Google Analytics

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Chapter 2 {Self Control in a Culture of Self Indulgence} by Julia Rogers

Chapter 2

Self Control in a Culture of Self Indulgence

            “I don’t want you in my life anymore.  I don’t need you.  I thought you would make me happy, but all you’ve done is cause me pain. It’s over!”
            I spoke these words to a package of chocolate chip cookies at 10:00 one night after the kids were all in bed.  It’s a good thing that God saw fit to make me tall because in a matter of 2.5 years, I had managed to put on 30 pounds.  But even my 5’ 9” frame couldn’t hide the extra lbs. any longer.
            And what was even worse than my clothes fitting tighter was the fact that my health was starting to go down.  I already dealt with the pain of a bad back with a curved spine and the extra pounds increased the pain that I constantly felt.  Plus, the gestational diabetes that I developed while pregnant with our last baby never went away completely, so my love for everything carb ridden made even my pinky fingers swell up. 
            This wasn’t just an issue of being unhappy with my waistline. I’ve been a Christian long enough and attended enough women’s bible studies to know that “beauty is fleeting” and that “what’s on the inside matters most.”  No, this issue was affecting more than my waistline.  I knew that if I didn’t put an end to indulging eating habits, then my overall health was going to take a turn for the worse.   I was on the brink of over loading my circuit with self-indulgence, and I was paying the price.  I had been filling on up food instead of Christ. My threshold had reached its limit and I knew that something had to be done.   Otherwise, it was going to be more than just the buttons on my pants that were going to blow!  This indulgence of mine was negatively affecting me in everyway, which is what always happens when we turn to other things besides God to fill us up. 
            I knew that if I were going to be successful in doing this, it would have to be a lifestyle change.  I already had the knowledge and even experience in eating the right way for my body.  Developing gestational diabetes with my third pregnancy ended up being a blessing in disguise because I had to learn how to eat healthy.  With my two previous pregnancies, I gained over forty pounds.  When I was diagnosed during my third pregnancy, I started eating correctly and only gained 20 pounds.  After delivering an almost ten pound baby, most of the weight was gone. 
            But over the course of 2.5 years, my eating habit slowly shifted back to what I knew wasn’t good for me.  I had the knowledge, why couldn’t I just do it?  Where was my self-control? 
            I began to think really hard about it.  Why is it so hard to deny myself the indulgence of something like food?  After thinking on it, I quickly realized that while it is a sin nature thing, it is also a cultural thing.  Here in America, our motto seems to be:  “if it feels good to your body, why deny yourself?” This is called Physical Hedonism.  It means that physical pleasures are desired more strongly than spiritual joy. 
            When I don’t guard my heart against the indulgence of physical pleasures, my desires shift from God to myself.  And when I become self-absorbed and focused on appeasing my own desires, I become full of myself and my awareness of God’s Sprit within me diminishes. I begin filling up on things that God never intended me to fill up on. 
            So I broke up with the cookies and determined in my mind to treat my body as I should rightly treat the temple of God.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 became my mantra: 
            Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body. (ESV)

            Maybe, your issue isn’t with food.  Perhaps you have awesome self-control in that area.  (If so, we need to talk).  In what area do you struggle with self-indulgence?  Shopping? Lust? Laziness?  A combination of these things?
            Whatever area it may be, this truth will apply:  The way you use your body and the way you take care of your body should communicate that the glory of Christ is all-satisfying. 
            As Christians we should strive to free ourselves from all enslavements, whether to food or drink or lust or laziness or work.  Filling up on things that leave us empty in the end, is so dangerous.  The persistent refusal to say no to an enslaving habit runs the risk of hardening our conscience so that we no longer feel guilty for that enslavement.  And then others become easier to justify and before we know it, the whole biblical concept of spiritual warfare, vigilance, self-denial and self-control drops out of our life.

