Monday, April 19, 2010

Women as Redeemed Image Bearers

I wanted to post the teaching I did for a woman's training day at our church. It is pretty lengthy as it includes a lot of scripture.

My (un)Redeemed Identity

I wanted to share you with you a little bit of my own journey in trying to discover my identity in Christ.

For most of my life I have identified with being dirty and the word that I could easily pull from at any time was “whore”; those words were seared on my soul at a very young age. I was sexually molested by my grandfather and my father from the age of 4-10. Love was perverted and entangled with misappropriated sexual pleasure. I responded by trying to find an identity in being loved. I believed if I could only be loved, then I would not feel this way. I offered myself willingly to anyone who would take me. I sought love in the men that would continue to make me feel dirty and unworthy to be loved. My entire identity was in my physical appearance and sexuality.

After enduring a tragic event where a friend’s baby girl almost died at the hands of my ex-husband, my identity shifted to survival. I could not depend on anyone, especially a man. I put a plan in place to ensure that I was completely sufficient for my daughter and me. No man was going to interfere with that. This plan included an education and a career and I was determined (at all costs) to accomplish this. I did. I accomplished my goals but I sacrificed much.

I fully identified with sin and suffering and what I thought the consequences of both were. However, not all of the things in which I had put my identity in were necessarily bad things. I identified with being a good mom, a godly wife, a loyal employee, a faithful servant, etc.

We cannot find our identity in anything outside of Jesus Christ. For years, I could and did say that but I had no idea what that meant. If someone were to ask me what exactly that meant, I would not have had an answer other than I’m a Christian. I want to show you today exactly what it means for our Identity to be in Christ.

Imago Dei – Created in God’s Image

In order to understand our redeemed identity, we need to understand God’s desire for creation

Why were we created? To Glorify God

Romans 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 86:12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Where did it start?

Creation – Men and Woman were created in the image of God; Equally.
Genesis 1:26-27 - 26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...”27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Man – created first out of dust
Genesis 2:7 - 7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Woman – Created second, taken out of man
Genesis 2:18; 21-23 - 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

1 Timothy 2:13 - For Adam was formed first, then Eve

1 Corinthians 11:8-9 - 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

The Fall – Distorted Identity

Sin Enters Creation
Genesis 3:1- 6 - 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Here is our first glimpse into fallen motives with the fruit; idolatry at its core. Adam and Eve chose autonomy over participating in the mission of God – His Glory; we have been doing the same ever since. We chose to satisfy our flesh and our pride at the expense of his glory, the very thing we were created for.

Shame enters creation
Genesis 3:7- 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

- They realized for the first time they were naked and they hid themselves from God.

- Shame seeks to destroy intimacy and relationship. Shame will always cause us to pull away from God and others.

- Before sin, Adam and Eve experienced life together and in communion with God completely naked.

Creation is Cursed
Genesis 3:16-19 - 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The Enemy is Cursed
Genesis 3:14-15 - 14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Distortions we believe about our identity
- Because of our distorted identity, we often have the wrong lens on when we see God, ourselves, and others.

- We quickly attach ourselves to our shame and out of that we “identify” with our sin or our suffering. This is the enemy’s master plan. As long as we are stuck in shame, we cannot see God rightly and therefore our relationship with him is obscured. The enemy is not interested in bringing us down, his goal (or so he pridefully believes) is to bring God down. He just uses us.

Redeemed Identity

To understand the atoning work of the cross we need to understand why the cross was necessary and why Jesus Christ had to be our savior.

Why did we need a savior?
Hebrews 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

In the OT, the law required death for sin; if you sinned (moral sin) the consequence was death and God’s wrath. The old sacrificial system was put in place to deal with unintentional sins (i.e. cleanliness). That system could not atone for intentional sins. If you sinned, death was the consequence. It was not just an earthy penalty or physical death either; it meant an eternal separation from God.

