God can use EVEN ME…


“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1 v 27)
I read this verse the other day and it felt like it held a profound truth…something I that I needed to get but was just teetering on the edge of grasping… Well, it only took me about 5 months!
Last Sunday, it suddenly hit me what it actually meant to be a daughter of God (that only took me 40+ years to fully grasp!!) You see, I knew it in my head but only last week did that revelation travel down to my heart. Ever been in that place where you know a truth in your head but your heart doesn’t quite trust it?! I think that’s often what faith is about. Hence the need to trust the head over the heart!! But when that ‘head knowledge’ suddenly becomes ‘heart knowledge’, there’s something quite amazing about that experience. Anyway, my understanding might be flawed here, but it did lead me to this particular insight which I felt was quite important to share…
Why I think it took me so long to ‘feel’ in my heart the truth about being God’s daughter was because I was still comparing myself to others (and still doing so, I’m afraid. I’m not there yet but hopefully I’m heading more in the right direction!!). And in comparing myself, I felt pretty useless and inadequate, as one does! So God figured ‘enough is enough!’ and intervened! Anyway, as a result of that ‘heart-felt’ revelation, I felt challenged to see that mind-set that ‘God can use even me’ as flawed.
Now I know why we have that mind-set, why we think like that. It’s because we don’t want anyone to feel disqualified to be used by God. We say, “Look, God can use even me. I don’t have any qualifications, no status, no money, no job, no talents, etc, etc… But God still uses me.” We take that verse that talks about God “using the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” and make it about comparison. Which is wrong. Because I don’t think God ever meant that statement to be used to compare us. I think He wanted us to realise that the ‘things of the world’ do not determine who He chooses to use. I think He wanted us to stop comparing ourselves and focus on fulfilling His plans and purposes for our lives. Which brings me to my next point…
When God created me and you, from our very inception, He created us to be loved by Him and for a specific plan and purpose to be used by Him. Right from the word ‘go’, God has had a plan and purpose in mind for us. Not just for when we get saved. It’s been there from the time we were conceived, from the day He created us. It just takes us 10…20…30…40+ years to work it out sometimes. There’s a bumper sticker that I remember from when I was younger that said “God don’t make no junk!” And it’s true! He didn’t mess up when he first created us and then figure He’d just fix us up when we got saved. No! We were made with a perfect plan and purpose right from the beginning! You see when we think that God can use even me, then we actually prevent ourselves from seeing our full potential and we prevent ourselves from seeing the potential in others. Comparison is the most effective tool that Satan likes to use to bring disunity and ineffectiveness into the church. Because comparison can stop us from walking fully into the plans and purposes that God created us for…because we don’t see ourselves as capable…because we don’t see someone else as capable…
So, in conclusion, I think that’s the truth or revelation I was meant to grasp from that verse in Genesis. It’s not about whether God can use even me; it’s about the fact that because I’m made in His image of course He’s going to use me! Because that’s what He’s created me for…
(PS I ended up writing this rambling at some unearthly hour…my husband’s snoring woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep! So if my thoughts are perhaps not as clear as they seemed in my head, I apologise!)

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Character in crisis


 

God’s been talking to me about the concept of “Immanuel”, ‘God with us’, lately. I initially thought it was just about the fact that He never leaves us, that He’s with us through our tough times, there to support and encourage us. But I’ve come to realise that it’s been about more than that. It’s been about transformation – character transformation.

 

A song I’ve enjoyed listening to called “Starlight” talks about there being ‘no space between’ God and I, about God being ‘closer than the very oxygen we’re breathing in’, that ‘we breathe [Him] in’. And I’ve realised that when God with us, when we are that close to Him, what it means is that He then has the opportunity to transform us into the person He created us to be. Unfortunately, life can tend to fill the space between God and ourselves and we tend to find it easier to breathe in the noise of the world rather than the Spirit of God. And I confess that’s where I’ve been at lately. My thoughts and attitudes have been influenced by what has been said and done around me all too readily until I was pulled up short the other day….

 

An event involving my boys occurred and I felt as strongly as those around me that my boys should not have to participate. After all, it’s just before their exams and they’re in Matric and that should be the priority. And I don’t think the sentiment in itself is wrong. But I came to realise…with my husband’s help, and I thank God that he’s parenting alongside me (!), that the issue at stake here wasn’t my boys’ academic achievement. It was their character.

