October 29, 2011

The Devil in the Mirror

Identity...one of the most powerful concepts in relation to an individual's ability to function as a whole, complete person and to interact with others in a healthy, mutually uplifting way.

Identity is the hinge on which a person's mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health swings. A lost and/or confused identity is the catalyst for every sin, disorder, or complex. Take that to the bank.

Think about it: Nothing causes more anxiety and altercations than getting lost. Am I right? You want to see two loving, godly married people go at it? Put them in the middle of nowhere with a map and one gas station and watch the eruption. The man clings to the map and his pride believing he can in fact save the day. The woman, in desperation, realizes that one quick stop and question can easily clear the confusion and put them back on the straight and narrow.

You see, even getting lost reveals where a person may or may not be finding his/her identity...hence the fight. The man is the protector, right? So, finding his way proves he is capable of living up to his identity as the leader and provider of the home. The woman is the helper. She knows that the best and most efficient help will come from the gas station. However, she is also relational and yearns to be heard. If her husband, in an effort to prove he can live up to his identity of protector, refuses to listen, she feels scorned, panics even more, and now decides to up the anty by demanding (instead of gently suggesting) a stop.

So identity. It's huge.

Paul spends all of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians dealing with the idea of identity. Paul knows. He knows that these believers who are living in a culturally explosive and seductive time period will be easily swayed to abandon their convictions for love, acceptance, worth and security if not found first and foremost in Christ. He knows that Satan is clever and aware that a simple crack in a believer's identity will ultimately cause the entire fortress of his/her carefully constructed belief system to crumble. Satan knows. So, Paul belabors the subject of a believers identity in Christ. What does it mean to be in Christ? What does is look like? How does it happen?

In Colossians, Paul calls "Christ in you" a mystery. How true is that? I mean, we talk about our identity needing to be in Christ and the fact that it should be easy since He lives in us. But, honestly here, what the heck does that even mean? Paul defines it for us in Colossians 3:1-4...

- Raised with Christ
- Seated with Christ
- Hidden in Christ

Okay...so let me break this down for you. If you were raised with Christ, you had to have died with Christ. Very simply put, when Christ died on the cross for your sins over 2000 years ago, He died for all of your sins: Past, present, and future. Everything thing you do, say, and think has been covered by God's forgiveness. You are set for life. Let that sink in. Seriously. Stop, and think about that for a second. I don't care what you have done in your past or may commit in the future or are contemplating right now, you are FORGIVEN!!! Isaiah says it this way, "You [God] have cast all my sins behind Your [God's] back." David explains it this way, "As far as the east is from the west, so far does He [God] remove our transgressions from us." You can disagree with me, but I would be really careful with disagreeing with Scripture...and God's Word makes it clear...ALL of your sin is covered and forgiven. Period.

But how can that be, you ask? Ah, that's the mystery of Christ in YOU. You see, when Christ died on the cross, your sin and your labels (I could list some, but chances are you don't need me to...your label just came to mind) were nailed to the cross: "God has forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him." Those labels, those names you call yourself and the way you see yourself, are demonic. Yeah, that's right, they are from Satan. Otherwise, why would Paul say in that verse "He [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities...putting them to open shame"? He said that because those are the sources of your faulty identity. If Satan can determine how you see yourself, he can control how you see God and how you interact with others.

Come on...are you shocked to figure out that the reason you are so impatient with other people is because you are simply trying to protect yourself and hold your weak facade of an identity together? Are you struggling to forgive someone? That's because you are afraid that he/she/they could possibly get away with what he/she/they did and then ruin you again. Yeah, and you would be ruined because whatever he/she/they could take away from you is what you are basing your identity on. Let me explain it this way: You are finding your love, acceptance, worth and security somewhere. That "somewhere" is your identity. Do the math. You are scared you are going to lose whatever that "somewhere" is. Whoever threatens "that" is who you are out to destroy. Love, patience, forgiveness, kindness...those are obtrusive thoughts to you because those make you weak against the "whoever". So, you develop bitterness and anger as a way to protect yourself from the threat. Yeah, you're tracking with me now.

Okay, so you are forgiven. That's nice. However, we can't stop there. You are seated with Christ. After Christ died on the cross, He sat down at the right hand of God in Heaven. His sitting down is symbolic of saying "I'm done". In other words, Christ did everything that needed to be done for you to be forgiven and to stay forgiven...for all of eternity. In essence, Paul says it is as though you are sitting with Jesus, next to God. You are hanging out in God's throne room. "Wait a minute..." You gasp..."I am not worthy to be up there with Jesus." Uh, yes you are. That's my point. You were forgiven. When God looks at you, He sees Jesus. He sees His perfection. He doesn't see your label. That was nailed to the cross, remember? Jesus sat down. It's over. God disarmed Satan and the demons from using your label as a weapon against you.

But you still feel attacked? Paul explains all through Colossians how important it is to grow in knowledge. Why? Because knowledge opens your eyes to the truth of who you really are in God's eyes and therefore weakens the devil's hold on you.

Frederick Douglass was a black slave who taught himself to read and write. Consequently, he was able to escape from slavery and became a leading advocate for black rights in the North during the Civil War era. He explains that as a child, his slave owner was attempting to teach him to read and to write. However, her husband caught word of the tutoring. He quickly put an end to the lessons. Why? Because knowledge is power. If Douglass was able to read and to write, the dividing lines between whites and blacks would blur. Douglass would realize he too, in fact, is human and endowed to certain "unalienable rights".

Romans says that we have not been "given the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear..." We are adopted into God's family...we have a whole new identity!!! However, Satan uses our lack of knowledge of what that means to keep us tied up in anger and bitterness and enslaved to certain people and situations in effort to protect ourselves.

You are hidden in Christ now. You are safe. He, Who Colossians 1 says is the God of the universe, is your protector. Ultimately, we are all going to die and spend eternity somewhere. Ultimately, all of this crap down here is going to be over and where we end up (either in Heaven or in Hell) is what is going to matter. Keep eternity in mind. "Set your minds on things above", Colossians 3:2 states. Realize, what Jesus did on the cross 2000 years ago defines you. Shut Satan up. He doesn't deserve your time, or your identity.

More on this later.

September 10, 2011

Letter from God

Dear Daughter,

I have wanted to talk to you for a while, but I am having trouble getting through to you. Oh, intellectually you’re right with Me…or so you think. You have learned what to say in order to convince everyone else that you believe in Me…I am just not so sure you are convinced I really am who you say I am. You only repeat what other people say about me…you have never truly found out Who I AM. Everyone else has defined your relationship with Me. Maybe that’s why every time I move to get close to you, you keep me at arm’s length. The thing is, I know it’s not really you who pushes me away, but your fear. You’re afraid you don’t deserve my love. You’re terrified that I am going to discover the secrets from your past that you keep hidden from everyone else. You’re anxious that you are not going to measure up to the person you think I want you to be. You’re scared that I am not going to want to hear from you because you failed…again. You have felt abandoned by friends and family and cannot bear the thought of Me rejecting you.

