From Past to Precious Stones

There are many times I wonder what it would be like to come from a place of growing up in relationship with Christ.  I see some who fell in love with Jesus at an early age and have never really fallen out.  Not to say they’ve been perfect, as none of us are, but I think there is much to be admired in those who’ve remained faithful against all odds.  How often I wish I didn’t have the regrets of the life I once lived and the attitudes/inclinations I still sometimes fall into.  How much I wish certain spans of my life just didn’t happen, yet they did.  Things were done, words were said, things that should have never been were built up in my life.  Oh, to have a past that would be a joy to retell.  

How many times I’ve recounted and repented for so much of my past and marvel at the mercies extended to me in the present.  I didn’t deserve the life I now live yet He’s freely given it and every day, despite the challenges and even wrestling with self I still have to do, He makes it all the better.  An incredible family, a home in the promised land, promises of God ever being fulfilled before my very eyes and its marvelous beyond words.  Even aside from the numerous tangible gifts, He pours out a comfort and the assurance of always having Him to look forward to, lean on and trust with everything in my life.  

Is it not incredible to you that Jesus actually secured a way that would strip off every hindrance, tear down every barrier and abolish every excuse we could ever have for not living an incredible, rich and abundant life in His presence?  It’s just dumbfounding that I could look with horror on decades of my life as he gently presses my chin, turning my head and resetting my gaze onto a future for me that He looks at with joy.

It’s easy to wonder “how could God want me?” Yet, every word, every action, every promise makes the truth of His desire to have us all to His own, undeniable.  …and not only to have us but to build in us something great.

“I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.”  (Isaiah 54:12)

Before Christ, we worked and strived to build our own lives in a way that seems pleasing to us.  At times, we erect strong timbers and hand pick the finest woods to piece together the vision of the life we want to live.  At others, we find ourselves grasping at straws, patching holes in what we’ve built with scraps and cardboard, trying to keep the rain out.

Having been built on the wrong foundation to begin with, it can never truly be trusted, so God, in His goodness and grace, often has to take us through seasons where we feel like the walls are being torn down and crumbling around us.  In these times, we can feel as though we are being punished for the lives we’ve lived, as though God has set Himself against us.  We struggle to see His mercy at work when it all comes down, when, really, He would be justified in leaving us to what our own hands have built.  Yet, He doesn’t.

He doesn’t leave us.  He doesn’t watch and laugh as we struggle and fail a thousand times over.  No.  He comes to our aid and sets out to build something of real, true value in our lives – something beautiful and lasting.  To mount those rubies on walls of wood, it would all come down.  What our hands have built could never support the weight of what God is building in our lives.  But, there has to be a removal of the old to provide a clearing for what’s to come.

Our God is all-in for those who are in it for Him.  He has always been all-in for us.  Not a single action of God contradicts that.  Every move and work of God only underscores that truth.  He has withheld no good thing from us but has given everything that we would get to know Him.

So, when the things of this world are fading away in our lives and the pain and discomfort of saying “goodbye” to things and places that, at one point were all we had known, seems nigh unbearable, we can muster up within us joy and hope.  Yes, joy and hope.  It is not in God’s nature to leave the ground barren and unfruitful or to leave a life in rubble.   No.  God builds.  God restores.  God heals.  God makes whole.  What an incredible gift it is that because of Jesus, those but willing to submit to His work in their lives will not enter heaven as one barely escaping the flames, seeing the sum of everything else in their lives come to nothing, but that we would come into His presence with a life lived as a gift to Him.  (1 Corinthians 3:10-14)

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to live the kind of life God would have to choose to forget in granting me passage into His kingdom.  I want my life to be a joy for Him to recount – my “THANK YOU!” for all He is and all He’s done for me.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  (‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:1‬a )

Why Christians SHOULD Be the Fittest People on the Planet Yet So Many of Them Aren’t

By LaTricia Morris, Author, Illustrator, Integrative Wellness Counselor and the Founder of Eden Life Ministries and See Kids Thrive

I know the title here may sound a bit like a bold statement but the reality is, those who’ve been redeemed by Christ and received the full measure of what He’s done for us should be the healthiest, most vibrant people you’ve ever seen.  I think one of the great testimonies to our faith is how God has given us the ability to live an abundant life, walking in wellness and joy.  Yet, too often, even when we’re willing to believe that’s His desire for others, we struggle to believe it’s His desire for us.

