There is never any better place to start anything than at the Beginning - God Himself! Let us never lose sight of Him, knowing that all things are either drawing us closer to Him or pulling us further away. There is no neutral ground!
Let us remember that prayer is our primary connection with our Lord and our best tool for victory in any area of our life! The God of this Universe wants to partner with us, His Bride, for the work of His Kingdom here on earth and for eternity! Amen!
(If you are interested in learning more about prayer and setting aside time to actively pray as the Holy Spirit leads, then check out the Watchmen Prayer section on this blog.)
Remember that there is nothing between us on God’s side the equation of our relationship with HIm. He took care of the sin that separates us through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son. So we can now come boldly into His Presence as far as His holiness is concerned. If we are feeling like there is anything between us and God, it’s on our side of the equation! We may have unforgiveness toward another or there may be a sin that is keeping us from bringing our whole heart to Him. God doesn’t need to do anything that He hasn’t already done! It’s we who need to remove the “junk” that clutters our hearts and minds and remember that it’s nothing we’ve done or haven’t done that has given us this glorious unlimited access to the Father! Rejoice! Repent! Receive and Rest in His finished work and unconditional love for you!
Last week we talked about Tools, Hunger, and Strongholds. We will be taking some time over the next few weeks to go deeper into each of these areas. This week we touched on all three elements, but looked closely at the tools in our toolbox. Next week we are going to go deeper into the four areas of hunger - head hunger, heart hunger, spirit hunger, and body hunger.
It’s more than important to differentiate between a stronghold and the Lord Our Stronghold! A stronghold holds us down and keeps us captive. The Lord Our Stronghold holds us up and makes us free! That’s a BIG difference! According to 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 a stronghold is anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God - anything that holds us captive through a worldly mind frame or way of thinking. We must take our thoughts captive to the obedience of God or else our thoughts will take us captive to fear, distress, and defeat. If you read Psalm 9:9, 18:2, 27:1, 43:2, 91:2 and 144:2 you will see God Himself as our High Tower, our Fortress, our Stronghold, our Deliverer, our Refuge, our Rock, our Strength, our Buckler, our Light and Salvation, our Goodness, and our Shield!
Sometimes a stronghold can take hold through negative, accusatory, or false-identity words. Have you ever encountered a naysayer? Someone or something that has come in direct opposition to the truth of God’s Word in your life at a specific time? This often happens right after you’ve had some sort of fresh revelation from the Holy Spirit. The enemy wants to keep us distracted and defeated. We must believe the report of the Lord! (Isaiah 53:1)To whom are you going to choose to listen? Who’s voice will you obey?
Some strongholds can actually be broken by words of truth and encouragement. Do you have true encouragers in your life? These people (and sometimes information) will always align themselves with the Word of God. Hold up His Word like a plumb line by which you judge all thoughts, motives, intents, and actions.
Through we will dedicate next week to the topic of hunger, it’s important to highlight a key concept that should be taking root in our hearts: Hunger is a good thing - it is simply a sign of a real need. The goal of the hunger is to identify your real need and then meet it appropriately. But hunger can become an unhealthy thing in two key way.
One way hunger becomes unhealthy is when we try to meet a real hunger in one area of life with a different area of hunger that cannot truly satisfy the real hunger. It can be difficult at first to identify your real need, especially if you’ve become a pro at pushing that particular need deep down inside! For example, father hunger is a big need in the area of heart hunger. If you’ve grown up without a father in your life you will have a hunger in your heart for that relationship. If you’ve learned how to repress, disguise, and ignore that need, you may attempt to meet the father hunger need with a head or body hunger like chocolate cake, or alcohol, or education, or sex. Those things won’t ever meet the actual need and hunger for a father. You may not be able to connect with your father or to have a healthy relationship with him for many reasons. He may be deceased, unwilling, or too unhealthy at the time for you to feel same in the connection. But if you can accurately assess your real need you can get closer to meeting it, and the Lord will make up the difference. You may be able to connect with an older male in your family who is willing to take on the role of father in your life to the best of his ability. Or you may be able to let your Heavenly Father completely fill that role in your life. When we have needs/hungers, we WILL get them met one way or another. It’s how we’re wired. So we want to continue to try to meet the real need with what is really needed.
The other way that hunger can be unhealthy is when we have a stronghold in one of our areas of hunger. The stronghold, the false mind frame, becomes a filter through which we see those true hungers and thus they become corrupt and distorted. Just as we must work to identify our real needs, we must also work to identify strongholds (false beliefs/mind frames) and pull them down with our spiritual weapons, taking them captive to the obedience of Christ! Our greatest fear is that our needs really can’t be met - that God is not sufficient to meet our needs. The truth is that God IS sufficient to meet all of our needs! Every stronghold falls powerless when confronted with the truth of God’s sufficiency in Christ!
How do we handle what seems to be a dichotomy of what "works" and what’s "best"? Do these two things have to be in opposition? Can they work together? Let’s look at it this way: You can have a whole toolbox full of tools and have a project to complete yet still be left staring at the tool box wondering what tools to use! But is there only one right tool for every single job or every single person? No, of course not. It could be a matter of preference or timing or of the specific need. For example, if you’re going to hang a picture on a wall in an older home with lathe and plaster walls you may use the same hammer you would use on drywall, but you would use the hammer in a different way so as not to crack the walls in the older home. If the walls were made of concrete you would use a different tool altogether. Each person has a different feel and so the same tool in different hands makes a difference as well. In that moment, for that person, for their need, the Holy Spirit will lead them to the right tool for the job. Listen and keep listening! The STEPS of a righteous man are ordered of God. (Psalm 37:23) Sometimes He starts us out in a specific direction in order to get us further down the road where the next turn will come into view.