You are seeing me through the lens of humanity…the only problem is, I am Creator God.

When you are with someone you trust completely, you’re free to be yourself. I am hurt by your pretense, especially with Me. It keeps you from the relationship I designed you for: a relationship with Me, the God of the Universe and the Savior of mankind. You think your longings for “something” more are simply coincidental? Oh Daughter, they are to draw you closer to me. I love you enough to give you free will...but not to leave you alone. You think I’m shocked by the secrets you have from your past? Girl, I gave you the ability to make those decisions…because I love you. Now, I want to cleanse you and to purify you. I want to save you from yourself…because I love you. The fact that you believe you have to earn my love or distract me from who you truly are, saddens me deeply. Why would I send my only Son to brutally die for you if you had to earn my love? Can’t His sacrificial death be proof enough that I don’t care what you have done or will do, I just want you? I know right now you truly believe that I can’t accept you or that I wouldn’t want to accept you. I want to be honest, my Daughter. You don’t really believe in Me then. You believe in a man-made god. All of your religion has done you a major disservice. To believe that I ‘m too disappointed with your depression, that I’m utterly disgusted with your sexual immorality, that I’m outright appalled by your deceit, that I’m unbelievably shocked by your materialism, that I was never around for your abuse, that I’m absolutely over your arrogance, or that I’m completely impressed with your performance, is to not truly know Who I AM.

I hate sin. But why? Has that ever been explained to you? I hate sin because look at what it has done to you. Look how it has totally devastated your life and those closest to you. That is why when you sin, I refuse to hold it over your head. Sure, I convict you because I want you as far away from the danger and destruction as you can get. But, as soon as you realize that sin doesn’t define who you truly are, I am ready to remind you that you are mine. You belong to me. You are someone I fashioned and created in your mother’s womb. I knew you personally before you could even speak. I knew where you would take your first steps. I knew when you would lose your first tooth. I knew you would struggle learning to count to ten and to write in cursive. I knew the day you would no longer believe in Santa Claus. I knew you would want to burn your middle school pictures because of your frizzy hair, buck teeth, and huge glasses. I knew who your first love would be (and really, him?). I knew all about your first heartbreak. I knew that after high school, you would become disillusioned with what life truly was. I knew that you would be faced with circumstances you thought would kill you, either physically or emotionally. I knew you would grow angry with me. I knew you would decide you could no longer trust a God who allows such pain. I knew that your hurt would define Me as a God who doesn’t care, a God who is powerful but chooses to be relentlessly mean, a God who purposefully allows terrible, unspeakable things to be done to you and then expects you to take the high road with forgiveness. I don’t blame you for hating that god. He isn’t me, though. Yes, I am sovereign. Yes, I allow certain things to take place…but do you really think that this sin infested world with all of its abuse, death, divorce, cancer, depression, addictions, legalism, and religion is what I originally created for humanity? No, this was not my Creation. But, man chose. And it broke My heart. That is why My Son, My Only Son, came to earth to die. I knew the only way for you to survive was though Redemption.

Redemption. Let that word speak peace to the depths of your heart. I want to redeem you. I want to buy you back from the inner turmoil, pain, secrets, anxiety, depression, shame, reputations, pressures, addictions, and lies that hold you captive right now. I want you to believe once and for all that when My Son died on the cross 2000 years ago, He died for you. He died for your sin. No, you aren’t the only one to have gone there. No, I do know what you have done. No, you aren’t the only one. Yes, I do care. Yes, I do know. Do I need to name your sins specifically for you to believe that each of them was covered with My Son’s blood and therefore my forgiveness? I didn’t think so. You are free from your sin, past, and reputation. You are free, if you choose to let Me and My Gospel of Grace define you. You’re right, it isn’t easy…for you. I never said it would be. What I have said is that if you choose to trust Me, you won’t be disappointed. I want to blow your mind with all that I have in store for you. But you have to do the hard work of first believing in Me. You don’t need to believe in your shakable faith. In fact, the sooner you choose to no longer believe what everyone has told you about Me and just find out for yourself, the better. You need to come to the place where you believe in your Unshakable God when everything inside of you trembles and shakes. Choose to believe I am Who I say I AM. Choose to believe I can do all that I have said I can do. Then, you need to choose to believe you are who I say you are and you can do what I say you can do.

I want so much more for you, my Daughter. I am begging you to believe that I have a hope and a future for you. I want to do far more abundantly than you can think or imagine. I want you to prosper, to heal, to thrive, to truly live. But you can’t do it apart from Me. I am waiting. I am here. I love you. Come back. I am calling your name. Please hear Me.

I love you,
God

Adapted and some excerpts taken from Jesus Calling (Sarah Young) and Praying Through God’s Word (Beth Moore).

September 9, 2011

The Other Woman Part 2

"God is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

If you have ever felt abandoned, even in the slightest sense, you have felt utterly broken. Abandonment speaks to the deepest part of us that we are worthless. A sense of worthlessness breeds hopelessness. Hopelessness crushes the spirit. Praise God He is close to and the Savior of the Abandoned!

"I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all of my fears." Psalm 34:4

Fear is the ball and chain that keeps a person locked in the stronghold of rejection (Abandonment). I want to pause here and get you to think about this...many times we think that the only way to be abandoned or rejected is at the hands of another person. This isn't entirely true. We can also feel abandoned when our ideal of what a family should be crumbles, when our belief system is challenged and doesn't hold up, when a group of people we thought should have handled a situation differently didn't. Countless people have been crushed by broken dreams, faulty religions, hypocritical churches, repeated failure, unfair circumstances, depression, legalism, cancer, and on and on the list goes.

Fear is perpetuated by the constant rehearsal of "What if?" and "If only?"

What if I stay alone?
What if my kids don't choose Jesus?
What if he leaves me?
What if I am wrongfully judged for something out of my control?
What if I can't make it as a single mom?
What if I ruin my family's reputation?
What if someone finds out who I really am?
What if I can't make it in ministry?
What if I do something stupid and can't correct it?
What if I can't cut it?

If only I knew back then what I know now...
If only I could go back ten years...
If only I could tell him/her what I really am thinking...
If only I hadn't married him...
If only I had been there...
If only I had made that promotion...
If only I hadn't gotten pregnant so soon...
If only I had finished my degree...
If only I had a different personality...
If only I were more talented...

