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Indulgence is Not a Worthy ‘Reward’

22 Jul

Ethel Mae woke up in the middle of the night and decided to get a drink of water. 

But on the way to the refrigerator, she passed the candy dish and grabbed a butterscotch candy. Then on the way to the cupboard for a glass, she opened the snack drawer and grabbed a Hostess Twinkie. Then she took her glass over to the refrigerator to get some chilled water and stopped off at the cookie jar for some peanut butter cookiesFinally, she picked up the pitcher and poured herself some water. And grabbed the leftover pie on the top shelf before she shut the refrigerator door.

After munching on her treats, she headed back to bed and crawled under the covers; but she accidentally woke up her husband, Harry, who said he felt thirsty. 

“I’ll get it!” Ethel Mae said … getting up with a big smile. 

I can’t say I’ve had a middle-of-the-night food binge like that, but when I went on a food program to get healthy and lose weight, I soon realized how indulgent I can be.

John Bloom at DesiringGod.org says, “We are all self-indulgers. The whole lot of us. Let’s just admit it upfront and help each other fight!”

Indulgence is foolish and selfish.

And sinful!

When we indulge rather than fight or abstain from “the passions of the flesh,” we’re only inviting more problems.

[I’m not talking about the planned-for dessert or a well-chosen and hopefully healthy occasional “treat.” There’s a difference related to motive.]

We know indulgence when we see it. Indulgence puts a damper on our desire to please the Lord and is contrary to wisely stewarding our bodies.

Indulgence can be heinous, but it can be subtle too. It can even be a form of idolatry. The enemy of our soul can even deceive us into believing indulgence is a good thing… a REWARD.

What? A reward?

Yes, I discovered this trickery while deep into my healthy eating plan. I proudly marked off a week of staying “on program” and said to myself,

You deserve a treat!”

So I started with an extra “allowable” food bar (which is really a candy bar dressed up in protein).

  • Then a few animal crackers.
  • Then a brownie.
  • Then an ice cream sandwich.

Soon, I was totally out of control.

I was living out what my nutritionist says,

“You have the disease of ‘MORE!'”

It’s a “heart” disease, and escalating indulgence is one of the clues I have it.

We need to be careful when we equate “deserving” with indulging. Indulgence—too much of a good thing—can be a first step on a fresh journey away from self-control. 

That’s how subtle this form of idolatry is. The thing we indulge in—in my case, sugar or overly-starchy foods—can become a driving “master” in our lives; we can find our indulgence addictive and destructive.

Our emotions can trick us.

Bloom says, “At the moment of indulging, it doesn’t feel like an enemy. It feels like a reward that makes us happy. … But after indulging, defeat hangs like a heavy yoke around the neck of our souls.”

I thought indulgence was my “reward” for obedience and wise choices. But that was a lie—a false promise built on a false premise.

My reward should have been the joy found in pleasing the Lord.

Rather than the joy of fulfilling a temporary craving, I should have focused on eternal truths like the one found in Luke 9:23-25:

… “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

The truth is, indulgence should not be part of my life in ANY form—pride and self-glory, greed, gluttony or any lust of the flesh.

I should be “awake and have control,” not be sleepy and indulgent!

My body is God’s dwelling place, and I am set apart for the praise of His glory.

Being “set apart” is being sanctified and holy, and those words are incongruous with the word “indulgent.”

But I have to confess. Sometimes it’s just plain hard not to indulge.

That’s when I need an eternal focus. I must remember my real reward is the “prize” awaiting me from the Lord at His return.

As Jesus said in Revelation 22:12: “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

And His reward will be a lot more satisfying than a middle-of-the-night food spree.

Do you struggle with indulging in sinful attitudes and behaviors? What is the lie you are believing, or the false promise you’re embracing? 

 – Dawn

Graphic courtesy of cohdra-Morguefile

 

 

Better Than ‘All or Nothing’

14 Jul

I continue to struggle with my “soft food addiction,” especially hoarding chocolate candy, cookies and other sweet things. (It’s not that I can’t ever have something sweet, but it is a dangerous area for me.)

But one Wednesday during an appointment, I told Kim, my nutritionist, “I finally got rid of all the junk food in my house.”

Kim looked surprised and pleased. “I’m so proud of you,” she said. “Was it hard?”

“No, not really,” I said. “I ATE it all!”

I’m sort of an all-or-nothing person.  Some days I’m “all in” and thriving physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Other days, not so much.

I’ve discovered one sinful habit or attitude in one area cascades into other areas, and soon I’m walking far off the righteous path the Lord has designed for me. The path of life.

It was just a little sin, I rationalize. But it still was sin if the Lord told me “no.” And all sin is continuing evidence of how much I need Him.

I love the American Dream, but for a long time I carried over the concept of independence into my walk with God.

I thought, “The more I’m independent—the less I have to call upon the Lord for help—this will be evidence of spiritual maturity.”

That couldn’t have been more foolish.

The true sign of spiritual maturity is

greater understanding of our need

and growing dependence on the Lord.