Recently in studying the atonement, I realized that I live post-cross and because of that I know the end of the story. I have no real ability to understand the consequence of sin or any threat of eternal separation of God. Because of this, I realized I often minimize my sin. If I fully understood the full weight of my sin as the OT peeps did; the death of Jesus Christ on the cross would be the most precious gift I could ever expect from God.

Why Jesus?
Jerry Bridges summarizes it well in The Great Exchange; “Because man sinned, man must bear the penalty of sin, so in addition to being fully God, the mediator must also be fully man in order to bear the sin of man as their representative. Also, the mediator must be a man since the mediation act of atoning for sin requires a sacrificial death, and it is impossible for God to die.” Jerry Bridges

What did Christ accomplish on the cross?
Christ on the cross is synonymous with Atonement. Atonement is defined as the reconciliation of man with God through the life, sufferings, and sacrificial death of Christ. Through the atoning blood of Jesus Chris, a Holy God and sinners were reconciled. There are multiple aspects of the atonement that need to be considered in order to fully realize our identity.

Penal Substitution
Jesus Christ taking the sinner’s place, bearing the burden of man’s sin and guilt. Christ suffered in our place, accepting the punishment that we rightly deserve. He bore the penalty of human sin on the cross, suffering in the place of the sinner, the just for the unjust, the holy Son of God for the guilty.

Isaiah 53:4-6 - 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Christus Victor
Christus Victor is the defeat of Satan and the cancellation of all of the Enemy’s legal rights against us, as well as lies leveled at us through Christ’s victory and authority demonstrated on the cross. The Enemy no longer has a hold on us. One of the biggest lies the Enemy tells the believer is twofold. First, that they have no authority over him and, second, that they fall prey to him, that they are victimized by the lies he tells them.

Colossians 2:12-15 - 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Hebrew 2:12-17 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Justification - Imputation – Forgiveness and Righteousness (The Great Exchange)
Basically, God takes your filth and in return, he gives you his righteousness. Jesus not only took your curse. He became your curse, and you became his perfected righteousness. There had to be an exchange for a full justification. Once your sin is removed, you still do not have any righteousness of your own. But because of a complete justification, Jesus has given you his righteousness. His righteousness is imputed to you.

2 Corinthians 5:21 - 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Propitiation and Expiation

Propitiation is God’s wrath satisfied, the payment of sin accounted for and God’s wrath turned into favor. Expiation is the wiping away of sin. The debt of sin no longer stands against us. The debt is cancelled; the sin is removed.

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Romans 3:23-25 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Isaiah 61:10 10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

It is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from sin. We see that it’s the forgiveness of sin that cleanses us from all unrighteousness. The blood removes guilt; the blood removes shame; the blood removes condemnation. The blood removes the filth which is our sin.

1 John 1:7-9 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Redemption is to deliver people from bondage. As redemption denotes redeeming someone from captivity like Israel from Egypt, Christ does this through the payment of His blood.

Ephesians 1:7 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Micah 6:4 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

Exodus 15:13 13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

Deuteronomy 7:8 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

II Samuel 7:23 23 And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods?

What does the Atonement mean for a Redeemed Identity?
No Condemnation

Who has the power to condemn? Surprisingly, most people respond, “Satan,” since condemnation seems to be attached to feeling bad or separated from God. The truth is God is the author of condemnation. Satan does not have the power to condemn.

Romans 8:34 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Who was condemned? Condemnation was reserved for Jesus, and it is no longer in existence, for the believer. We see that in 1 John 3:20 that, even when your own heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart. So there is truly no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus. Because of what Jesus did on the Cross, as He imputed His righteousness to you as your sin was imputed to Him, it is now as though you never did anything wrong. The wrath of God was poured out on his son and it pleased him (verse?).

Romans 5:18-19 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

No Shame
After Adam and Eve sinned and were shamed in their nakedness, God sacrificed an animal to make a garment of skin to clothe them (Genesis 3:21), as a representation of greater things to come. Now, it is Christ who clothes us (Revelation 18; 1 Peter 2:6). Through his sacrifice and our unity with Him in His death and resurrection, by the Holy Spirit, believing who we are in Him, God promises no shame (Romans 9:33, Romans 10:11; Isaiah 49:23; Joel 2:26-27). Not being shamed comes from, like Jesus, knowing who we are—who God says we are.