Is that you?

Maybe it’s just me but I get incredibly upset seeing Christians – young Christians with decades of powerful living ahead of them – miss it because they’ve settled for less than Christ’s vision for them, especially where they’ve fallen prey to modern/worldly living that’s slowly killing them.

The Word says that we’ve been given the choice – life or death, blessings or curses (Deut. 30).  God says “choose life that you and your children may live.”  We have been granted freedom but too often we use that freedom as a cover up for a lack of personal responsibility and discipline.  

Yes, we are totally free to gorge ourselves full of BonBons and Bacon Cheeseburgers but as we understand that our bodies were not created for our own indulgence and we start to process the reality of what those foods do to us, do we honestly believe that way of living resonates at all with the plans and the call God has on our lives?  I’d argue a VERY LOUD “ABSOLUTELY NOT!”

While there are many things that have held us captive in our health (and believe me, I have every intention of tackling them in the time ahead), there are several acts we need to catch ourselves in so we can turn the tables on our health and consequently become more powerful and effective in every other area of our lives.  That’s not to say we have to be perfect but we should be doing the best we can with what we’ve been given.

I typically try to keep my writing a little more upbeat and really hope you guys don’t think I’m out to give anyone a word-lashing, but I really feel like these are some key points we, as the Church, need to rethink and I don’t really know how else to approach it but head-on.  Sugar-coating it, playing victim and patting ourselves on the back about it isn’t helping!

I look forward to every opportunity to encourage and uplift here but we have got to be willing to catch ourselves in these traps so we can learn to avoid them in the future, freeing us to embrace an incredible life.

Dr. Caroline Leaf consistently reiterates the importance of being “transformed by the renewing of the mind.”  We have to change our mind before we change our behavior and today we’re doing just that.

1. We abuse the privileges granted in Scripture.

Got a Christian that doesn’t want to exercise?  You just might hear:  “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”  (1 Timothy 4:8)  

Note, this passage doesn’t say physical training is of no value.  It merely reminds us of the priorities we ought to have – godliness is of more value than speed or brute strength.  Physical training is good for this lifetime but spiritual training is good for eternity.

Maybe you have somebody who wants to eat whatever they want to eat and they don’t want to hear a thing about it…  They might say, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.”  (Colossians 2:16)

 

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And I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked about passages in which God declared “all foods clean.”  {Yes, He declared them “clean” in that what we eat has no bearings on our spiritual status.  A rack of ribs will not disqualify from entering His presence but that doesn’t change the scavenger nature of the animal it came from. }

The thing is, the issue here is not about holiness and sanctification to which these passages are referring – the issue hereis stewardship.  God set the record straight with Peter because the food laws of the Jewish people were serving as a barrier keeping people from hearing the Gospel.  It was creating division amongst a people God intended to be united.  However, this was not to say that all foods are equal in terms of our health. 

While we are free from sin and the bondage that comes with rigid legalism, we are not exempt from biological cause and effect.

We can totally acknowledge the importance of demonstrating good stewardship over our finances and even in not being wasteful with things like food.  We understand that as good stewards, we should care for our environments, taking good care of the gifts God has granted and striving to be wise with the resources He’s given us, using what He’s provided to advance His kingdom and live a life that brings Him praise.  

Now, maybe my view is a little less conventional here but hear me out.  