            When I am struggling to exercise self control in an area of my life, this quote that my father-in-law once used in a sermon comes to mind:  “Sin takes you further than you ever wanted to go, keeps you longer than you ever wanted to stay, and takes more than you ever wanted to give.”
            When I first started to over-indulge with food, it’s not something that happened over night.  I was in a vulnerable state with three small kids, we lived in a secluded area where ministry was really hard, and I didn’t have any close friends or family nearby.  I was close to depression and my lack of sleep at night from an infant, a toddler, and a child on the autism spectrum left it extremely hard to have a daily quiet time. I’m sure the devil saw it as open season on my soul.  I was in the perfect, weakened place ready to indulge in whatever would fill me up momentarily.  I didn’t have to search very far.  All I had to do was walk a few steps to the kitchen pantry.  Fortunately, I’ve always enjoyed exercising so that helped cover up my over-indulgence for a little while but there’s only so much exercise that a girl can do before that nightly pint of ice cream starts showing up in the hips!
            So there I was, 2.5 years later and 30 lbs. heavier.  My sin had definitely taken me further than I ever wanted to go.  How did I develop self-control in this area?

Take Every Thought Captive
            I am not a psychologist.  Let me just throw that out there.  However, I’ve had to deal with enough of my own craziness to recognize this: Thoughts influence feelings and feelings lead to action. 

            When trying to overcome any sin in our life, its imperative that we consider what thoughts have been running rampant through our minds, whether they are feelings of loss, loneliness, jealousy, fear, lust, pride, etc.  The transformation of Lucifer the angel to Satan the devil is the perfect example of loss of self control which all started when sinful, violent and prideful thoughts entered his mind.  These thoughts turned into rebellious feelings, which he then acted upon. Let’s take a look at Isaiah 14:12-15:
             “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.”

            Most of the time, when I found myself reaching for that pint of ice cream, I wasn’t even hungry.   It was always after a long day of juggling three small children and trying to balance that with church ministry. Y’all, mommy guilt is real.  There is so much pressure to be “super mom” in today’s culture and I fell victim to this unattainable goal.  I constantly fought thoughts ranging from the “I’m not _____” to the “I’m too____”.  In my mind I was not enough and too much all at the same time.  (still working on this!)  When thoughts like these crossed my mind, I began to feel inadequate, worthless, and like a failure.  I didn’t deal with these feelings.  I pushed them to the side and did the only thing that seemed logical at the time.  I ate my sorrows away.  Or so I thought.  Turns out the sorrows didn’t really go away.  They just relocated…to my hips.  This is what it looks like in equation form:

“I’m not____”= “I’m worthless”= eat a pint of ice cream to make me feel better

            Even though I can look back now with a little light heartedness, I never want to forget how miserable my thought life was making me.   I knew that if I were going to overcome my lack of self-control when it came to food, I was going to have to start by taking a good, hard look at my thought life. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that we are to take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:5) How can we take this command and apply it to our incorrect or sinful thoughts, that we may obey Christ and have joy in Him? We submit everything we think — all of our ideas, all of our worldview, all of our viewpoints to God — and we say, “God, let your Word dismantle me if necessary.”  We have to be in the Word and use it to sift out the worldly views that we hold.  We also need to ask the Holy Spirit to work, because Paul said we don’t fight with mere human fleshly arguments. Christ in us is power. 

Replace Negative Thoughts with Biblical Truths
            Not only is it imperative that we take our thought life captive, but we also have to replace the negative thoughts running rampant through our mind with biblical truths.  Whatever habitual sin or struggle that you may be dealing with, whether it be over indulgence in food, alcohol, drugs, smoking, shopping, stealing, lust, etc., it’s likely that these things are triggered by something.  My over-indulgence of food was triggered by stress from an accumulation of things.  When the stress began to overwhelm me, my negative thought life consumed me.  Stress is sometimes out of my control, but the way I respond to it is within my control.  So when I started feeling down on myself and beating myself up, I began to reach for my bible instead of ice cream.  When thoughts of failure crossed my mind, I constantly reminded myself that I am a daughter of Christ.  I poured over scripture that reminded me just how precious I am to God….that He chose me…that He died for me…that He knows how many hairs are on my head…He knows my quirks….He knows my flaws and failures and the dark places I try to hide.  He knows the regrets I have and the mistakes I have made.  He knows my ups and downs.  As His daughter, I have a safe place to turn to when life feels overwhelming.  He is my security and my sanctuary, even on my worst days.  He is strong and dependable and He will never leave me.  His love is perfect…more whole and complete than any spouse….more persistent and passionate than can  ever be found in any relationship….
………And way better than ice cream!!!!