 

As parents, we’ve been given the responsibility of moulding our children’s character to the best of our ability. That’s the main thing that God has entrusted with us. Not their academic ability, not their sporting ability, not even their talents and gifts. We’re responsible for moulding their character because at the end of the day, THAT is what God wants to mould and transform in us. The rest is secondary and should be used merely as a means to this end. Their abilities are NOT the end; their character is. So a hard decision had to be made. A choice that involved showing respect for someone in authority, regardless of how poor their decision making was; a choice to push through when you’ve committed to something regardless of the convenience and cost to self. And it was hard for my boys to do this but I admire them for their obedience and show of respect to my husband and me. I admire them because they will probably be mocked for this decision; others will not understand what has actually been at stake here. But the outcome (I pray!) is that something within my boys’ character will have been formed. Something that will help them make the right decision rather than the popular one; something that will encourage them to push through and persevere through the tough times; something that will make them focus not just on their own needs but those of others too; something that will lead them to the point where they are prepared to sacrifice in order to be obedient to God rather than give into their own desires.

 

And I believe my boys are already showing these qualities. They have been teaching me through their various life experiences over the last year or so. They seem to have learnt important lessons that I have only managed to grasp in my later years. And I thank God for that because we can hope we have control over our children’s lives but at the end of the day, they make their own decisions. We have to trust God to keep them close to Him. We have to trust God in this whole character transformation process because we can try to train our children in a godly way, but they may still choose to do the wrong thing.

 

And just on that point of our children doing the wrong thing despite our (hopefully!) godly input … I watched a video clip in which Beth Moore was asking if we have guts as parents. Do we have the guts to ask God to intervene when our children are making the wrong choices, when they are not listening to us, when they are rebelling and going off on the wrong path? Do we have the guts to give God ‘carte blanche’ to act in our children’s lives when it might mean hurting our children, just so that they will walk out into the plans and purposes that He’s created them for? Do we have the guts to see our children suffer so that they can fulfil God’s calling on their lives? Some hard questions….and I’ll get back to you on that!

 

So parenting is hard. Our responsibility is great and the choices we have to make sometimes may not be the popular ones…with our children or those around us. However, we still need to “train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov 22 v 6). And that verse should encourage us as we look forward to the day when our children reap a rich inheritance, one based on eternal values and truths. So stay strong, pray hard and know that God is with you and your children, closer than the air you breathe, to help you all through the parenting/character transforming process.

 

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8 v 16, 17)

 


Immanuel – God with us


Catch the Wind Old for New For the OYou Came (Lazarus) [Litarlight      There’s No Other I wanted to share this song that I’ve been listening to lately:

Starlight

You’re like starlight in the dark
Endless miles can’t conceal You
Every glimmer is a spark
Catching fire as You break through


Oh, You’re not far away
You come in close
Oh, even as I wait
You come in close


You’re like summer in the night
The sun goes down but still I feel You
Every shadow’s turning bright
Every broken heart is made new


There’s no heart unseen
There’s no space between
You and I, You and I
You are closer than
The very oxygen
I’m breathing in
I breathe You in
You are God with us,
You are here with us,
Immanuel, Immanuel
You are infinite Your glory as no end
Jesus, Jesus

 

(Bethel Music)

 

I especially enjoy the last verse. I think that’s how it’s meant to be, how God wants our relationship with Him to be. However, stress, worry, day-to-day frustrations, disappointments, anger, impatience, hurts….I could go on and on(!)…get in between God and ourselves. So, although we want to trust and believe that He is here with us, we struggle to really accept it. Too much of ‘life’ gets in the way and letting go of life can be a challenge!

 

Well, I don’t have any answers on how to get it right. I know it’s about renewing your mind; I know it’s about spending time reading the Word; I know it’s about praying; I know about obedience; I know it’s about ‘taking on the armour of God’; I know all about the ‘tools’ that one must use to draw closer to God. And yet I’m human….a very fallible, weak-willed, prone-to-failure human. But I also know I want this. I want to be so close to God that “I’m breathing Him in”! I want the stuff of life to count less so that there is “no space between” God and me. I want this and while I know that I may not fully experience that closeness this side of eternity, I will continue to look for it, to desire it, to yearn for it. Until one day, “what [I] see as a dim reflection as in a mirror; then [I] shall see face to face….” (1 Cor 13 v 12).

 


Hope


“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated;….” (Isaiah 61 v 1- 4)

 

This is an amazing passage of hope and I would encourage you to read the whole chapter….which I did in church last week to the dismay of some folk I think!!! I just felt the congregation needed to hear the whole passage. And funnily enough most of what I wanted to share after reading the chapter, I forgot to! Better to simply let God speak at times…However, I’m going to give my two…or twenty (!) cents worth in this rambling today!