We only get ONE body and that ONE body is our “earth suit” in which we walk out the entirety of our lifetime.  That ONE body, can be a great gift to you OR it can be the source of some of your greatest burdens.  By and large, that choice is up to you.  While I don’t claim to know the answer as to why some people never see the fullness of healing here on earth or why some people are born with disabilities we do not yet have an answer to, the evidence is increasingly clear that MOST people could be living an incredibly vibrant life ifthey were but willing to seek God’s wisdom, pray it through, and align their lives with that desire.   

Yes, you have every right to eat processed foods that destroy your body and eventually lead to disease.  But, as Paul says “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’-but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12)   

At some point, we have to realize that our determination to eat the foods that result in death and disease is not a measure of freedom but rather a form of bondage.  If you do something you know you ought not (especially where you know you really don’t want the results inherent to it), you are not walking in freedom but enslavement to something the enemy will, if given the opportunity, use to destroy you.

Pray God would help you see His plan for you in this area and that He would give you the scriptures and support to help you realize it.  

2. We take the gift for granted.

I know it may not seem overly profound to put it this way but in a great way, I think we should walk in the gifts we have with gratitude, rather than tossing them aside as we take them for granted, knowing there are so many that wish they could have such gifts and don’t.  

In terms of food, we live in a time and country where most of us have access to incredible, life-giving foods in abundance yet we choose, (for whatever reason we offer) to let them rot on the shelves.  People around the globe wish they could eat so well while we stock our pantries with non-foods and complain about why we don’t really like all that healthy stuff.  So many call it “rabbit food” and turn their noses up to it.  Excuse me but, no, that’s human food and is an incredible gift to have.

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Here’s where some may not like me but I shall toss it out there any way.  It’s not theory.  It’s fact.  Acknowledging it could save your life.  Ignoring it could cost you dearly, even your own life.

God made us.  God made the food that would feed us – food that would give us energy and help our bodies ward of all manner of disease.  The food God provided is God’s provision (“pro”+”vision” = for the vision He has for our lives).  He made it to nourish and satisfy, prevent cancer, rid our bodies of all manner of toxins, abolish inflammation, repair tissues and more.  Yet, we say “God, I don’t like that.  I’d rather eat what this company/restaurant/fast food joint made…”  (As though Nabisco is somehow better at making food than God. ? )

Now, when that all backfires, because we have chosen man-made counterfeits to God’s provision, whose fault is that?   I’m not trying to throw guilt but I am trying to challenge our perspectives.  

We should be eating and living for purpose over pleasure.  Any time pleasure takes the helm in our decision-making process, destruction is not far behind.  It catches up with us all eventually.  Yet, when we determine to eat and live for purpose rather than for pleasure, we end up finding great pleasure in the things that fuel the purpose.

How do we justify eating ourselves into diabetes and heart disease then act like God put that on us as our cross to bear?  If this is where you’re at, I hate to have to tell you but no doctor or medication will/can bring about the fullness of life that only God and His provision can give.  Too many Christians make it too easy on the enemy when it comes to taking us out.  We’re killing ourselves with a fork and still giving him the credit.

With fitness too, we need to stop complaining because those first few minutes hurt or because its work.  We should be incredibly grateful to be able.  Even if we’re so far from “fit,” we can’t fathom stepping onto a track, we can still take those first few steps then ask God’s help to take a few more. 

I recently walked with a very determined young man as he left his wheelchair to make his way up two sets of stairs to walk with our group.  He was on his knees because he couldn’t walk but, holding onto the rail with one hand, and my hand under his other arm, he made it to the top.  You could see his pain and struggle but he made it.  In my heart of hearts I know that if he had but the chance, he’d run – he’d run with all he’s got.

Stop complaining that you “have to walk” here or there or the length of a few extra parking spaces at the grocery store and be grateful you can.  

I dare you to step to health and fitness in gratitude – even and especially when it gets hard.  Instead of telling yourself how bad you hate it, tell your God how grateful you are that He has made you able and that He is making you stronger with every step you take with Him toward the amazing life He’s envisioned for you.

Do you realize what Christ has given that you could live well?