So I’m learning to step back and evaluate why I ran ahead of God … why I made a decision without consulting Him … why I lagged behind in disobedience … why I mindlessly walked through life.

It’s usually about some form of pride, selfishness, willfulness or outright rebellion. But sometimes it’s just forgetfulness. I forget how needy I truly am. 

In “performance mode,” I bounce back and forth between legalism and giving up.

In those times, I ultimately am most desperate.

But I’m learning to walk under God’s protective grace:

Observing, confessing and correcting. Not beating myself up. Moving forward in grace and trusting Him.

There is no condemnation in Christ, but there are constant opportunities to learn to depend on Him.

For everything.

Just as my silly conversation with Kim indicated, I have often made foolish choices.

But I’m learning to keep in step with the Spirit. 

How? It’s a process:

  1. Acknowledge – I admit your errors and mistakes; confess my sins. (Again, this is not a matter of beating myself up!)
  2. Accept – I receive the forgiveness I have in Christ.
  3. Allow – I let God’s grace flood over me, encouraging me; I remember what Christ has done for me!
  4. Adjust – I correct my thoughts, attitudes and behavior. It’s a matter of becoming obedient to God’s Word and will, and walking in the Spirit afresh. It’s a walk in freedom!

All-or-nothing? No.

The better perspective is ALL-IN-ALL.

This song expresses what’s in my heart as I think about this today:

“You are my strength when I am weak.

You are the treasure that I seek.

You are my all in all.”

(“You Are My All in All,” sung here

by David Phelps/Gaither Vocal Band.)

Jesus wants to be my Everything.

And I sincerely want that too. Even when I stray. Even when I mess up.

I want to be a woman after God’s own heart.

Why? I’m learning He is my strength, my wisdom, my victory, my only hope and so much more.

Is this your heart too? Is Jesus your “all in all?

 

Media Distraction: Rabbits and Lizards

25 Feb

My maltipoo, Roscoe, has a short attention span when it roscoe_whereistherabbitcomes to two words. No matter what my furboy is doing—even sleeping!—if I say either “rabbit” or “lizard,” he stops what he’s doing, cocks his head, and then look toward the back door or a nearby window.

Roscoe wonders, I think, “What am I missing? Is there a rabbit out there? A lizard?”

I have to admit I’m a Roscoe when it comes to the daily news and social media. No matter what I’m doing, it doesn’t take much to distract me these days.

“I wonder what’s happening on Facebook?”

“What’s up in the news? What am I missing? 

Rabbits and lizards. Sad, huh?

The worst thing about media distraction is, it takes up a lot of precious time. 

Time that can never be reclaimed (Psalm 90:12).

  • Time with the Lord in prayer.
  • Time reading or memorizing scripture.
  • Time with family.
  • Time writing about things that matter.
  • Time sharing the Gospel.
  • Time working hard with purpose.
  • Time to be creative.
  • Time to rest my heart and mind—away from all the stressful voices that disturb my peace and joy.

Now I am, by nature, a woman with a lot of curiosity. It’s not that I’m nosy; I just love learning about things. And I’m not condemning these things per se: the Internet and media are sources for learning. (Even though I need to be careful to weigh what we learn against the truth of scripture.)

My rule of thumb is: The news and social media should enhance our lives, not become our lives.

But the enemy of my soul would like to keep me more curious about and loving the things of this world rather than the things that count for eternity—my relationship with God, people with souls, and the eternal Word of God. It’s a pretty powerful scheme (2 Corinthians 2:11). Part of his strategy in my life is getting me addicted to media.

The recent Presidential election kept me glued to my television. I was constantly turning my head, checking out what the most influential talking head of the hour thought about the candidates and how their platforms lined up with world issues. In the process, I got caught up reading a lot of things that made for nastiness and division.

I foolishly thought that would all stop after November 2016. But it didn’t. The nastiness and division continues. And Christians are caught up in it too. Christian friends who share similar doctrines have parted ways over political and social “preferences.”

Have we no respect and civility? Have we forgotten love?

Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Paul said we’re to outdo ourselves in honoring one another (Romans 12:10).

And if a Facebook friend suddenly feels like an enemy? Jesus said to even love our enemies and pray for them! (Matthew 5:44)

I’ve learned I do not need to comment on every negative post; and I’m asking the Lord to help me discern when to share and when to stay silent (Proverbs 26:4-5).

It’s silly to end up in pointless quarrels with people who just want to debate (2 Timothy 2:23-24). But there are also times we need to speak up to expose weak, unbiblical thinking in the church. We need to speak truth while letting love reign, and pursue, with godly wisdom, what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding (James 1:5; Romans 14:19).

And sometimes, we just need to step away from the constant distraction of media and social media—so many voices—and seek the Lord and listen for His voice.

We need to focus on what is of “first importance”—getting out the freeing Gospel message and living in light of it (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We can’t afford distractions.

We’ve got to learn how to deal with those pesky rabbits and lizards!

How can you let media enhance your life without letting it control (or become) your life?

~ Dawn

 

 

 

 

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