Christ was not shamed - The whole epicenter of the Cross was intended to shame Jesus; , from the Centurions beating him, mocking worship, the crown of thorns, and carrying his own Cross, being disrobed, naked and nailed to the Cross. The ungodly threw everything at Jesus to shame Him; Jesus could not be shamed because he knew who he was.

Isaiah 50:6-7 6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. 7 But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

Hebrews 12:2 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

- Despise: To regard as unworthy of one's interest or concern: despised any thought of their own safety.

In Christ, we are not shamed - We no longer have permission to experience shame; If Christ could not be shamed, and Christ is in us, we too cannot be shamed. Just as Christ understood who He was and could not be shamed, if we understand who we are, we cannot be shamed.

Peter 2:6 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Joel 2:26-27 26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Romans 9:33 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Romans 10:11 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Isaiah 49:23 23 Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”

No Separation

One of the chief opponents to Christ’s atonement on the Cross-is: believing that you can separate yourself from God because of sin. As we just saw, there is “no condemnation, in the believer,”

Romans 8:31-39 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When you believe that your sin can separate you from God, you are making yourself bigger than God. Your sin is not too big for God or what He did through the Cross of Jesus Christ. You could not pay for salvation. It had to be the God-man Jesus to reconcile man back to God. Simply put, you could not pay for your own sin. You are the one who should have, but the reality is that, in His perfection, the only One who could have paid for sin is Jesus Christ. So, if you could not behave your way to God, how can you possibly think you can behave your way away from Him?

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

My Redeemed Identity
My redeemed identity is a woman who has been horribly sinned against and has horribly sinned but was cleansed by the blood of my savior and made righteous by his death on the cross. I do not go to shame when I sin or remember details of my past. I do not believe for a moment I have the ability to condemn myself or that the enemy’s lies can condemn me. I do not believe that when I sin or chose not to worship that I am separated in any way from my Lord and Savior.

When I stand confidently in my identity, the overflow is an expression of my biblical femininity and personality. My confidence in Christ allows me to express my biblical femininity. As a godly woman, I have struggled with Proverbs 31, how would I ever compare? The beauty of my identity being in Christ is that I don’t compare and I don’t have to. I don’t have to compare myself to other women either; I am fearfully and wonderfully made! God has given me certain gifts and has called me to certain things. I do not need to read Proverbs 31 and beat myself up that I am not those things.

Because I am not bound in shame, other’s get to experience God’s glory through me. I can speak boldly and confidently to others about Jesus Christ, I can confess my sinful heart and repent in community. My husband is allowed to enjoy and delight in both in my sexuality and in my girly playfulness.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I Was Dunked...For the Third Time

I was baptized as a 12 year old after “accepting” Jesus. I remember the thoughts going through my head as our Pastor asked me all the questions. My tears flowed, my pastor and my mom thought they were tears of joy for having asked Jesus into my heart but they were really tears of shame. As they would ask me the questions, I would give them the answer I knew they wanted but all the time the enemy was right there saying Jesus could never love you, if they only knew the horrible things you did they would know that Jesus could never possibly love you. So, I was baptized for them, fully believing that I was too dirty for Jesus to know and love. I treated Jesus that way too, that even I was too much for him. I had no desire for the things of Jesus. In fact, I even resented him at times because I thought my mom had become a freak.

I was baptized again at the age of 20 after “re-accepting” Jesus. This time I was married and my life was anything but what I had ever dreamed it to be. I had been married less than a year; we did not have a job and we had no money. Our marriage was a mess, we were dependent on other people; I was miserable. I turned to God in the hopes that he would take me out of that place. If I gave him my life, he could clean it up and give me the things I couldn’t get for myself. I think within a week I was back to trying to figure things out on my own.