Wow...I have to be honest, just reading through those gives me a slight panic attack. God will deliver us from all of our fears, we just have to look to Him.

"Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" Psalm 34:5, 8

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart...It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones." Proverbs 3:5, 8

My question is, who are you feeding? You have two women...the one who is Abandoned and the one who is longing for Acceptance. If you feed Abandonment with fear ("What if?" and "If only?"), you will stay locked in the stronghold of rejection. However, if you call to Jesus in the midst of the fear and look to Him and His almighty power that is available to free you from the darkest of strongholds through faith, and if you feast on His goodness to you by sending His Son to die on the the cross so He could have a relationship with you, you will be freed!

We have to renew our minds. We have to walk in Radical Truth if we seek freedom. Cling to Jesus and the Truth His Word speaks over your life. Feed on Truth, not on fear.

September 7, 2011

The Other Woman

Catchy title, huh? Were you hoping for something scandalous? Well, don't be disappointed. You may not realize this, but each of us has an "Other Woman" who is attempting to sabotage our friendships, marriages, children, careers, ministries...really, our entire lives. Who is She?

She doesn't live across the street, but She comes over to your house regularly. You don't talk to her, but She goes to your church. You would never invite her out for coffee or lunch, but She shows up uninvited all of the time. She spends more time with your husband, friends, and your children than you would like. She wrecks the perfect day and steals the joy from any memory. Who is She?

Look in the mirror. If you stare closely enough, you'll see her. She's you.

Women are unique. We are complicated. We are messy. Let's just face the facts. Since the Garden of Eden, we have wanted the control and have bought into every lie in order to obtain control. One of those lies is that we cannot be broken, weak, or vulnerable. The only problem is, because of the sin invested world we live in, we will experience one of these emotions, and most likely at the hands of someone we trusted deeply. So what do you we do? What any good daughter of Eve would do...we stuff those feelings deep down inside and they develop a life, literally a life, of their own. She is the Other Woman.

So often we don't even know She is there. But if you pay closer attention, you will begin to see the figure of a woman emerge from the shadows of pain.

When you live vicariously through your children because you feel like you missed out on something or your life is just so boring, She's there.

When your life centers around your fashion, your cooking, and your decorations, She's there.

When you are scared to death to get to know people and to build intimate relationships, She's there.

When you hide behind activity and ministry because you want to be noticed, She's there.

When you experience bouts of depression, She's there.

When you are suspicious of every person in your life, She's there.

When you can't explain your anxiety or your fear, She's there.

When you think God is out to get you, She's there.

When you can't enjoy God's goodness because you are preparing for the next storm, She's there.

Do you see her? I sure do. If I had children, I could say I can see her in every one of those confessions. She specializes in "What if?" and "If only..." She goes by many names...but her favorite is "Abandonment". Each of us has experienced Abandonment in some way. Usually, the pain is so deep, we do what we can to bury it and escape it. However, any time we feel overlooked, ignored, replaced, mistreated, or hurt, we subconsciously feed Abandonment. The Bible says "a broken spirit dries up the bones." Abandonment breaks our spirits and if we don't allow God to heal us, we will dry up. We have too many dried up woman in our homes, work places, churches, gyms, and schools. How do we experience healing?

Stay tuned.

Do I Have Any Rights? Part 2

So today I read John 1:11-13:

"He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."

How awesome is that? The day after I am convicted about feeling as though I am entitled to certain rights from God and from others, I realize that I do have one divine right to center my entire life around:

I have the right to be a child of God.Amazing. What does this mean? Romans 8 breaks it down for me. The following facts need to be ingrained into my heart and mind over and over again because I am up against Satan, the Adversary. He will use every manipulation and deception possible to steer me away from the most powerful truth in all of Scripture: I have Christ's life inside of me because I am a child of God. What does this mean practically?

1. I am no longer condemned by sin and Satan, or God Himself. God condemned sin in His Son on the cross so that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled...in me!!! Let that sink in for a minute. v.1-8

2. I am in the Spirit. The Spirit of Life (the Holy Spirit - Who is God) - Who raised Christ from the dead - dwells in me!!! Again, pause and reflect. You don't need to feel this...you probably can't feel this...just believe it...by faith! Remember, Hebrews says it is impossible to please God without faith. v. 9-10

3. I am not in debt to sin. I don't owe, am not tied to or enslaved to sin. In other words, I don't have to sin anymore! How freeing! v.11-14

4. I am a child of God. I am not enslaved to fear or to sin. I am not a child of Satan, who is the Father of lies. I have the right to call myself a Child of God, and an heir of all that God has (read Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1). v.15-17

These truths will revolutionize our lives...if we grab a hold of them by faith and constantly remind ourselves of them when we are tempted to believe otherwise. I am a child of God. I have that right. By faith, I am claiming this right today, and everyday, from now till eternity.

August 10, 2011

Do I Have Any Rights? Part 1

I am not going to lie...I often believe I have rights. I mean, be honest, don't you? If you are thinking, "No, I really don't." Than riddle me this: Why do you get hurt, angry, stressed, or depressed? Because...you think you are entitled to certain outcomes, and when you don't get those outcomes, all Hell breaks lose. You with me? Personally, this is precisely why I struggle to forgive, to extend grace, and to surrender to God. I feel like He owes me and so do people. How arrogant of me! No wonder there are times in my life when it feels like God is against me...James 4 explains He is directly opposed to the proud - but intimately close to the humble. Yikes.

I was reading in Job yesterday. Here's a dude that has it all...a big family, a lot of money, a huge tent (equivalent to house...haha...for some reason that cracked me up), and a loaded camel (car - funny to me too...sorry). In Job 1:6-12, God calls Satan into His Throne Room and basically challenges Satan to a duel. Let this sink in for a second...God is so confident in His character and sovereignty, that He gives Satan permission to utterly destroy Job's life. Wait a minute...come again? Yeah, God, in His confident sovereignty and immutability, believes enough in His own goodness to tell Satan to wreck Job. I am not sure if you are frightened or comforted by that thought. In a strange way, I am frighteningly comforted. Here is the crazy thing...God is also confident enough in Job's character to know that he will rely on God's fixed and stable character to define his circumstances and not to allow the circumstances to define God's character. Wow.

In verses 13-19, four servants inform Job, one after the other mind you, that everything he has was just destroyed. Everything. Gone. In a matter of minutes. What Job does next hit me hard yesterday..."He fell to the ground and worshipped." I just had to stop typing for a second and take a deep breath. Wow. He explains, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."