 

The first thing that struck me about this passage was that it was, as I mentioned, a wonderful passage of hope. Isaiah shared this hope that God was offering to the Israelites all those many years ago, and God offers this same hope to us today. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. And I think that this is something that our country needs to hear and know right now, with all the turmoil and unsettling issues that seem to have arisen over the last year or so. I think people are fearful and angry and don’t know what to expect. (In fact, I think the whole world has experiencing this of late….there is a ‘shaking up’ of things…’kingdoms are falling’).

 

The thing is I don’t believe this hope that God is offering has as much to do with ‘physical’ changes or transformation. I feel it has to do with internal, heart changes, to do with people’s lives transforming because they repent and turn to God. This hope that God offers is not going to come from the rand increasing in value or the government changing, etc. These are only temporary changes and will eventually ‘turn to dust’ anyway. The hope is going to come from people turning to Him. The sinfulness of man won’t stop until people’s hearts change. The broken-hearted aren’t going to be healed by giving them money…they need to experience God’s unconditional love and acceptance; the captives won’t be set free by giving them societal or political recognition and status…they need to have the chains of self-loathing and lack of purpose that exist in their minds broken; and the prisoners won’t be released from darkness by being physically set free…they need to understand their identity in Christ and see that their lives count, no matter where they find themselves and no matter what they’ve done. Only God can bring about such changes and renew the hope lost in people’s lives. And this is because God addresses the problem from ‘within’, the root cause of all the brokenness and destruction we see about us. We tend to try and treat the symptoms first.

 

(Please note that I’m not saying we must sit back and do nothing. We have a responsibility to try and bring about physical change where we can. But too often, if there’s no transformation taking place within a person, the external input tends to have a less of an impact. It’s always better when people are motivated from within themselves to improve their situation rather than just receiving handouts…)

 

So when we look and reach out for this hope that God offers us, we need to take care not to be looking for it in the wrong places. We need to take care to not focus so much on the external, physical changes … not that God can’t bring about change in those areas. I just think God doesn’t prioritise the temporary things of this world because they don’t last. Perhaps this also explains why sometimes He chooses not to heal even though He is fully able to…

 

In Isaiah it talks about being clothed in ‘garments of salvation’ and a ‘robe of righteousness’ (v 10) … God’s want us to ‘come home’ to Him, to spend eternity with Him. That’s His priority. That’s the hope He offers. And to conclude, be encouraged by the last verse in Isaiah:

 

“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seed to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” (v 11)

 

 

 


Made in the image of …


(I appreciate that this may just be my issue (!) but perhaps there are those who would benefit and be encouraged by what I have to say in this rambling….)

‘Beauty is skin deep’. This is our mantra. Often we don’t realise it or don’t want to accept it, especially as Christians where we shouldn’t be ‘judging a book by its cover’, but it is. And I think that this is perhaps something that we, as women, are more caught up in because I have yet to meet a woman who is content in herself…who is happy with how she looks or weighs at any particular moment. Slim women obsess over that ‘roll’ that just won’t shift, beautiful women obsess over those wrinkles that are getting harder and harder to disguise or those greys that seem to be growing out quicker and quicker! And yet when God talks about creating us in His image I think it has very little to do with our outer appearance….

Why are we so obsessed with what we look like? Why do we always seem to be striving to ‘look’ better, younger, buffer, slimmer….? Why does so much of our self-esteem seem to lie in our appearance? I think it’s perhaps because it’s something we feel we can control….well some of us!! Some of us just give up because the mountain seems too high to climb, the goal too far to reach…although it still doesn’t stop us from obsessing about what we look like! Perhaps it’s because it’s something measurable, something we can see improve…unlike our hearts and attitudes which seem to trip us up over and over….Perhaps it’s because we find it easier to hear the loud voices of the world speaking rather than the still, small voice of God…Perhaps it’s because deep down we believe we’ll only be accepted and acceptable if we fit into that box, that dress…one size fits all! Perhaps it’s because we equate equality with uniformity and conformity rather than uniqueness and individuality….?

Whatever our reason for our dissatisfaction in how we look, the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter!! Our outer appearance is fading away; in fact, it wasn’t made to last. The ‘image’ that God is focused on is what’s inside…..that intangible, often immeasurable, character-based quality! That part of us we can ignore as long as we’re focusing on what’s on the outside….because changing that part of us requires dying to self, requires laying down our wants and even our needs at times, requires seeing ourselves through very different eyes….

