Mindless Eating

It’s been about four years since I totally changed the way I eat. Prior to that I had done yo-yo dieting for a good portion of my life. The way I eat now is very satisfying and I rarely have cravings.

Another benefit is I no longer do mindless eating.

For those of you who have never struggled with this phenomenon, let me explain what it looks like.

For me it mainly had to do with chocolate. I would occasionally open a new package of Oreos after lunch, and before I knew it, half of them had disappeared! Sometimes the entire package would be gone before dinner.

The sad thing was I wouldn’t remember eating them. I would just sit there reading a book or watching TV,  mindlessly devouring one cookie at the time. For hours. Occasionally I would look at the package and be shocked at how many times my hand must have reached in there and pulled out another Oreo that somehow made its way to my mouth and into my digestive tract.

It was an amazing feat. Too bad I didn’t have a cell phone with a video camera back then. I could have made a fortune on YouTube.

Something about today’s passage reminds me of this phenomenon.

Matthew 6 starts out with a warning. Jesus tells us to be careful what our motives are for doing good deeds (practicing our righteousness). He says that if we do them in front of other people, in order to be seen by those people, that’s all the reward we’ll get. God won’t reward us for them.

Then he applies the warning to three of the ways we practice our righteousness. The first one is giving to the needy.

Apparently when Jesus was on the earth, the religious leaders had a habit of announcing their good deeds so everyone could see them. Some would even have a musician blow a trumpet to get everyone’s attention when they were about to give a coin to a beggar. They wanted their acts of charity to be enjoyed by everyone. It didn’t matter where they were, on the street or in the synagogue, they wanted to be sure everybody saw who they were and noticed how incredibly generous they were being to the people who unfortunately were not so fortunate as them.

Kinda makes you want to throw up, doesn’t it.

I don’t know anyone today who blows trumpets to announce their donations, but there are other ways of getting people’s attention that are just as obvious.

It’s difficult—if not impossible—to give without at least one person knowing about it. Even if you make a donation online when no one else is around, someone who works at the charitable organization has a record of your donation and will be sure you get a receipt.

But Jesus is talking about your motivation for giving—not necessarily the anonymity of your gift.

WHY are you giving?

– Are you giving to make yourself look (and feel) good and generous?

– Are you giving so your good deeds might detract other people (and yourself . . . and possibly even God) from some not-so-good deeds you’ve done?

– Are you giving to make yourself look and feel like you’re pleasing to God? (Psst . . . you already are.)

If so, I think Jesus would say the same thing to you today . . . you have your reward. You look and feel good and generous. You’ve detracted the attention from your other deeds. And you look and feel like you’re pleasing God.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:3-4 that the kind of giving to the needy that God rewards is done in secret. And it’s the way he describes “in secret” that reminds me of the way I used to eat Oreos.

Jesus says you give “in secret” by not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing. That sounds an awful lot like mindless eating.

I think this means that your giving is so automatic you don’t even realize you’re doing it.

You see a homeless person at an intersection and you automatically pull out your wallet and give him cash. Or grab your extra bottle of water and hand it to her. Or pull the fast food gift card out of the glove compartment and bless them with a meal.

Or you see a neatly dressed man standing on a corner with a placard announcing he’s been laid off and has three children to feed. Your heart aches for him and his family and, without thinking, you drive to the nearest ATM, take out some cash and go back and hand it to him while his eyes fill up with tears.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with planned giving. Or regular giving. Those are an important part of our faith walk. And I believe God blesses us for those gifts—when our motivation is right.

But I think God is just crazy about mindless giving! Those times when our hearts are pierced by the need we see in someone and our automatic selfless response is to share with them what He has blessed us with. I think that kind of heart motivation grabs His attention. And gets us rewarded.

It’s not something we can plan and it’s not something we want to control. Heck, our left hand won’t even know what our right hand is doing! And we want to keep it that way.

Like me mindlessly eating a whole bag of Oreos. Only much better. For everyone involved.