He bore the stripes upon His back that we would be healed (1 Pet. 2:24), he came to set the captives free (Isa. 61:1) and came that you would have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10).  

I cannot tell you with what depth of sincerity I pray that we as Christians would come to understand and appreciate what we’ve been given and that we would walk in the incredible gifts He has so freely granted us all.

3. We forget who we’re living for.

We as Christians understand that we have been bought with a price.  Our lives are not our own.  In that, I come from a perspective that while my body is a gift given me by God for my use in the time that I am here, it is not to be used just for my own ends or pleasure.  

This body is one of the greatest assets I have as I work to reach people with the Gospel and for meeting the needs of those around me.  With these arms, I get to bring comfort and carry my little ones.  With these feet I get to go wherever God sends me or travel whatever distance I must to walk alongside others, using the voice I’ve been given to uplift and speak life over all I can.  

My body is a gift to me but it is not exclusively for me.  I was created by God with works prepared in advance for me to do and it is much harder to do those things if I abuse the body he’s given me to do them with.  

Again, we’re talking about stewardship.  My aim is not to make it all about me but to protect my capacity to serve God and others.  

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I don’t know about you but I’m not up for spending the last 3-5 DECADES of my life deteriorating, winding down into the grave.  I want to make the most out of this ONE LIFE I’ve been given, to be as powerful and effective as I can in my ONE SHOT to do so.  

Once the curtain drops on your life, that’s it.  Won’t you be so glad to say you didn’t live it just to indulge and die but that you lived it with purpose on purpose.  Safeguarding your health plays a critical part in that!

4. We fail to see what it means to everyone else.

Last but not least, we often let ourselves get away with not walking in wellness because we limit our view on who it affects to ourselves.  The truth is, you cannot even begin to calculate the lives that are impacted whether you are walking in sickness or in health.  

Growing up with a mom who was always sick, I believe this especially applies to our spouses and children.  

Consider the gifts you give to them when you take care of yourself and consider what you’re ultimately asking of them when you don’t.

Even beyond our immediate family, there are countless people in the world desperately in need of the gifts God has placed within you to give to them.  Too many Christians flick through the channels and scroll through the stories with an “awe, that’s so sad, I’ll have to pray for that…” when they find themselves too weak/tired/sick/distracted to respond any other way.  Yes, pray.  Pray continuously.  But remember what James said loud and clear – faith without works is dead.  We pray but we’ve also been called to take action and to make a difference in this world.

Too many Christians are so tied up in doctor’s offices and waiting chairs that they feel powerless to affect the many things unfolding around us.  Yet, meanwhile, people are dying because they lack basic resources.  Widows and the elderly are slowly losing themselves in loneliness and a life they can no longer keep up with.  Precious, amazing children, who but wish they had someone to wrap a pair of loving arms around them are being cast aside or trafficked for use by wicked men.  

I know this view may seem harsh – maybe even extreme – but it’s still not as extreme as Christians willingly/carelessly settling for a life that’s far less than what we’ve been called to and actually believing we’re powerless against the world as it devolves around us.  Are cookies, cakes, pies and fries really worth it?  Are we really willing to trade off a life of power for a life of indulgence?  That’s not how the children of God should be living!  

 

It’s long past time we as Christians accepted that there’s much more to our lives than ourselves and that there are others out there waiting and counting on us to be who God Himself has made us to be.  We should strive to be the healthiest, fittest people on the planet because we’re determined to live ready to be used, ready to help, ready to be a light in this dark world.

We don’t have time for self-indulgence and lackluster living.

We must rise up and walk in the victory God has granted us in every area of our lives.

God has placed within you a gift to help bring the change that the world so desperately needs.  I dare you to live in such a spiritual, mental and physical preparedness that as God says “GO!,” you’re hopping saying “God, I’m ready!”

I am so grateful that as you determine to shine for Him, He is going to shine through you – accomplishing great and mighty things beyond your wildest imagination!