I did not know Jesus at 12; in fact I didn’t even understand that Jesus and God were one. My heart did not care about God except for that believing in him would make my life better, somehow. I did not know Jesus at 20 but I was desperate and it seemed to work for other people. I wanted what they had but I did not want my heart to change. I wanted to live my life the way I wanted and resented the fact that loving Jesus meant I couldn’t have fun now, that my life had to be stupid and boring if I followed him. I wasn’t angry at him for my life circumstances, for my abuse. I just wanted him to fix my situation, give me a better life without taking away my fun and making me into a freak.

I finally surrendered to God at 32 (that was 7 years ago). I was at the end of myself, not unlike the other two times I had “come” to Jesus. I was recently divorced, suffering from withdrawal from diet pills, sudden changes in the company I worked for (where I was getting my identity from), and the murder of a friend. I did not turn to God though for an easy way out, I turned to Him because He had always been calling me and I was in need of Him, completely. Yes, I wanted my circumstances to change, but I knew this was a total commitment of my heart, it had been captured.

So Easter Sunday this year was pretty amazing. Our church does a lot of baptizing on Easter and my husband is always the first pastor to sign up to do the dunking…he loves it! I watched him baptize close to 150 people last year. I’ve always figured after having been baptized twice, that had to be enough public expression of my faith. This Easter as I was standing up front waiting to pray with people, worshipping, and watching others be baptized, I heard “go”. My response was no. “Go”, no. “Go”, no. I then stopped dancing, stopped singing, and turned towards my husband who was still in the baptismal and just stared at him. I was paralyzed but felt ill. My stomach had jumped up into my throat and my heart was racing.

It was so clear to me; my other baptisms were about me. The first time, I was so self-absorbed and full of shame. The second time, I was so desperate and willing to do anything for God to change my circumstances. This time, it was fully about Jesus, truly for His Glory.

The look on my husband’s face when I walked into the water was precious; he was so emotional he could barely talk to me. I felt like I needed to explain why as a pastor’s wife I was just getting baptized. I summarized everything I shared here and then said I was feeling quite blessed to be baptized by my husband. My husband and Pastor Cliff then baptized me in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amazing! I came out of the water feeling so free and full of joy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Gave Up Coffee for Lent…Then I Took It Back (Part II)

I wanted to do this blog in two parts. The first part, in order to really explain where I was at, was all about me. The second part I would like to be all about Jesus and what He did on the Cross…to the glory of the Father. I do want to mention that I set my alarm clock to get up early enough to spend at least an hour with my husband this morning before he left, however something else woke me up an hour before my alarm went off. Instead of being grouchy and trying to go back to sleep, I was able to connect with my husband for about two hours this morning. We were able to talk about schedules, some counseling we have been doing, some heart issues I have been struggling with, and how to work through some other issues that need confronting, all while cuddling. It really was a sweet time.

When I was weighing the decision yesterday to drink coffee, my first instinct was to go to a place of “I am letting God down” mentality. Quickly I heard the admonishment, “this does not change how I see you and do you think you can do anything at all?” My choosing to give something up for Lent is a personal decision to show reverence and honor to God. I am not big enough “to let God down”, that cheapens the cross. Although my motivation for observing Lent was not to win favor with God I do believe I fell into a prideful stance that I could somehow win favor with Him.

We are studying The Great Exchange (My Sin for His Righteousness) by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington during this Lent season. The book unpacks the atonement from every angle and perspective. Here is an excerpt from the book unpacking Galatians that I would like to share:

Legalism occurs whenever a sinner attempts to earn God’s favor by his or her personal righteousness instead of by Christ’s transferred righteousness. Legalism demands the value of Christ’s work of atonement by requiring sinners to perform activities that are man-centered and, in essence, man-exalting. Even subtle, unspoken legalism sets forth a course that inevitably leads to spiritual pride and eventual defeat under the weight of unsuccessfully attempted law keeping. By substituting man-centered performance as the basis for acquiring righteousness the very essence and foundation of redemptive truth is compromised. In this epistle, Paul shows that the atonement is the sole basis of man’s forgiveness, righteousness, and acceptance by God—nothing can or should be added.