Yet that’s the part God wants to transform. Yes, God wants us to look after the vessel (body) He’s given us but only in as far as it serves the purpose of being used to reach the lost. I think we’d be surprised by how ugly Jesus looked  according to our ‘worldly’ standards….But making Jesus look good wasn’t the way that God chose to win people’s hearts….That’s how Satan, the ‘angel of light’ would have worked. People followed Jesus because of what was inside Him, because they could ‘see’ His love for them in how He treated them, in His acceptance of them.

How we ‘see’ people and ourselves needs to become less focused on the external. Our priorities need to change to desiring transformation of our hearts and attitudes rather than of our physical bodies. We need to stop focusing on the temporary and focus more on the eternal. Because, one day, it just won’t matter.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1 v 27)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4 v 16 – 18)


So who’s responsible for my happiness?


Well, the short answer is: you are.

It seems like such an obvious response and yet how often do we, consciously or sub-consciously, hold others responsible for our happiness? Our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends, our bosses, our church leaders, our colleagues, etc, etc….

And why do we hold others responsible? I think  because it’s hard to hold ourselves personally accountable as that usually requires that we do something about it!!! It’s easier to blame others rather than take a closer look at ourselves and acknowledge our own culpability in a situation. And even if we’re not to blame for the way things have turned out for us, we are still responsible for our reactions or responses to those situations and to those people involved, and for our ensuing actions. No one else can control our minds and how we perceive things. At an educational conference I attended last year, the speaker encouraged us to teach the children that we work with to understand that they are the C.E.O.s of their brains. I’m in charge …. of my attitudes, of my motivation, of my thinking. And that is how some people who experience the most atrocious, abusive, destructive situations are able to survive and to overcome their pasts. Because they make a mental decision not to let those experiences define them or how their lives should continue. We are in charge of how we are affected by what’s happening around us.

However, at times when we’re tired and weary, stressed and stretched, it’s hard to feel in charge of our thinking, of our happiness. We don’t have the capacity and that is the truth. As humans, we reach our limits; we run out of grace and capacity to deal with difficult situations and draining (to us) people; we have melt-downs and go ‘out of whack’; we get broken. So how do we embrace this particular truth when we are feeling like this?

Well, as Christians, I think the first thing is to acknowledge you’re not alone. God is by your side, whether it feels like it or not. And He often brings people into our lives who are able to help us through those difficult situations; we just need to look for them. And on this point, sometimes that ‘human’ assistance may not come from the one who you’d expect or even want it to come from. God brings all sorts of people across our paths to help us….so take care not to be so blinkered or narrow-minded in your vision that you miss the person He’s sent to help you in your time of need, just because they’re not who you want them to be!! The reality is that sometimes our good friends may be going through their own hard stuff at the same time as we’re going through ours and, just like us, don’t have the capacity to give support.

Secondly, we need to learn to identify when to set boundaries, when to say no. No-one else can do that for you (and people are not mind-readers so they can’t do this for you!!)….because you are the C.E.O. of your brain! You need to know your limits and be strong (because it does require a lot of strength at times) enough to say no or at least set those boundaries. This particular action is hardest for those of us who are people-pleasers and whose self-worth is defined by how others view us. The thing is, if we don’t learn how to do this, we will end up stressed and burnt out, a condition we might have been able to avoid had we been able to define our boundaries and say no when we should have.

Thirdly, you need to understand what fills your tank, how you get refreshed. For some it’s spending time with friends/people; for others it’s escaping people!! For some it’s visiting the same familiar place each year; for others it’s exploring new places. For some it’s staying in one place, reading a book for hours on end; for others it’s keeping on the move, experiencing new adventures all the time. For some it’s a combination of all the above! But the point is to be able to identify what fills and what drains you and to have the wisdom and strength to take the appropriate action to help you to be able to embrace the fact that you are responsible for your happiness.

And finally, we need to remember that we are all flawed human beings … “all fall short of the glory of God”… and try not judge each other so harshly. I think that if we are able to truly embrace the fact that no-one else is responsible for our own happiness and, in the same way, realise that we are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness, we will, by default, end up being a lot happier!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4v 16 – 18) 

 


Just a seed….