========

Matthew 6:1-4 English Standard Version (ESV)

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Murder, Adultery, Divorce . . . Oh My!

Jesus talks about some pretty heavy topics in the remainder of Matthew 5.

 

When Jesus started talking about murder, I have a feeling most members of his audience thought . . . “Whew! I’m innocent of this one.”

 

But unfortunately, for them and us, Jesus didn’t stop with just the act of murder. He also talked about anger and insulting language and grouped them in with the act of murder.

 

So Jesus starts off talking about murder—the final outcome. But then He went deeper–back to the anger that eventually resulted in the murder. And then He went even deeper–back to the insulting language that possibly ignited the entire situation.

 

It’s like He’s peeling back the layers of an onion until he finally gets to the heart of the matter.

 

And that’s what He wants to show us–the HEART of the matter.

 

 

 

I attended a conference at my church a couple of weeks ago and heard some excellent messages. During the first message, one statement that really grabbed my attention was that God is not focused on our BEHAVIOR. He’s focused on our position in Christ. Hang in there with me.

 

The speaker went on to say that in order to live the life we were created to live, we have to live it focused on the same thing . . . who we are in Christ–who He is and what He’s done for us and what He’s given us and where He’s positioned us. The speaker said that when our life’s focus is this truth–that we are a son or daughter of God–who loves us without measure no matter what–and when that kind of thinking permeates our thoughts, THEN our behavior will begin to change to match who we know we are.

 

 

 

So in these examples that Jesus shares in Matthew 5, I believe He’s saying: I’m not focused on your outward behavior.

 

Is murder wrong? Yes! Does God hate murder? Yes!

 

But I believe Jesus is saying that since it’s not just the FINAL OUTCOME that’s wrong, that’s not where the remedy is needed. The ‘wrong’ starts long before the murder takes place. It even starts before the anger begins.

 

It goes all the way back to how you talk to someone or talk about someone. The words you use to describe them. Possibly the insults you sling in response to THEIR bad behavior.

 

And your words are chosen by what you think about other people.

 

And what you think about yourself.

 

I think the audience had probably started squirming by now. Because even though they probably hadn’t literally murdered anyone, their insulting language (even if not spoken aloud) and the resulting anger had moved them a long way down the path.

 

Jesus went on to use the same layer-removal treatment on several other popular laws: adultery, divorce, oaths, retribution, and even the Old Testament adage to love your neighbors and hate your enemies.

 

In every situation, He dug down to the heart of the matter.

 

Because He’s not focused on the final outward expression of our thoughts and beliefs and attitudes. He’s focused on their origination.

 

And He knows that if we’ll stop focusing on trying to do certain things and not do certain things . . . and instead focus our thoughts on who He is, what He’s done for us, the fact that He’s given us everything we need to live the life He created us to live, and the fact that we are His child and He loves us unconditionally and without measure . . . the outward expressions of our lives (our behavior) will begin to line up with our belief system.

 

So what does your behavior say about what you believe? Does it line up with who God says you are? With what He’s done for you? With where He’s placed you in Christ?

 

If not, a shift in your focus may be just what’s needed.

Go Figure

Matthew 5:17-20 Living Bible (TLB)

17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come—it isn’t to cancel the laws of Moses and the warnings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them and to make them all come true. 18 With all the earnestness I have I say: Every law in the Book will continue until its purpose is achieved. 19 And so if anyone breaks the least commandment and teaches others to, he shall be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But those who teach God’s laws and obey them shall be great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

20 “But I warn you—unless your goodness is greater than that of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders, you can’t get into the Kingdom of Heaven at all!

==========

Today’s passage talks about Jesus fulfilling the Law and the Prophets.

I love how the Living Bible says that He didn’t come to cancel anything but to “make them all come true.”

I once read that the odds of one man fulfilling just 8 of the prophecies about the Messiah could be demonstrated by this visual:

Take silver dollars and cover the state of Texas two feet deep. One of the silver dollars has a big “X” on it. Blindfold a man in Texas and ask him to walk as long as he wants to walk in whatever directions he wants to go and then to pick up one silver dollar.