Wow, that is truly a humbling truth. There is nothing I can do to add to what Christ did on the Cross and to assume otherwise is prideful and arrogant. Christ’s death on the Cross was magnificent, awesome, and sufficient.

I cannot win favor, earn his love, or do any good at all in my own ability or strength. The fact that I have any ability at all comes from His righteousness imputed to me. He stood in my place and fully received God’s entire wrath that I fully deserved. I am not worthy, thank God!

The Ebenezer stone is a reminder of God’s promises, His eternal covenant. 1 Samuel 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” We often talk about what our Ebenezer is during this season and what has been nailed to the cross. Today, my Ebenezer is that Christ’s death on the cross in place of me not only saved me from the wrath of God but perfectly allows me to stand before God, holy and right, as He imputed His righteousness to me. Today I am reminded that my performance, my ability, and my self-righteousness were nailed to the cross.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Gave Up Coffee for Lent…Then I Took it Back (Part I)

Our family celebrates the Lent season every year. Not as a religious activity but a time to sacrificially give up some form of comfort and a time to feast in the Lord. It is our Ebenezer, a time to remember fully what Christ our Lord did on the Cross on our behalf. We should and do remember this all year but in celebration of Easter we love to amp this up considerably.

The first season we celebrated Lent was in 2005 and I had just started a new job at Starbucks Corporate. We had decided to give up food! We only consumed juices and clear broths; however our cheats were cream of chicken soup when we were really feeling tired or depleted. I remember my interview at Starbucks was the first day of Lent. I went in with a bottle of water and was too nervous to ask for more. By then end of my six hours of torture, I mean interview, I had an unbelievable migraine. I rushed out of there not feeling too well. On the way home I was so sick but so determined to make it home before surrendering. The minute I turned down my street I lost it and puked all over myself. I did not even have time to pull over and open the door. The rest of the season went well and I made it all the way to day 35 before totally giving into Red Robin!

Unfortunately I made that season more about weight loss than sacrificing and feasting in Christ. Also, already having a disturbed and confused metabolism I gained all that weight back plus another 25. I think I skipped Lent the next year. Since then I have modified my fasting to abstain from sugar, bad carbs, etc. I usually do make it about fasting from some type of food as that has generally been where I find my comfort.

This year when my husband asked the household what they were giving up I was a little at a loss. The last six months have been a complete change in lifestyle for me. I have lost a significant amount of weight and have really changed all my eating habits. I eat mainly organic whole foods. I, for the most part, avoid any processed, packaged, or canned foods, including flours, sauces, condiments, and dressings. I even finally weaned myself from all artificial sweeteners, soda, and things I am allergic to like sugar, dairy, and garlic. I do not look to food for comfort nearly as much as I used to because the foods that bring comfort are not something I want to put into my body. So what could I give up?

I really thought that if I did not give up coffee, which used to be a Venti Sugar Free Vanilla Breve Quad Latte, my husband would give me a hard time. So I made the ultimate sacrifice and decided to give up coffee, not caffeine but coffee. Coffee brings me great joy and satisfaction. I love to wake up to it, to warm up with it, to smell it, to know that anytime of the day I can find joy in it. I even love drinking a cup of decaf in the late afternoon. I of course added sugar and bad carbs to the mix to keep me from any occasional indulgence I may be tempted by.

To be honest, my heart has not been in it. I have not feasted in Christ. We do a daily study on the Atonement and I find I am rushing at the last minute to read my six pages to do the study with my family. I have not felt any need to depend on Christ. Honestly I have not felt like I was going to freak out without coffee although I have had a horrible headache (good indication of physical dependence). I have willed my way and just not thought much about it. I somehow have not felt I was doing this sacrificially or for Jesus. I woke up this morning and decided I was just going to have coffee. I do not feel like I needed it or I was going to die without it. I have not felt joy, so what’s up?