A single seed
Left on the ground
To be blown away
Or eaten

A single seed
Trampled on
Covered by soil
Left to die

A single seed
Waiting for rain
Seeking the Son
Finding purpose

A single seed
Becomes many
Buried but not forgotten
Now alive to spread hope…

“They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds” (Mexican Proverb)

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12 v 24, 25)


The Snowflake Generation


“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Heb 12 v 5)

My sons were talking the other day about this concept of the ‘snowflake generation’. It refers to the fact that we seem to be bringing up children so used to getting their own way, that whenever a child does meet resistance to their will, they crumble or throw a tantrum. We are producing ‘fragile’ children who are so protected from the harsh realities of life, including the consequences of their actions, that they are unable to handle even a difference of opinion without taking offence. They seem incapable of thinking beyond themselves and of considering others. I think therefore it must be!! A generation that would rather control others than love them….

However, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ because let’s be honest, no-one likes to be told what to do! And while in the past we may have controlled ourselves better when our views were challenged or learned to respect those who disciplined us, deep down our hearts still rebelled against it. Because let’s be honest, we don’t enjoy being told we’re wrong; we still resist it and tend to then lash out and blame and accuse others (which is usually the person who is telling us of our failing!) We may be happy to admit our failings on our own terms or admit the failings we feel ready to recognise and accept…But challenge us in an area which we’ve yet to accept as a failing, or we’re a bit sensitive about, then the offence and rebellion sets in!! We all have those ‘snowflake’ tendencies, I’m afraid….even the most mature of us! The more mature just tend to accept the correction and move on a lot quicker than the less mature of us! (I won’t tell you which I am!!!)

Also, sometimes, we like to wear our failings and weaknesses like a ‘badge of honour’, proudly confessing them to others. However, just the act of confessing them over and over again, doesn’t exempt us from actually dealing with them. God doesn’t want us to remain in that state. He wants us to move on and experience victory…even if we do continue to fall down every now and again. But growth needs to take place and we need to become stronger and more able to deal with that weakness….which doesn’t mean it will become easier to handle. That ‘thorn in the flesh’ will remain painful….and God does have a tendency to keep throwing us into situations where we have to deal with that particular thorn…so that we may ‘learn the secret of being content in any and every situation….’(Phil 4 v 12).

I don’t know about you, but I get a bit tired of having to deal with my particular thorns over and over again!! I start to feel a bit like one of those fragile ‘snowflakes’ myself!! So I must say I did feel encouraged by the part of the verse above which says ‘do not lose heart’. And then further on in Hebrews 12, it says this:

“….but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 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.” (Heb 12 v 10, 11).

So here’s to working towards sharing in God’s holiness and producing harvests of righteousness and peace! I am glad that Paul acknowledges that the discipline is ‘not pleasant but painful at the time’!! We don’t have to ‘enjoy’ it! But I do believe that, one day, we will be able to endure it better. Not because it gets easier, but because our perspectives will have changed, i.e. we won’t perceive discipline as a negative thing but rather as an opportunity to work towards a positive end result (= righteousness and peace). I’m still learning this and I need to constantly remind myself to take on this positive perspective (especially during those times when I’m tired and stressed!). But God does encourage us to ‘renew our minds daily’ and the fact that I have to keep reminding myself is obviously the reason why! However, our God ‘will finish the work he started’. He doesn’t give up on us, so neither should we…even if it means we’re barely hanging on by a fingernail!! So let’s pray for each other and one day, we’ll have completed this race and will receive our prize, a reward of eternal value.


Hope Deferred


“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13 v 12)

I have experienced this over the years, still experience it, and it does make your heart sick. Disappointments and unmet expectations are never easy to deal with and it takes me a lot of self chastisement to pull me out of my self pity wallow….and too often I prefer to just remain there. Especially if I’m feeling insecure. Especially if I’m tired. Especially if I’m stressed. The problem is wallowing in self depreciation doesn’t ever make me feel better. Maybe I get to vent a bit but I’m still unhappy….

Then yesterday I felt God nudging me with a question….

“What if you’re putting your hope in the wrong thing?”

And it pulled me up short. Because God has actually been challenging me all along this year about placing value on things that are temporary, especially with regards to my children’s achievements. Things like academic achievements, sporting awards, status or positional recognition, and general appreciation of who they (or me!) are. And the thing is that none of those things last. They will ‘become dust’ one day. School is only a fraction of their lives and a very small fraction really. But even when they leave school all those things I’ve mentioned should not be what I’m placing value on…because ‘they are the things of this world’ and will not last. They’re not the things that God places value on….just look at some the people He’s used to do His work and you’ll realise God first priority is to use people who are obedient and available….the rest of the ‘qualifications’ are of secondary importance….if at all! So that’s what’s God’s been challenging me on lately which, while I know the truth of it, is still hard to embrace fully. Part of me still wants that ‘happy fairytale ending’ where those who never seem to get the recognition, get it in the end….

