a lot through Tony Evans’ sermon series on detours that I am pondering as my detour finally appears to be coming to an end. The obvious question is why God sends us on detours in the first place. If God wants me doing X, then why not make X happen immediately?

I find it interesting that we, in our microwave society, expect that God must do everything now. If He places a vision on our hearts but our lives unfold in a different direction, we assume we misunderstood God, worry that He is punishing us, or try using our own efforts to get to X right away.

However, that’s not the biblical pattern. Abraham waited many years for his promised son. David waited many years for his promised throne. Moses waited many years before leading his people out of slavery. The Bible is filled with the pattern of receiving the vision followed by waiting that seem to bring us farther away from the destiny before it comes to fruition.

Why does God use this pattern? Per Evans, the waiting period is a “detour” in which you are “under construction.” In other words, God has “construction” to do in your character before you will be ready to fulfill the purpose that God has planned for you.

Just as Gideon was no warrior when God’s angel addressed him as “mighty warrior,” I did not have the character traits God needed to fulfill His purpose when he gave me the vision of where He is leading me. Since He placed a vision on my heart, I have been over the river, through the woods, and every other direction you can think of other than in the direction of that vision … or so it appears from the outside. From the inside, however, God has been refining me—chiseling away parts of my character that don’t align with what He has called me to do while building other parts that I will need to serve Him well.

Continued here.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Joseph’s Detour

im_waitingContinued from here .

The foundational scripture Evans used to explain the concept of detours was the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. God revealed to Joseph through a dream that he would be elevated above his brothers, so they sold him into slavery. Joseph prospered as a slave but was imprisoned for something he did not do, ironically because he refused to do something wrong. Joseph helped someone get out of prison, which was what he wanted for himself, and hoped that favor would be repaid, but it wasn’t. However, two years later, God moved, and when He moved, HE MOVED! Not only was Joseph released from prison, but he became second in command in Egypt. God used Joseph to save the people from a severe family and reconciled him with is family. Joseph was able to look back on the detours of his life and say to his brothers,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” ~ Gen. 50:20

Nothing in Joseph’s life made sense as he was living it. God told him that he would be elevated above his brothers, but then his life got worse and worse: sold into slavery, imprisoned for doing the right thing, left behind as he gave someone else what he himself wanted…This took place over a number of years, and he must have been ready to pull his hair out wondering how God could have promised elevation but instead allowed him to be thrown into deeper and deeper pits. And yet, the Bible records no complaining. While I am sure Joseph had his moments of despair, he chose to be a blessing to others, no matter how deep his pit became.

Evans calls this dynamic a detour … when God tells you the end, but the path to the end is so circuitous that you question whether you could have possibly heard God correctly. I have been on such a detour for a couple of years now, but I sense my detour is finally (blessedly!) coming to an end, which is leading me to ponder this concept of detours to share with you.

Continued here.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hand on her hip and an hourglass saying, “I’m Waiting.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

God’s Detours in our Lives

Tony Evans gave a sermon series on his book, Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny, which I found very helpful for my present season of life. To make a long story short, one area of my life has been gradually growing worse for a couple of years. It took a nosedive a year ago and then a second nosedive in November. At that point, I sensed God’s direction that “it’s time to move on.” Believe me, I was beyond ready to move on!

Since then, though, God has opened no doors for me to actually move on. In February, this situation nosedived into another dimension, causing me to question whether I could continue on this path. I was frustrated because I knew God was telling me it was time to move on, and yet He left me in the same situation that grew significantly worse in February. A possible “out” came along around the same time but did not pan out, and I was very confused as to why. Then, God brought me Tony Evans’ Detours sermon series, which helped me understand what God was doing. While I was still neck deep in a bad situation, I was reassured that God was with me, that I had not misunderstood God’s leading, and that God really was working, even though I could not see it.

All I will share in this series is my own personal application of what I learned through Evan’s sermon series. If you are on a divine detour and want to understand what’s going on, I encourage you to read Evans’ book because he does a much better job than I can explaining what God is doing. This can help you not feel abandoned in your current detour and build your trust that God truly is in control, knows what He is doing, and has something wonderful planned for you.

Continued here.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cover of Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny. Courtesy Amazon.]

Loving Your Body

valentine_leapContinued from here.

The bottom line is that we need to love our bodies because God created them. Love is not a feeling; it’s a choice. I choose to love my body every time I exercise it, feed it healthy foods, and rest it (both with sleep and downtime while awake).

Another way I choose to love my body is by thinking positive thoughts about it. Back when I hated my body, I was ultra-critical of it, staying focused on its flaws. I thought this body part was “too big” while another body part was “too small.” I sent a constant flow of negative energy into my body through my thoughts about my body.

Today, I thank God for my body exactly as it is. While I am not particularly enjoying the physical adjustments that my body is making as it moves toward menopause, my body is transforming as God designed it. Billions of women’s bodies have transitioned through the menopause process, and my body will do so as well. I confess that I look forward to the day when the hot flashes will stop disrupting my sleep, but they come in handy in the winter when I’m cold!

Ultimately, you are the one who chooses what you think. If that were not the case, Paul would not have told us to hold every thought captive to Christ. Why admonish us to do something that is out of our control? If you have had body image issues for a long time, then your default setting is likely allowing a stream of negative thoughts to run through your head completely unchallenged. It’s time to put a stop to this.