            So where does self-control come in?  Everywhere.  Self Control ties in with all the other fruits.  If we truly desire to live a life full of the Spirit, we need to develop the habit of self-control in all areas:

1.     It takes self-control to show true Godly love instead of lust and infatuation—to love others not as the world loves, but as Christ loved us. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)
2.     It takes self-control to have Godly joy when we are facing a difficult situation in life.
3.     It takes self-control to get along with others and make peace instead of constantly getting into conflict. “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).
4.     It takes self-control to patiently bear with others rather than quickly condemning them.  It’s very hard to be “patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
5.     It takes self-control to not automatically look out only for yourself but kindly look out for other people (Philippians 2:4).
6.     It takes self-control to do good, to go through the narrow gate toward life rather than the evil, wide gate toward destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).
7.     It takes self-control to be faithful and not have our faith shattered by the mocking of scoffers (2 Peter 3:3-4).
8.     It takes self-control to be a gentle servant of the Lord (2 Timothy 2:24), showing compassion and mercy with real love as God does with us.

    Self-control is really hard because our flesh does not like to be denied anything.  However, God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us.  Galatians 5:16 says:  “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” 

    Whatever fleshly desire we struggle with, we need to pray for wisdom and power to make the right choice when we are tempted.  We need power beyond what we can find on our own.  We need to be in the Word with the intention of putting into practice what we read.  The Holy Spirit will direct us in knowing how to do this if we only ask. 

Fill Up on Christ

            God created our souls to crave Him.  However, we spend so much time, energy and resources trying to fill a void that only He can fill.  Filling up on something other than God diminishes our commitment and will make us feel increasingly distant from Him.  What area(s) in your own life lack self-control?  What worldly things are you filling up on instead of Christ?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Living Full {Chapter 1} by Julia Rogers

Living Full by Julia Rogers
            Throughout scripture, the love of God for His people is declared over and over again.  Not only is His love for us proclaimed, but His love was made manifest on the cross of Calvary.  No greater love has ever been known, nor will any act of love ever compare. 
            We know this.  We sing about His great love.  We teach about it in Sunday School.  We hear our pastors rightly boast of this amazing love.  Yet, how often do we find ourselves living outside of the realization of God’s love and the fullness of His Holy Spirit? 
            As born-again believers, we have been equipped with the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the fruit He bears within us:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23)  These qualities will become more prevalent within us as we submit ourselves to God’s sanctifying power.
            However, many of us are not living with full awareness of the Holy Spirit within us.  We suppress and we grieve the Holy Spirit when we let our sin nature rule over us or we let the circumstances of a fallen world beat us down. 
             It is my desire that this book will help us recognize this vicious cycle, guard against it and learn how to live full on a consistent basis. 
In Christ,
Julia Rogers

Chapter 1: Circuit Overload
            Everyone and everything has a threshold; a physical, mental, structural limit or a combination of these things that can be withstood before breaking or blowing.
            My kitchen breaker exceeds its electrical threshold almost every morning. My sleepy crusted eyes open to the dreaded sound of my annoying alarm.  I may hit snooze a few times.  The crick in my neck tells of the curly headed toddler who made her way into my bed during the night.  I say a quick prayer of thanks that my alarm didn’t wake the sleeping cherub.  My early years of playing the game Twister come to mind as I twist my body into weird angles as I maneuver out of bed so as to not wake little miss and her daddy.  I blindly make my way down the hallway, and stub my toe on the table that I promise you, keeps moving during the night.  For the love- I need my coffee!!
            I pour some milk in a coffee cup and proceed to heat it in the microwave before I froth it.  And that is when it happens.  I sometimes forget that I can’t have the microwave, espresso machine, and desk lamp all on at the same time or the breaker will blow.  You would think that I would know this after two years of renting this house.  But no- it still happens quite frequently, I’m afraid. 
            On the mornings that I am disciplined and resist the oh-so-tempting snooze button, the sun has not yet kissed the horizon.  If that happens to be on a morning that I blow the breaker, I have to go into our backyard in the dark to flip the breaker switch.  I pray the whole time that God would protect me from the spider webs, snakes, and the possum that lives in our backyard.  I flip the switch and all is well again.  I can have my beloved espresso. 

           And so goes my life.  I’m trekking along, surrounded by the knowledge of God’s love and feeling it deep down in my heart and soul.  I’m passing it on to others and I’m aware of the Spirit’s power within me. But then somewhere along the way, I let my guard down.  I allow things in that suppress the fullness of God’s love and His Sprit.  Sometimes, the general circumstances of living in a fallen world leave me depleted and I lose focus on God’s power within me.  My threshold becomes weak.   Before long, my circuit experiences overload and I blow.