So God obviously felt He needed to drive the point home a bit further….hence the above question! I mean it’s one thing to have hope deferred when your hope is in eternal, Godly things but if one’s putting one’s hope in the temporary things of this world, how much worse is it?! You see, what I think happens that God does give us dreams and purpose…He has created us for those things after all. But what we tend to do is rely on the things of this world to work out those dreams and purposes. We rely on man and man-made systems for opportunities rather than God himself….and of course, we get disappointed because man and his systems are flawed….

So how do we put our trust first in God in realising those dreams and purposes in our lives? Well, we keep our eyes peeled for any opportunities that God may be providing; we don’t just focus on the obvious directions that we’d like to follow because the path that God may be taking us down may not be the ‘pretty, sparkling’ path we desire. It may be a far rougher, unglamorous path but it will be towards where the greatest need for us to work into is. And that’s what is all about…furthering God’s kingdom and reaching the lost. And the glory and power will go to Him, the One who makes all things beautiful in his time…..


In Pursuit of HEALTH and Happiness….


The banting diet and cross-fit exercise programme (and it was boot camp not too long ago!) have become popular trends at the moment. There was even a joke about it that I read the other day…..A vegetarian (replace with ‘Banter’!) and a cross-fit follower walk into a bar. How do you know? Because they tell you!! Mmm, it does seem as if everyone is either banting or doing cross-fit these days!!

Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t specifically have a problem with either of these things. It’s good to try and eat healthily and it’s good to exercise. My concern is when people choose to follow a diet (‘eating programme’) because they just want to lose weight rather than be healthy. Let’s face it, our bodies do not all function the same way and I’ll share an example from my life. The other day I discovered that my seratonin (the ‘happy’ chemical in our body) levels were very low….explained why I was feeling so terrible and overwhelmed at the time! Anyway, in order to raise my seratonin levels, I need to eat carbohydrates because carbs produce a substance that gets changed into seratonin. In addition, I shouldn’t eat protein with my carbs too often because the protein blocks the substance released by the carbs to produce seratonin. I can have a meal with carbs and protein but, as a rule, I should eat my carbs separate from my protein and not too much protein at that. So for me to follow an eating programme such as banting, I would actually cause more harm than good to myself. I may lose weight but my seratonin levels would remain low and so I wouldn’t be able to be happy about losing the weight anyway!!!

My other concern is when I hear stories about people pushing themselves so hard during their exercise routine that they bring up. In a society where we are having to deal with teens (some as young as 12 years old) suffering from eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, I have to question why people would push themselves to the point of making themselves ill…..all in the name of fitness. Really?! Surely if you are bringing up, it is in fact your body’s way of telling you that you’ve over-extended yourself. Besides, we’re not competing for the Olympics or participating in “Survivor”!! I think the problem is that we may have given these things in our lives too much importance. “We have become too preoccupied with chasing health and happiness that we no longer pursue holiness.” (Oswald Chambers)

You see, just like money, wanting to be healthy and fit are not wrong in themselves. It’s when they become our primary focus or preoccupation, that they become a problem. And we’ve got to ask ourselves what is God more interested in: our outward appearance or our heart attitude? I confess I have given way too many hours to obsessing about my weight. I’m hopeless at sticking to a diet but I like to exercise. In the past that helped me maintain a reasonable weight. But now, as I age and my metabolism slows to a grinding halt, I have picked up weight and the exercise does not seem able to shift it at all!! The thing is even when I was a reasonable weight, I still wanted to be thinner. Now I’d give anything to be that weight again!!! It’s like chasing the wind….! And defining my self-worth by my appearance only leads to more disappointment and disillusion. I will never be satisfied. Like anything temporary that we try to define ourselves by (education, sporting skill, artistic talent, status and wealth, to name a few), we will never find satisfaction. It’s all just chasing the wind….
God ‘has set eternity in the hearts of men’. That means we were created for eternity and our focus should not be ‘on the things of this world’; they should be on our eternal hope and on our identity in Christ….the things that will last. Our bodies will one day return to dust but what’s been developed and transformed inside of us will continue on into eternity. So let’s rather try and become more preoccupied with pursuing holiness, rather than health and happiness. After all, the benefits are ‘out of this world’!!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day….so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4 v 16 – 18)


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