We have heard that verse a thousand times, haven't we? But think about what Job is saying here. He realized he is entitled to nothing (he came into the world naked - with nothing - and would leave naked - with nothing), but that God is the Sovereign Creator and entitled to everything...even worship during a disastrous season.

Here's the crazy thing...Job admits in 2:10 that he and his wife have experienced "evil", which literally means "disaster", from God. However, Job questions, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" Job had a proper view of life because He had a proper view of God. God's character defined Job's circumstances. God's character defined how Job viewed himself. God's character kept Job alive when death looked more promising.

Job's view of God and of life was counter-cultural. In fact, in light of all that has just happened to Job, his wife questions God and Job's friends question his character...they think he sinned! What?! Job just clung to the truth: "I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are appointed to me..." God allowed this season, and Job accepted it as from His hand...pain and all...resting in His sovereign, good, character.

Amen and selah.

July 7, 2011

Playing the Clown Part 2

So I can't get past the life changing message in 2 Chronicles 20 (who would have ever guessed there was such awesome stuff in Chronicles? Who even knows where Chronicles is in the OT?).

To get caught up with this blog, read "Playing the Clown" below. We know that King Jehoshaphat is up against an army he cannot defeat. He cries out to God and makes the statement: "We are powerless against this great horde...we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you."

God responds: "The battle is not yours but God's...You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf." Wow. I can't get over God's answer. He says in essence, "You can't do it. You will fail. Watch me do my thing."

In The Complete Green Letters by Miles J. Stanford, I read: "If I am to be like Him, then God in His grace must do it; and the sooner I come to recognize it, the sooner I will be delivered from another form of bondage. Throw down every endeavor and say, 'I cannot do it; the more I try, the farther I get from His likeness.' What shall I do? 'Ah', the Holy Spirit says, 'You cannot do it; just withdraw; come out of it. You have been in the arena; you have been endeavoring; you are a failure; come out and sit down; and as you sit there, behold Him, look at Him. Don't try to be like Him, just look at Him. Just be occupied with Him. Forget about tyring to be like Him. Instead of letting that fill your mind and heart, let Him fill it. Look upon Him through the Word. Come to the Word for one purpose and that is to meet the Lord. Not to get your mind crammed full of things about the sacred Word, just come to it to meet the Lord.'"

God wanted to show off to His people. He knew that they could not do anything on their own; only He is self-sufficient. He wanted to prove this to them. So what were they to do during the battle if they weren't going to fight?

2 Chronicles 20:21: "And Jehoshaphat appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise Him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, 'Give thanks to the LORD, for His steadfast love endures forever."

The army simply praised God! And God blessed...He "gave rest all around".

I love this story because it proves what I know intellectually, but need to be reminded of emotionally. I can do nothing. I am simply a branch. I need to once and for all own my position as resting in the Vine (John 15). The Vine gives the nutrients. The Vine causes the growth. The Vine protects, sustains, and fortifies. The Vine does all the work. I sit there and glean. I praise. I show off the Vine's glory by producing the fruit the Vine gives. I just am because I am a part of the Almighty I Am.

Selah.

July 6, 2011

Playing the Clown

Why is it so hard for me to accept that God does not need me? I mean, over the past three weeks I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to get things done. I am exhausted emotionally, physically, and spiritually...emphasis on the emotional.

There is nothing wrong with being busy. Business is a part of life. But my "business" is self-inflicted as a way to find identity. Let's backtrack here for a second...

June 10th: I lose my job (I asked for a part-time position, they don't have any available...bummer).
June 12-15th: I go to the beach with my husband.
June 16th-19th: I clean and organize at home.
June 20th: I jump both feet into a new job.
June 21-24th: I eat, drink, and sleep this new job.
June 25th till now: I have tried to juggle being a pastor's wife, business woman, heath nut, family person, and a believer. I am a bad juggler. I am exhausted.

Honestly, the downhill spiral effect happened after I lost my job. I placed my identity, my confidence, and my pride in my job. No job. No identity. Insert downward spiral. Pathetic, but true (and it sucks that the way that I process is by writing...now all of you know my secret battles. Crap).

You know you are placing your identity in something/someone other than Jesus Christ if you are playing a clown at a circus and juggling. God never meant for us to "juggle" our lives. What is that verse in Matthew 11:28? "My yoke is easy and my burden light." Nothing in there about juggling, anxiety, exhaustion. Just "easy" and "light". Must be nice.

In 2 Chronicles 20, I read that King Jehoshaphat (crazy name) is in a war that he knows he will not win...on his own. He turns to God and cries out for help: "You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand You...We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You." Wow. To have the courage that Jehoshaphat had to admit that he was nothing apart from God...

Here is God's response: "Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's...You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you."

I love that word "tomorrow". Why? Because today and the past few weeks I have skrewed up. I have thought that God needed me...because I need to be needed. Feel me? I have so many fears and insecurities that I try to temper by being needed, which in my mind is a sure way to evade abandonment. Then I read this by A.W. Tozer: "This truth [that God is self-sufficient and needs no-one], while a needed rebuke to human self-confidence [ouch], will when viewed in its Biblical perspective lift from our minds the exhausting load of mortality and encourage us to take the easy yoke of Christ and spend ourselves in Spirit-inspired toil for the honor of God and the good of mankind. For the blessed news is that the God who needs no one has in sovereign condescension stooped to work by and in and through His obedient children...In the meanwhile our inner fulfillment lies in loving obedience to the commandments of Christ and the inspired admonitions of His apostles. 'It is God which worketh in you.' He needs no one, but when faith is present He works through anyone."

Why faith? Because I have to have faith that God is going to come through for me. Unbelief, Tozer says, is a deadly sin because I am believing in myself, not God. Do I really believe God has got this...whatever the "this" may be in my life at any given time? If so, I will allow Him to dictate my day ("Spirit-inspired toil for the honor of God") and I will be freed up to love and to serve other people ("the good of mankind").

Rest: a word so foreign to me, but the obvious mark that a person has surrendered to the Self-Sufficiency of God and has placed all faith in the fact that God is sovereign and can be trusted and will come through for those Who wait on Him.

Okay...time to put my money where my mouth is. Clown make-up is coming off.

June 16, 2011

Redeeming Your Past

These past couple of months, I have been reading through the book Captivating with the ladies from my church. It has been a heart wrenching study. The statistics say that in most churches, ¼ women have been abused in some way. Well, on any given week, I sit in a circle of 8-10 women, each one an abuse victim. I want to add that this group was not designated as a “Recovery Group” or anything of the sort. The small group is named and advertised as a “Ladies Bible Study”. Sobering.