I recommend writing down scriptures on index cards that you can read aloud (and preferably memorize) whenever you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about your body. I have provided links to several applicable Bible verses in this series that you can use. Stop passively allowing yourself to flood your mind and body with negativity. Instead, choose to agree with God that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, making is sacred and of great worth.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace jumping in the air next to a valentine. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Your Body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit

treadmillContinued from here.

I love the physical building of my local church. While I know the Church is made up of people, we meet in a particular building, and I have deep affection for that building because that is what houses the Body the Christ. As I walk through the doors, I sense the manifest presence of God.

Because my local church’s physical building is dedicated to the service of the Living God, I care that it is properly maintained. I’m a minimalist by nature, so I’m not looking for ornamentation like I saw at the Vatican. We don’t have gold-plated molding or sophisticated stained glass windows at my church. However, our church building is clean, well-maintained, and organized. I believe that our congregation honors God by doing whatever is necessary to keep the building in good physical shape.

The same concept applies to our physical bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit. Just as I would not allow my local church’s physical building to fall into disrepair, I am mindful of taking good care of my physical body as God’s temple.

For example, God created my body to need 8 hours of sleep each night, so I routinely go to bed 8 hours before I need to awaken. I don’t stay up late to get more done, awaken after 5 or 6 hours of sleep, and then drink 4 cups of coffee or energy drinks to keep my body functioning after depriving it of needed sleep. Just as I respect the needs of my local church’s physical building, I respect the needs of my physical body.

Another example is being mindful of what I eat to fuel my body. While I enjoy the taste of French fries more than the taste of carrots, God created my body to be fueled by nutritional foods. Primarily eating foods with no nutritional value dishonors God’s temple. That’s not to say that we cannot eat a slice of birthday cake from time to time, but if we want to honor God with our bodies, then we need to respect the needs of our bodies by primarily fueling them with healthy foods.

A third example is exercise. For God to use my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit to reach a broken world, my body needs to be able to do so physically. If I never exercise my body, it will break down and create a barrier to going where God calls me to go and doing what God calls me to do.

See what I mean about God getting into our business?

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running on a treadmill. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

World’s Influence on Body Image

limoContinued from here.

As I mentioned at the end of my last blog entry, someone doesn’t have to have an eating disorder to struggle with body image issues. Society is set up so that most women fall short of the “ideal” woman, causing them to view their bodies as “less than” or “not good enough.” Far too many women want the proportions of a Barbie doll, but check out this article about how a woman with those proportions could not even walk!

Magazine covers show women who are already physically beautiful, and yet even they are airbrushed to give the impression of an ideal that does not actually exist. Check out these before and after photos of various celebrities. And don’t even get me started on the teeth whitening of actors and actresses on screen.

And then there’s the limited shelf life of a beautiful woman. We are all supposed to stay between the ages of 18 and 25 for the rest of our lives, which is (obviously) a physical impossibility. Many celebrities undergo plastic surgery to try to stay looking that young, resulting in all sorts of distortions, including a perpetually surprised look in their eyebrows (which have been plucked out and then penciled back in) on a younger looking face atop an older looking neck.

As beloved children of God, we cannot allow the world to define what beauty is. You were made in God’s image, which means you are beautiful just the way you are! You do not need to conform to the World’s impossible standard of beauty to have value and worth. If God wanted you to be taller, shorter, etc., He would have made you that way. God created you to be unique. Out of all the people who have ever existed in any time period since the history of world, nobody has ever looked exactly like you, and that’s a wonderful testament how uniquely God sees you. He does not want you to look like Barbie: He loves your body exactly the way it is.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace walking the red carpet by a limo. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Body Image Issues

upside_downIf you have been walking with God for a while, you have likely already noticed that God gets into your business. A relationship with God is not just about your spirituality, although that is certainly an important part of it. God is not only interested in spending eternity with you: He also wants to make you victorious in every area of your life on this earth.

One of my areas of defeat for decades was my body image. I hated my body. The cause of that hatred was the child abuse I suffered, particularly the rapes. While the physical act of rape only lasted for a brief period of time, the emotional fallout of the rapes left deep emotional wounds that plagued me for decades. Because my body was the door providing access to my deeply wounded soul and psyche, I rejected my body.

Just as my deep emotional wounds were inflicted through my body, temporary relief also came through my body in the form of an eating disorder. Whenever I binged on large quantities of particular foods, such as a bag of chips or a half-gallon of ice cream, the physical act of “stuffing down” food resulted in temporary emotional numbing as I “stuffed down” the pain.

Of course, when you overeat by thousands of calories, you are going gain weight … a lot of weight. The world is not kind to fat teenagers, so I was ashamed of my overweight body and would diet by restricting calories rather than by developing healthy eating patterns and eating healthy foods. I would lose weight, but then the emotional pain would become so intense that I would binge eat again … and then binge eat again to “stuff down” the shame of having no willpower … and this cycle continued for decades, fueling my hatred of my body.

Considering we were made in God’s image, God does not want us hating our bodies as I did. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we dishonor God when we hate them. However, simply knowing this won’t make you magically love your body, so I’d like to share my own journey in the hopes of leading anyone with body image issues to freedom in this area. Because God healed me, I know He can heal you as well!

I previously wrote a series on eating disorders, which can be helpful for other types of addictions. However, this series focuses specifically on body image, which is an issue for many people (particularly women) even without an eating disorder.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace flipping upside down. Courtesy Bitmoji.]