Turn Some Things Off
            What do I do when this happens?  In the same way that I have to turn off my desk lamp to reduce the electrical load, I have to take a look at my life and determine what is causing my circuit to overload and turn it off. 
            Often or not, it’s more than one thing that needs to be turned off.  Sin is like that isn’t it?  Sin feeds off of sin.  Once we let one sin take up residence in our souls, sin’s mother, father and brother are soon to follow.  The more we let in, the harder it is to put a stop to it.  We form emotional and physical bonds to our sin.   Even when we recognize and discern its power to destroy us, we have a hard time kicking it to the curb.  How do we guard against this?

Do Not Underestimate the Enemy

Take a moment to read 1 Peter 5:8-10 (ESV):

            “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

            The first thing we me must acknowledge when seeking to overcome our sin, is that we will not ever fully overcome it while alive on earth.  But that doesn’t mean that we should raise our white flag of surrender.  We have all been given a mission by God while we have air in our lungs to be kingdom advancers.  And that is why we must absolutely wage war against the enemy who loves nothing more than to distract us from our God given calling. 
            What we perceive to be going on in our world around us is only part of the story.  There is a spiritual dimension that exerts powerful and direct influence on us.  The apostle Paul describes it this way:

            “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  (Ephesians 6:12)(ESV)

            Satan knows our weaknesses and how to tempt us.  He knows exactly which fruit to dangle in front of our face.  He knows how to disguise it as something good.  But even good things are sinful if we accept and seek after them in disobedience to God.  I know this all too well. 
            Jordan and I were just babies in the ministry and had only been married for two short years when we bought our first home.  We had just moved to a new town, our firstborn had just turned one, and we were pregnant with our second son. We were so ready to have a place of our own and to be settled that we jumped into a house that seemed really good at the time.  We didn’t pray much about it or even really think too hard about the decision.  We just saw it as good and jumped.  We lived in that home for 9 short months before we had to move again.  We spent over two years trying to sell it before we went through the excruciating process of applying for a short sale.  We finally sold it, but we had to wait another two years for the short sale to come off of our record before we could begin looking for another home to buy.  So you see, chasing after something just because it is good, can leave you with very bad consequences. 
            Sometimes the consequences are not as obvious as my experience stated above, but large or small, sin always has this effect:  We let it in and it has to compete with God for our love, relationship, and devotion.   Sin overloads our circuit.  It creeps in and we distance ourselves from God. We stop living with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We stop living fully aware of the Holy Spirit within us. 

Strengthen my Threshold
            Obviously, there are things in this life that are not always brought on by our own individual sins necessarily, but are a result of living in a fallen world.  In a sense, Adam’s sin is also our sin and we have to deal with the consequences daily.  And the consequence of a fallen world means that bad things happen that we have no control over.  No matter how strong of a Christian we are, we will be affected by tragedy and misfortune.  We will talk about this more in a later chapter, but it’s never too soon to start strengthening our threshold to be able to withstand such travesties in this life.
            The only way to strengthen our threshold is to look to the Creator of strength.  Dig deep into His Word, which is the Sword of the Spirit.  Having strength also means being able to defend against our enemies, so take up your sword. Meditate on it day and night.  Doing so, will guard against the very sins that overload your circuit and will strengthen your threshold to withstand the travesties of living in a fallen world. 

Self Reflection and Group Discussion:

1.     Generally speaking, what sins do you think American Christians most struggle with? What sins in your own life are you letting overload your circuit? 
2.     How many of these things seem like “good” things but aren’t exactly reaping “good” benefits? 
3.     What can you do to guard against the things that overload your circuit?
4.     Have you ever gone through motions of the Christian walk but not really felt a deep connection with God? How did you get to that place?  How did you come out of it?
5.     How often do you find yourself “performing” instead of really living a life sold out for Christ? How do you stop the performance?
6.     Read Galatians 5:22-23.  When you read about the fruits of the spirit, how do you compare?  Which of the fruits do you recognize as your stronger areas? Which are your weakest? 
7.     How can you strengthen your threshold to withstand the travesties of living in a fallen world?
8.     How much time do you spend in God’s word, the source of your strength?

9.     How much time do you spend in prayer?