So what tools do we currently have in our toolboxes? We discussed some tools that have been working for us. Here are a few that were mentioned:
*Instead of just cutting something out of your diet, replace it with something better that you like.
ex. Replace oatmeal with greek yogurt for breakfast instead of just giving up eating oatmeal.
*Prepare in advance
ex. Portion your “treats” out ahead of time so you’re not tempted to overindulge.
*Take incremental steps and make incremental exchanges
ex. Move from drinking Mountain Dew to drinking flavored seltzer water to drinking pure water.
*Make decisions ahead of time, don’t wait for the moment of temptation.
ex. Decide you will not be eating anything after 6pm each night.
*Recognize what you do right and not just what you do “wrong.”
ex. Keep a journal of all the positive changes you’re seeing in yourself - spirit, soul, and body.
*Always ask yourself what you REALLY need and then try to meet THAT need the best way you can.
ex. Sometimes you’re thirsty when you feel hungry! Have a nice big glass of water first!
*What you do most of the time matters the most!
ex. If you walk 4 days/week that’s most of the week!
*Use the 2 minute rule - if you can get it done in 2 minutes do it!
ex. Instead of waiting until dishes pile up, clean them after each use.
*Trade out high carb foods for high protein foods.
ex. Use caesar dressing instead of french dressing on salads.
*Pray about EVERYTHING!
ex. Ask Him to reveal your need and give you strength in your weakness.
We do not have a Savior who can’t identify and understand our emotions and feelings. Though He was God, in His body He suffered to the point of near death in the garden of Gethsemane. He told his disciples that he was “exceeding sorrowful even unto death.” (Mathew 26:38) He understands the struggle of living in the flesh and on this earth. Yet for the “joy set before Him” He endured the suffering of the cross. (Hebrews 12:2) WE are the JOY set before Him! He took joy in knowing that His suffering would set us free from sin and death and make the way for us to be one with Him forever!
Certain restrictions that we’ve chosen may actually provide more freedom than no restrictions at all. My older sister once said, “There is freedom within boundaries.” Imagine you are playing baseball on a old mine field. The safe area is marked out clearly with cones and yellow tape. If you stay inside the area that is marked out, you are guaranteed to be safe. Remove the cones and yellow tape and the freedom that was found within the boundaries quickly turns to fear! God, through His Holy Spirit, sets boundaries on our heart and mind - like a watchman on the wall of a great city. We would do well to listen to and adhere to the boundaries He sets for each of us, and rejoice in the freedom found within them!
There is a difference between balance and compromise. Let me ask you a question: Are you whole or full of holes? The balance that God wants to bring is that of a solid foundation, balanced and whole. A foundation full of holes can never support a balanced building. If we want true balance, we need a whole and solid foundation, not a compromising and worldly “balance.”
He wants to teach us only one thing - HIM. Nothing else really matters in and of itself. Everything we go through and experience becomes a living parable that the Holy Spirit can minster through and to different people with different needs in the same place at the same time. This group is about health, wellness, and optimal weight. But what it’s REALLY about is learning more about Our Lord and His love for us through our experiences with health, wellness, and optimal weight. It’s easy to get distracted and caught up in the “how” and lose focus on the “who” and “what” of God Himself.
Distractions and urgent things pull us away from important things. It’s like trying to play a game of tennis with a ball machine. As those balls are hurtling toward you one after another, you go into reaction mode. You feel caught, trapped, and stuck in the same spot - hitting balls! Now imagine stepping off that court. The balls are still coming one after another, but it’s not your responsibility to respond or react to them. You’re on a whole other court - the court of the Holy Spirit!
Let the Holy Spirit fill up your toolbox. Sometimes we want that infomercial promised one-gadget-for-everything tool! But we find that that one tool is only sort of good for everything and not great for anything. God wants us to have a lot of different tools that are each perfect for the job! Sometimes it’s time to change tools and we may go through an adjustment phase. We have grown accustomed to using our old tools and so we often reject the new and improved tools that the Lord wants to give us. We must be willing to grow, change, experiment, practice, and TRY new things! He will be our Mentor, Trainer, Coach to teach us how to use our tools. It’s often during our trials that we’re learning how to use our tools. For example, we won’t know what it is to be disciplined until we have the opportunity to be undisciplined and choose discipline instead.
Can a tool become a crutch? It can if we begin to rely on the tool instead of the Tool-Giver. God wants us to be dependent on Him, leaning on Him for all things in all times and for all reasons. We do not need to become independent, but instead to become God-dependent. Self-Control is a fruit of the Spirit. That means it grows out of our relationship with God and His indwelling in us through His Holy Spirit. Self-Control is not something we can cultivate on our own. That kind of self control falls short and becomes like the tennis game with the ball machine - stressful, exhausting, and pointless!
Remember to PRAY for each other! We can battle alongside one another in prayer to help tear down strongholds and build walls of protection. Ask God to show you how He sees you and others. What are HIS expectations for you? For others in your life? We often place too high expectations on ourselves and others. Let us apply to ourselves and others the same grace that Our Lord applies to us in love. We are called to use whatever gift He's given us to SERVE others, faithfully ADMINISTERING (applying) God's grace in it's various forms! (1 Peter 4:10)
In His Name and by His Grace