I say all that to say that if you have read Captivating, you know it walks women through the somewhat painful process of recognizing wounds, facing wounds, and healing from wounds. Week after week, women shared their stories. Dark stories. Stories that left me emotionally drained. I praise God, however, that the stories were shared. Satan loses his power to accuse and shame when the truth is brought to the light. God’s Truth can then penetrate the pain and set the wounded free!

This is our final week in the study (I am a little relieved…we need to move on, amen?!). However, I have discovered a couple of interesting insights as we have worked through this study that I want to list really quickly and hit on in-depth later…

  1. Our wounds are a sort of baggage that we carry and use as a form protection in the way of justification for certain behaviors. Let that sink in for a second. God’s responsibility is to open our eyes to our wounds; our responsibility is to deal with our wounds (read “Living Wounded or With our Wounds”). We deal by either carrying them around with us as a sort of justification for “why I am the way I am”; or, we acknowledge the hurt and the pain and then deal with the wound Biblically: through forgiveness (read “Forgive, Forgiving, Forgiven”). I don’t have to tell you which of the above two options is more emotionally taxing and physically exhausting…you already know.

  1. “Security is not found in the absence of danger, but in the presence of Jesus.” We allow our wounds to define us out of fear. We are afraid. “Your lingering disbelief that anything important hangs on your life is only evidence of the long assault on your heart by the one who knows who you could be and fears you.” Who is this “one”? Satan. He is a liar (John 8) and he is out to destroy you (1 Peter 5). If he can get you to believe that you are safer carrying around your wounds, if he can convince you that you are worthless because of your wounds, if he can talk you into believing you will never experience healing from your wounds, he has destroyed you and won. The only way to defeat him is to draw near to Jesus…preach the Gospel to yourself. Remember He died for you, He forgives you, He loves you, He wants you.

  1. To redeem our past, we must believe in the transcendence of God. Some of us really struggle with looking back. Hindsight isn’t only 20/20, it sucks. Trust me, I know. However, I have to say this…I was talking with Bryant the other day and he said, “Nicole, can’t you look back though and see that God has been with you every step of the way? He was there…He was leading…He has brought you to this point.” I have to be honest…I don’t always like to think that God was present at every moment in my past, some of it is embarrassing and I wish He wasn’t looking and some of it is so painful I am angry He didn’t step in. But, when I stop for a second and think about where He has me now and when I dwell on all of the blessings He has brought into me life (not because of what I have done, obviously, but because of Who He is), I can’t help but stand amazed and grateful. Have I always been able to say that? No. Healing is a process. I am still in the process, as I am sure you are too. We are moving forward. But, and there are a lot of “buts”, God is with us…right here…right now. You may not see Him, feel Him, hear Him, or believe Him, but I promise you…He is there. Cling to the facts…keep moving forward. Don’t look back until God lets you know it is time…when will that be? I don’t know…He does and He will make it clear to you. In the meantime, just keep telling yourself, “God is here and He loves me.” Simple statements, powerful truths.

May 31, 2011

Teen Dating: Teaching Rules or the Gospel?

I was asked to write a blog defining certain terms related to teenage dating. I am a little nervous to address this topic because I am pretty sure that my perspective is going to be very different than most. But, I was asked and this is my blog, so here goes! J

First, the hair stands up on the back of my neck whenever I am asked to “define terms”, because usually the only reason why we want a clear definition is so we can slap it down on someone as a rule. Rules are much easier to delineate to students. Why? Because rules are black and white and safe. However, rules are the reasons our students are flocking away from the church in epidemic numbers. They are sick of being told what to do, especially when what they are told flies in the face of culture and doesn’t make sense.

Now, a little caveat here: If we are living lives according to Scripture, we will be counter-cultural. However, it won’t be because we are following a list of rules. Culture follows rules. Think about it: rules of dress, rules of interaction, rules of business, marriage, buying and selling. Rules are not the answer. An intimate relationship with Jesus Christ is the answer. But we don’t teach that. Why? Because grace is dangerous. If we are more concerned about teaching our students the implications of the fact that Jesus Christ lives inside of them and is their life, then they will make the right decisions in their dating lives, and in every other aspect of their lives for that matter.

However, if you teach grace, your teens may slip up. What do we do? What Jesus did…remind them of the Prodigal Son…God still wants an intimate relationship with them.  God still pursues them. God still accepts them. They are still forgiven, cleansed, and in fellowship with God.

Our students don’t need rules or definitions. They need the Gospel. What is the Gospel? Jesus Christ took our sin and God’s wrath upon Himself. All of our sin: past, present, future. All of God’s wrath. Everything. Jesus Christ paid it all. When I accepted His payment for my sin, the Bible says Christ comes to live inside of me. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus. He sees righteousness, perfection, wholeness. Therefore, it would be unjust of God to be angry with me or to punish me for something that was taken care of 2000 years ago by His Son. More than that, He cannot disown or be out of fellowship with His Son. So, He does not disown or shun me when I sin. He runs to me. He wants me to see that what I chose over Him can never satisfy or love me the way He does. My sin makes Him more attractive.

That is your job as a youth leader: Make Jesus attractive. I can go ahead and tell you right now that as a whole, we are doing a poor job of this. Our rules and lists are suffocating our students. Jesus never suffocated His followers. He loved them. He patiently taught them truth, yes. However, He was gracious when they failed. We need to allow Him to express His life through us so our students get the Gospel.

One more thing: I am not saying not to give guidelines. But, ask yourself this: Am I glorifying rules or Jesus? The answer to that question will tell you everything you need to know.

May 26, 2011

Crowd Participation

So I need some crowd participation...Read the following two question "Quiz" (I would've called it "Questionnaire", but I am a teacher..."Quiz" is much more up my alley) and then leave your answers and thoughts in the "Comments" box. FYI...I am not looking for the "right" answers. I am looking for honest answers. How you answer the next two questions will tell you everything you need to know about your relationship with God. I never knew the power of these questions until I was forced to face and to answer them myself. Humble yourself...be vulnerable...and then watch God work.

Ready? Okay...

What do you believe God thinks about you?
a. I am simply a sinner saved by grace.
b. He loves me because He has to, but I am more of a disappointment to Him than anything else.
c. He is constantly frustrated with me because I can't get it right.
d. He loves me unconditionally, accepts me, and views me as He views His Son, Jesus.
e. Other (you tell me).

The following would describe my relationship with God:
a. I am working really hard to make Him proud of me.
b. I am constantly searching my heart looking for anything that could interrupt fellowship with God and cause Him to need to punish me.
c. I am resting in His grace.
d. I am trying to prove to Him that I am good enough for Him to love.
e. I am working really hard to be godly, because after all, isn't that the way I thank Him for sending His Son to die for me?