I went this morning and got my Venti (unsweetened/dairy free) Americano. Ah, joy! Ok, now really what’s up as I know my joy does not come from Espresso! Then it hit me! Since I quit working full-time in 2006, I have spent just about every morning enjoying 2 cups of coffee spending time with my Lord and Savior. It has been a sweet time for me. Sipping my coffee and either praying, conversing, reading, or worshipping. Since I have not been drinking coffee, I have not been enjoying that time with God. Instead, I am trying to find other moments in the day to connect and do my study. Often I am choosing time when others are around and it feels chaotic. My heart has not had the solitude and quite to hear Him. I have felt distant from Him but that did not make sense to me as I know He does not go anywhere.

I gave up coffee to please my husband. He is so passionate about the Lent season and a time to renew and remember what Christ did. I chose something for him, not Jesus. In turn, I sacrificed something far greater than my comfort. I sacrificed my peace and joy, Jesus. I sacrificed precious time with Him for the sake of pleasing man.

Since Lent began, I have had a nagging sense that my procrastination and laziness are destroying me. I have been consumed with all the things I cannot get done. I have procrastinated taking care of important personal matters and seemingly insignificant ones like mailing rebates on time. I get to a place of being so overwhelmed that I become paralyzed. When my husband asked me this morning what I would give up in place of coffee the first word that came to mind was procrastination. How do you give up procrastination and is that really sacrificial? When I really unpacked it I found that it is absolutely the most sacrificial thing I could give up.

As I mentioned the last six months have been a complete change in lifestyle for me. Losing a significant amount of weight and taking care of my body has allowed my overall activity, energy, and productivity to double if not more. I am more active than I have been in six years. I am on the go a lot; I have a lot of responsibility between a part-time job and overseeing several ministries at church, plus working out at the gym. We also have an extended family as we have opened up our home to two gals who intern at the church. As we do not like the idea of having “roommates”, we try to be very intentional in fellowship and living life together. All of this has given me a spirit of entitlement to “me” time which usually entails sitting on my bum or sleeping. I am not a big fan of TV so sleep is usually far more appealing to me.

I do have a lot of time where I could be taking care of personal matters, such as keeping bills organized, filing rebates on time, getting my documents and files in order. These items overwhelm me greatly and cause me to feel paralyzed. When I am paralyzed, I shut down, sleep, and go numb. I withdraw relationally. There are days when my entitlement kicks into overdrive and instead of going to the gym which is what I really desire; I chose to sit down on the couch and nap. My naps are generally filled with interruptions and are anything but restful. I wake up grouchy, dissatisfied, and guilty that I did not choose doing something beneficial or productive.

I think the biggest repercussion of my procrastination and laziness is the effect it has on my relationship with my husband. Being overwhelmed and my defense of shutting down include a great amount of sleep. Since my husband’s schedule is so crazy, my only time to really connect with him is late evenings and early mornings. Our evenings are usually spent connecting as a family. Either by our study, dinner, gym, or watching our favorite shows on TV. The only way to not sacrifice that time is to be intentional with each other after everyone goes to bed. By then, I am looking at how many hours of sleep I will be getting if I do not go to sleep immediately. I could be more intentional and get up a little early, not five minutes before I need to run out the door.

I experience Christ through my husband a lot. I would not truly know Christ today the way I do if it were not for my husband. Christ has worked through my husband in great ways. I have been hurt deeply by the people closest to me and have been abandoned and betrayed by many. Christ has redeemed relationships for me by my husband’s refusal to abandon or betray me and in his pursual of my heart. He has fought hard to win my heart and show me the love of Christ even when I refused to see. During this Lent season, I have avoided both my husband and my Lord. I have not been willing to sacrifice my comfort of sleep for the sake of relationship and intimacy.

So when I looked at what giving up procrastination and laziness for Lent meant, that was my neon sign. If I was diligent to just accomplish a few small tasks instead of napping or checking out and was willing to give up an hour of sleep every morning, I would have meaningful intimacy with my husband and Jesus. Giving up coffee sacrificed the wrong things and did nothing for my heart. Sacrificing my entitlement allows me to feast in both my husband and my Jesus.

To be continued…