I am so glad it is Friday. Even though I have a weekend that is a bit busier than I prefer, it is good busy for the most part. Which equates to NOT WORK.
This morning I enjoyed some sweet Jesus time and, as so often happens, I was blessed with some insight that I had never put together before. It comes from a combination of sources, and it is so God-like that I just happened to dive into both on the same morning. My brain makes its best connections that way. I am not so great at remembering and connecting when info has space in the middle.
This morning I started out by reading an amazing article published online at DesiringGod.org. This reading was actually my second time through it. Last night when I read the article, it was so overwhelmingly good and applicable I honestly couldn’t take it in. The article was penned by Christopher Asmus, a lead pastor at a new plant of Vertical Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is entitled “Three Questions to Ask Before You Snack.”
So much goodness between the title and the end credits. WOW. I think the part I like best is that he calls a spade a spade. Nothing flowery to make you feel less sad with your sin. That sin is called gluttony, and Asmus defines it as “not about what we eat, but what we exalt – food or God.” He calls it “food worship” and “table idolatry.”
After reading the article, I can wholeheartedly say with the author, “…overeating is not an occasional incident for me; it has become part of my normal diet. Gluttony it is my most habitual, persistent, and pervasive sin.”
When we go to food to satisfy anything besides hunger, we indulge in gluttonous behavior. “Gluttony is about our worship, not our waistline.” So often when I tell myself I feel hungry, I really am not. My soul is empty, not my stomach. And I believe God created that ability for our souls to feel empty as a driving force to spending quality time with Him regularly and often.
Asmus gives three questions to ask in an effort to determine how you are eating, gluttonously or worshipfully.
Will this food serve my mission? Optimal food needs to be calorie dense and nutrient rich. That is the kind of food that serves us best. Asmus says Jonathan Edwards once remarked that he only ate the sorts of food “which best suited his constitution, and rendered him most fit for mental labor.” Edwards believed you should leave the table feeling more alert and energetic to do what God has called you to do than when you sat down. How often do I finish a meal feeling too full and overly sleepy?
Food was given to us by the Lord to make us better able to fulfill the task He has called us to do on this earth. That’s it. Nothing else. So in that light, “gluttony renders us ineffective for our mission.”
Will this food I am eating help me fellowship? So there is feasting and there is fueling. The day to day eating for mission work is fueling. It is what God ordained. But the Bible talks often of feasting, and not in a bad way. But feasting always involved fellowship. Go to the church potluck and eat differently than you normally would. Meet a friend for coffee and conversation and enjoy a pastry. But these are few and far between, not daily indulgences. But if you are like me, bingeing occurs in secret, when no one else is around. This is where sin thrives best, right? In secret.
Feast with family and friends, but not in the secret and quiet of your home. If no one is going to enjoy your feast with you, don’t have it!
Will this food help me savor God? “Mindless snacking is not Christian eating; it’s cheapening the good gift of food as we disconnect the blessing from it’s Giver.” Devouring food takes Him out of the picture. Eating with no involved thought – God is not in that? “While the glutton eats to taste pizza, the Christian eats to taste God’s goodness in and through the textures, the aromas, and the flavors. Gluttony stands helpless against mindful, thankful, worshipful eating.” I can honestly say I cannot remember the last time I engaged my brain with my food to say, “How is God wanting me to enjoy this food?”
In closing, Asmus says that the most important thing about eating is not what you eat, although that is important, not how much you eat, which is where I linger, but WHY YOU EAT. If you dwell on this aspect, you will regain lost control over bingeing and uncontrolled eating. The “what” and the “how much” will fall into place behind a “why” that is brought into control.
There are only three reasons, therefore, to eat: for the individual mission God has given you; for enjoyment within a community of believers or a one-on-one time of fellowship; and to experience the goodness of God through the food He created.
Then I started reading in Judges 6, and God continued to reveal insight into this whole bingeing issue. At the opening of the chapter, the Israelites are being oppressed by the Midianites. Their crops are being stolen, their livestock are being taken, and they are a scared people. The Israelites are actually hiding out…in mountains and caves. But also in strongholds. Now I am fully aware that a stronghold in this context is a place worth hiding in, because it is not breach-able, but to me, a stronghold is sin that has control over me. So the people are hiding out in their sin. Gluttony does that to a person; it causes people to perform their sin in the secret places where no one can find them.
I totally know it is a stretch, but to me it makes such logical sense to my heart. And it goes even further. A bit later we are introduced to Gideon who is hiding out from the Midianites, threshing his wheat in a little wine press. Most likely that small center circle where he would be most hidden. He doesn’t want the enemy stealing his food. And again, the intended meaning is not that Gideon is hiding with his food, but that is what I read. The commentary for this passage from shereadstruth.com states: “Don’t let the worn pathways of your sins lure you into hopelessness…my sin is too great…my bad habits can never be broken. When you are in a rut, it’s hard to look up and figure your way out of habitual sin. It takes something DRAMATIC to turn our hearts back toward God.”
So that is me. I have been hiding for so long in my stronghold and keeping my food (eating) a secret (instead of feasting in a place of communion and fellowship only), that I have created a rut. A DEEP groove. And honestly, I PRAY that God will not have to resort to drastic and dramatic measures to turn my heart back toward Him. But the Israelites wallowed in their sin over and over and over. Yes, they had decades of peace where they kept near God, but then the rebellion + oppression cycle would inevitably come around again. Because we as humans are so fickle!!!!
I so clearly saw this period of history for Israel as my personal story. I pray that I can turn my heart more directly toward God before He has to resort to drama! I am afraid of the sting of drama, for sure. Currently I feel like I am moving from delivery to serving the Lord, and I need it to stop there. No more cycling around to sin and idolatry, no more slavery.
Happy weekend. I intend to post at least something short each day as God starts me on this journey toward freedom.