Go ahead...leave me a comment. Let me know. Don't give me the "This is what the Bible says but I don't believe it" answer. Give me your honest, gut level thoughts.

I'll go first...

The answer to the first question would have been "a" and "c". Answer to the second question: "b", "d", and "e".

May 24, 2011

Scripture vs. Intimacy

So I was reading in Grace Walk this morning and I was just blown away. I read this statement: “A grace perspective lets us see the commands not as obligations, but as opportunities for the life of Christ to be revealed through us…Set free by grace, we don’t face the commandments with self-condemnation, but with spiritual anticipation that Jesus Christ will reveal His life in us.” The author goes on to say that when Jesus was asked by a religious leader (and I never stopped to fully think that through…a religious leader, who was concerned with making sure he did everything right spiritually, was the one who asked Jesus) what the greatest commandment was (or what his main focus should be in order to be “successful”), Jesus answered with Mark 12:30-31. Jesus didn’t say to “be holy as I am holy” or “to meditate on Scripture day and night”. No, He said to fall more in love with Him. Wow.

Then the author discussed the role of the Bible in the “grace walk”. He said we are taught that the way to fight temptation is by quoting Scripture. However, he said as a young man, Scripture alone was not enough to empower him to say no to lust. He would memorize, recite, and carry around verse cards to no avail. He explains, “The Bible is a weapon against the powers of darkness. However, it isn’t possible to recite verses to the devil and expect him to run in fear…As you abide in Christ moment by moment, your love for Him will enable you to resist temptation by the power of His life within you.”

I started thinking through Scripture…and I thought of James 4. James explains that the way to resist Satan is to “draw near to God”. James doesn’t say anything about memorizing Scripture. He writes about pursuing an intimate relationship with Jesus. Satan is intimidated by intimacy with Jesus because Jesus is the only person Satan is not able to conquer. Don't forget...Satan can quote Scripture. He uses Scripture. Interesting.

Secondly, I thought of 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 where Paul is writing about the “messenger of Satan” sent to torment him. He didn’t get rid of the demon through Scripture memorization or recitation. Jesus didn’t even tell him to handle the situation that way. What is the answer? God’s grace. Intimacy with Jesus. Wow.

I am just marinating in that right now because it is blowing up everything I have held to for a while. The way I deal with my struggles and failures is not by “doing” anything. I can’t memorize enough, read enough, serve enough, or say no enough. If I could, that would fly in the face of the Gospel. Why? Because doing something means I am relying on myself, not my Savior.

I have made a tool an idol. God's Word is a tool, a weapon. Intimacy with Jesus, allowing Him to express His life through me, brings the power.

I am learning to come to Him in honest surrender, instead of doing more Bible studies and projects for victory and healing, I am praying prayers like, “Jesus, I am getting defeated time and time again. I am struggling to give up this particular sin. I want You, but in honesty, I want this thing too. You live inside of me. You deal with it. I am trusting You for victory.”

I want to dare you to pray that way. It is revolutionizing.

May 19, 2011

Dear Moms and Daughters...

My mom and I :)
Chapter 10 of the book Captivating deals with mother/daughter relationships. Stasi Eldredge explains the conflict between mothers and daughters in the first few pages of the chapter.

Mothers tend to believe (even sub-consciously) that their daughters are extensions of themselves. So, if the daughter strays from or does something different than what she has been taught by her mother, the mother experiences confusion, pain, disappointment. Ironically, daughters desperately want to please their mothers, but they also want to develop into their own persons. So, tension develops.

Satan is really clever. He plays on mothers’ insecurities and baggage. He convinces them that if their daughters don’t turn out a particular way, the mom is to blame. Consequently, mothers tend to be very controlling. They ultimately want what is best for their daughters, which they believe is different than what their moms gave them. They are terrified of feeling like a failure with their daughters.

Daughters react to this control. They want to be seen and invited. They want to be seen for who they are as individuals and invited to be themselves. However, remember, moms, out of fear, tend to be controlling because if the daughter is left to be herself, what if she does something stupid? Does that mean the mom failed? So, I repeat: Tension develops.

We cannot forget that we are all born with a sin nature and this sin nature gets passed down from generation to generation. Our parents are prone to certain sins due to their parents’ sin natures. So, it is safe and logical to say that a daughter will inherent some baggage from her mother’s sin nature. Please realize I am not blaming the mother. Honestly, some of you moms should breathe a sigh of relief. You put so much pressure on yourself to be the “perfect mother” and beat yourself up now that your daughter is grown and you see some of your sinful tendencies in her life. You feel as though you have failed. You haven’t. In case you have forgotten, you are human, so you have a sin nature, as does your daughter. She will fail, not because you failed, but because she is a sinner. The fact that she is a sinner makes her in desperate need of the Savior. This is the Gospel 101.

Here’s the thing: Mothers and daughters have baggage. Couple that to the tension that already exists between mothers wanting their daughters to succeed and daughters wanting to be their own persons. Is it any wonder, then, why we need healing in our relationships? We are all in the same boat. I don’t care how amazing you or your mom is (and I am sure you both are…my mom is awesome), but you have to work through stuff…in both of your lives.

How do you go about doing this? First, you stop blaming your mom for your sin (because this is where the healing starts: looking into your past, discovering your baggage, and dealing with it). You have a sin nature. Even if your mom would have been the “world’s best”, you would still have crap to deal with in your own life. However, you realize that as a woman, you have “life” to offer. If you are a believer, you have Christ’s life to offer. Because Christ lives in you, you have the victory over sin. Instead of focusing on your baggage, which will only lead to self-medication and death (Romans 8), focus on Christ by abiding in Him, obeying His commandments, and acting in faith (taken from Grace Walk). Notice what comes first though: abiding in Him. What does abiding mean?

Abiding means that you realize that you don’t have to do anything at all to convince God to love you. If you never read your Bible or prayed again, if you never lead another Bible study or discipled another person, God would still love you, accept you, and yearn for intimacy with you. He is not surprised or disappointed by your failures. He forgave you and your shortcomings 2000 years ago (refer to my “Don’t Ask for Forgiveness” blog). You are righteous and worth Jesus Christ to God. Just enjoy Him and His presence. When you do this, you will obey automatically. But obedience divorced from love is religion and detestable to God (a.k.a. Pharisaical).

So when you are abiding in Christ, you have the life of Christ to offer to other people…specifically your mom. You may not realize this, but if you are feeling unloved, unaccepted, or hurt, then your mom probably is too. Wow. That’s tough. Again, Satan is clever and pits mothers and daughters against each other, deceiving them into believing that their particular sin is the others’ fault. We have sin because of our sin natures, and we inherited our sin nature ultimately from Adam and Eve.

Praise Jesus the Second Adam offers grace, peace, and restoration.

Mom, I love you and respect you with all of my heart. Thank you for modeling how to be an incredible, creative, loving, gentle, faithful mother and a supportive, adoring, constant, stable wife. You are an inspiration and an example to me. I love you for who you are, not what you do. I thank you for how you have raised me and protected me. You are the woman!!! J

May 18, 2011

Don't Ask for Forgiveness

I am reading Grace Walk by Steve McVey and it is tearing me up...in an awesome way! Today, he was explaining the story of the Prodigal Son and he says this: "I used to believe that this parable was a lesson on forgiveness; but studying it from a grace perspective makes its meaning clear. It's not about forgiveness, but about acceptance."

McVey goes on to explain that the Prodigal felt unworthy because of his rebellious, sinful behavior. He figured his father would only be interested in having his son back as a servant. However, "the story clearly demonstrates that the father had already forgiven him and was ready to fully accept him when he returned home."

We have misrepresented God's forgiveness. When Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins 2000 years ago, all of my sins were future...right? Let me help you out here...YES! I am only 26. "God didn't deposit forgiveness into an account with my name on it so that I can make forgiveness withdrawals when I need it. When I was born again, He emptied the entire forgiveness account on me! My debt was paid in full!"

And the same is true for you!

1 John 1:9 has been misinterpreted. The word that we have translated as "forgiveness" was "confession" in the original Greek, which means "to agree with". Let me boil this down for you: When you sin, you don't need to ask for forgiveness. Biblically, God has already forgiven you (Jesus died for your sins: past, present, future). Confession means that you "acknowledge the foolishness of disobedience to the Father and then praise Him that you are already forgiven and accepted by Him."

For years I believed that when I sinned, I had to ask forgiveness from God, otherwise a breach would remain in our relationship because He was not happy with me and wouldn't be happy until I realized my sin and cleansed myself of my sin. Do you see how opposed to grace this belief system is? "If Satan can cause you to feel that God doesn't accept you because of bad behavior, he can keep you [far away from God] for a longer time." And this happened to me. I got Galatians 5:16 reversed. I thought I had to clean myself up before I could walk in the Spirit. So, I would stay focused on my sin...doing deep personal analyzation, trying to cleanse myself of my sin by staring it in the face. Only years later did I realize that I was "setting my mind on the flesh, which is death" (Romans 8:6). Freedom from sin does not happen by obsessively thinking and willing myself free...it comes from choosing to believe I am accepted, forgiven, and righteous before God. He loves me, wants me, and pursues me. I can enjoy Him. I can walk in the Spirit and as I do, He will do His work in me. I do nothing. How awesome!

With God, my behavior does not determine my identity. He has already declared my identity is Jesus Christ. I will choose to believe that and as a result, live in victory. Or, I will choose to continue to believe I am just a sinner saved by grace and destined to struggle with sin the rest of my life. The only problem is, "God never intended for the Christian life to be a struggle."

Jason Gray has an amazing song entitled, "I am New". I will leave you with the lyrics.

Now I won't deny
The worst you could say about me
But I'm not defined
By mistakes that I've made
Because God says of me

I am not who I was
I am being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy
And I'm dearly loved
I am new

Who I thought I was
And who I thought I had to be
I had to give them both up
Cause neither were willing
To ever believe

I am not who I was
Too long I have lived
In the shadows of shame
Believing that there
Was no way I could change
But the one who is making everything new
Doesn't see me the way that I do
He doesn't see me the way that I do
I am new
Dead to the old man
I'm coming alive
I am new

Forgiven beloved
Hidden in Christ
Made in the image of the Giver of Life
Righteous and holy
Reborn and remade
Accepted and worthy this is our new name

This is who we are now...

May 16, 2011

Perverting Grace

So I am going to get up on a soap box here for a second and rant and rave J. Nothing new.

I am frustrated with the fact that so many times we, as believers, expect unbelievers to follow the Bible. What? No!

We are shocked when they buy into our cause, but not our creed. We are disappointed when their morals diverge from ours. We are worried when they disagree with our perspective.

But I guess I am not sure why that surprises us? I mean, why would they follow a belief system that they don’t believe in? Seems kinda illogical.

So here’s my thing. Instead of being overwhelmed with unbelievers' choices and instead of being shocked over their lack of submission to the Bible, be concerned for their souls. We are wasting so much energy being anxious about behavior, we are missing the point of the Gospel: Grace. Jesus never went after people's conducts until He dealt with their destinies. Think of the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the Rich Young Ruler (RYR). At first glance, you may think Jesus is dealing with their behavior. But He’s not. Read John 4 and 8 and Luke 18 again. They bring up their lifestyles. So, Jesus hears them out, highlights their need for God, and offers them grace. After they accept His grace, He says, “Go and sin no more”. However, when the RYR refuses His grace, Jesus sadly watches him walk away. He doesn’t yell after him: “Well, keep following the commandments buddy. You got that going for ya!” No way. Why not? Because to highlight behavior, or following a code of rules, is completely contrary to the Gospel and to grace. We tend to forget that…even in our own lives. Grace means I don’t follow a list of do’s and don’ts…it means I develop a relationship with Jesus. That's what Jesus was after: Relationships. Guilt and condemnation don't build healthy relationships (Romans 7). Grace does.

We have perverted grace and have pushed people further from Jesus, instead of drawing them to Him.

Jesus Loves Judas 2

This comment was left under my “Jesus Loves Judas” blog and so I wanted to address it:


I'd love to hear your thoughts on a slightly broader or perhaps different context as to how we should biblically interact with those who seek to do damage to the gospel without purposefully shunning them. Considering the parenthetical statements above and adding in some of the language and actions the apostles used against the likes of the Judaizers and Gnostics.
Honestly, my answer is pretty simple. The only people that Jesus and the Apostles vehemently opposed and called out were religious hypocrites who were taking open advantage of those around them. They never “shunned” them, however. That would have been cowardly.

When Jesus came into the world, He disrupted hundreds of years of Judaism. He is the fulfillment of the Law, but for the majority of the religious leaders, He was the competition. They didn’t want to lose the control that the Law enabled them to have over the people. Jesus was never about control, He was always about grace.

Think about it. When Jesus interacted with Nicodemus and the Rich Young Ruler, he was meek because he knew they were genuinely searching. When Paul was at Mars Hill and interacting with the philosophers, he debated with them, but he did not call them out like he did the Judaizers (fancy term for religious leaders) in his Epistles. What’s the difference? The Mars Hills guys were searching (see a theme emerging?); the religious leaders were out to make money, gain a following, and disrupt whatever stood in their way. Did Jesus and Paul shun either group? Nope. Did they call out the religious leaders? Yep. They never avoided the religious leaders. Jesus and Paul weren’t cowards. They preached grace to those who were searching and defended grace from those who were manipulating.

Paul was a little more aggressive in his letters towards the Judaizers. I think he was for a couple of reasons:

1.   He wasn’t around to shepherd the new converts and many of the Elders of the churches were new believers too. They were still so young in the faith and easily swayed that I think he wanted to make a point to the believers to be on guard. Additionally, he wanted to warn those who were teaching false doctrine that they would be under strict condemnation (Jesus did this too: “The Woes”).

2.   We have to be careful here though…Paul was not confronting the Judaizers because they had differing preferences, they had a different gospel. And the Judaizers didn’t just agree to disagree; they actively went after the baby believers because they were bitter at Jesus and the Apostles for stealing “their crowd”. So, yes, Paul had to be more aggressive. Rightfully so. But he didn’t shun. He boldly confronted the group with the Gospel.

What do we do? We are wise as serpents but gentle as doves. To shun someone who is openly attacking the Gospel is to give them permission and the leeway to sway someone from the Truth. We need to defend the Gospel; but we ask God for discernment as to when and how. When we interact with people who are searching, we are gentle, understanding. When we realize that someone is openly doing harm to the Gospel for their own benefit (this is not hard to spot most of the time), we call them out like Jesus and Paul did. But again, we have to be careful. An unbeliever is obviously not going to agree with us and is not going to buy into the Gospel right away. I am not sure why “Gnostics” is in the above question…honestly, I only see Jesus and the Apostles calling out the “religious” people…I don’t see them going after those who just don’t believe. We have so turned the world off to the Gospel because for some reason, we expect unbelievers to act like believers and to support everything the Bible says. Unsaved people aren’t going to do that…why would they (that’s for another blog)? So, yes…call out someone who is doing harm to the Gospel. However, your methods will differ depending on the situation. What should you do? Look to Jesus. He had differing methods for handling each person and each situation and was yet was the most consistent Man Who ever walked the face of the Earth.

May 13, 2011

The Secret to Weight Loss

Alright, so I am frequently asked how I managed to lose 30 pounds in just a couple of months. Before I can even answer, people are ready to give me their assumptions:

1.      I don’t eat.
2.      I joined a gym and work out for hours.
3.      I am doing the “Body by Vi” shakes.
4.      Weight Watchers.
5.      All of the other absurd ways you can lose weight.

(I’m sorry, my sarcasm bleeds even into a blog on diet and exercise…I just can’t help myself).

I have stumbled upon the secret to diet and exercise. I want to share it with you so that we can actually make some progress with this great mystery that seems to be eluding everyone, including me for so many years. I can answer the “How do I lose weight quickly and healthily?” with one word. Are you ready for this? Drum roll please.

DISCIPLINE.

Yeah, I said it. Get over it.

Listen, if you want to lose weight, there is no other way around it (get the pun? Haha…sorry) then through sheer will power. You have to make the commitment to exercise and to eat right. Bottom line. If you are willing to make that commitment, the hardest part is over, I promise. I will give you a couple of guidelines for losing weight, but you have to make the decision to change your lifestyle, because losing weight and getting healthy are lifestyle choices.

1.   Calculate your BMR. Find my blog on “My New Best Friend”. I give you the formula in there. This calculation allows you to figure out how many calories you can eat to maintain your current weight. If you want to lose some pounds, you have to eat about 500 less calories. What does this mean? Well, for me it meant printing out a blank calendar and literally keeping track of everything I ate. It meant that when we went out to eat (which is often mind you), I looked up the menu on my Smart Phone and found the calorie count for each meal. This process is tedious at first, but soon you memorize how many calories are in certain foods and you just know what to eat when and where. After you have lost quite a bit of weight, you need to recalculate your BMR.

2.   Find an exercise program that is not time consuming and that will push you. We are all busy. We do not have time or money to spend at the gym (well, some of us don’t). And let’s be honest…a gym is fun at first. You get cool work out outfits, a new gym bag, and enjoy being a part of the elite for about a week. Then, the dressing up to work out and the drive and the embarrassment from not knowing the names of the weights and the exercises get a little much. So, you stop going.

I tried to do P90x for a couple of weeks. I don’t have time to devote an hour to an hour and a half to a crazy man who expects me to do an hour of pull ups and pushups. No thank you. Can’t physically do it. The time consumption and lack of ability discouraged me. For those of you who pushed through, props to you.

I am a diehard Jillian Michaels fan. Why? She knows her stuff (Biggest Loser trainer). She has made several DVD workouts that are about 20 minutes and that get results (I am your proof). She will kick your butt, but she will get you in the best shape of your life if you stick with it.

3.   Here is the clincher: I worked out with Jillian for about two months, without changing my eating patterns. I didn’t lose any weight. In January, I decided to try counting my calories. I made healthier decisions on what I ate. And guess what? The pounds came melting off. Do I eat only fruits and veggies? No way! Who could ever do that? Here is a simple meal plan…

Meal Plan:

Eat about 100-150 calories for breakfast:
-          Cereal and skim milk.
-          Fat free cottage cheese and fruit.
-          Low calorie bread for toast (I buy bread with 40 calories per slice).
-          Low sugar oatmeal.

Eat about 50-75 calories for lunch:
-          Lettuce (15 calories) and zero calorie salad dressing (yes, some does exist and it tastes good!!!).
-          Fruit.

Spend the rest of your calories (700-900) on dinner:
-          Chicken, turkey, flank steak are great choices for meat.
-          Google some low-fat recipes.
-          If you are married and/or have a family, make regular meals, just be mindful of the calories and ways that you can cut corners or just cut corners for yourself. For instance, you can load up on the veggies and taker smaller helpings of everything else. Or, have a piece of fruit before dinner so you aren’t as hungry.

Snacks:
-          Sugar free pudding has about 70 calories.
-          Pickles are virtually calorie free.
-          Granola bars have about 100 calories.

Black coffee and diet soda are also okay to drink. Don’t cut out everything you love or you will go mad. I chew gum constantly to keep something tasty in my mouth. Get creative!!!

Just constantly be counting. Work out. Be disciplined. As Jillian Michaels says, “This is not just about exercise. This is about your entire life and you know that.” Yes, if you build discipline in this area, it will affect every other area of your life. I dare you to find out!