The odds of him picking up the one silver dollar with an “X” on it are the same odds of any man fulfilling just 8 of the many Old Testament prophecies pointing to the Messiah.

And yet Jesus fulfilled all of them. He made “them all come true.”

He also fulfilled the Law.

The Law was given to mankind to show us that there is no way we can ever be good enough to be ‘right with God.’ Galatians 3:21 says, “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.” Jesus came and showed us what real ‘right standing with God’ looks like and in the process followed the Law perfectly.

But Jesus also warns us in this passage that living life focused on the Law is not what God is looking for. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were doing that and Jesus tells us that our righteousness has to be better than theirs or we can forget about entering the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus didn’t live His life focused on the Law. He lived it focused on an intimate relationship with His Father. Numerous times He said that He only did what He saw His heavenly Father doing. And He only said what He heard His heavenly Father saying.

And by doing that, He kept the Law perfectly.

The Pharisees lived their lives focused on keeping the Law and ended up living in opposition to God. In fact, they killed Jesus–who was following the Father’s Law perfectly.

Go figure.

My Neighbors are Brilliant

Cody Sleeping

Cody Napping

I love my dog. I really do. But there are times when loving him requires me to do something I hate. Like getting out of a nice warm bed in the middle of the night because he needs to go outside and take care of some business.

Thankfully this rarely happens.

But when it does, I really love my neighbors.

Yep. You read that correctly.

On those rare occasions when I have to venture outside with Cody in the wee hours of the morning, I step out the door and take about six steps down the driveway and all of a sudden that entire side of my house and yard is illuminated—thanks to my neighbors’ motion-activated floodlight on the corner of their house.

THAT’S why I love my neighbors.

Walking around outside in the dark is not the safest thing to do. But the light shows me where it’s safe to step and whether or not there are any critters Cody and I need to steer clear of.

In today’s verses (Matthew 5:14-16), Jesus tells His followers that THEY are the light of the world. Which means WE are the light of the world.

He goes on to say that light is not supposed to be hidden. And that light is positioned strategically so it helps as many people as possible.

You weren’t made to be hidden or covered up. You have a very important role to play and a big difference to make in your corner of the world—just like the motion-activated floodlight on the corner of my neighbor’s house.

Do you remember the last time the power went out and you were suddenly stuck in the dark? What happened when you lit a candle or turned on a flashlight? Did it take a while for the light to overcome the darkness? Was there a contest to see who would win?

No. Light is light. It doesn’t have to fight to be light. It naturally displaces the darkness. And the darker the darkness, the bigger the difference just one little light can make.

You don’t have to fight darkness to be light. You ARE light in your world because of Who is inside you—Holy Spirit!

Jesus goes on to tell us HOW we “shine.” You shine where God puts you through your moral excellence and your noble and praiseworthy and good deeds. That lifestyle causes people to realize that there’s something different about you. And their response is to recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father in heaven.

The purpose of your light isn’t to make people talk about how great you are, but to capture their attention and help them realize Who’s your daddy and how great HE is! I don’t go up to the floodlight on my neighbor’s house and tell it how wonderful it is and how much I appreciate it. I know who put it there and who keeps it shining.

One of the most important characteristics of light is that it reveals truth. Just like the floodlight keeps me from falling in a hole, stepping on a snake, or slipping on ice, your light reveals things in your world for what they really are. That kind of light helps people get on the right path and find their way Home.

And that’s the mission of our lives. We are to “shine” wherever God has strategically placed us by the way we live our life. And the people who notice the difference our life makes should recognize God as our Source. Then He gets all the honor and praise and glory.

So we need to quit trying to hide our light or downplay its importance or downsize its reach or deny that we even shine! Time is short and there’s a lot of darkness that needs dispelling. And in case you need reminding—that’s part of OUR job, according to Jesus!

“YOU are the light of the world.” – Jesus

Now I need to go write a thank you note to my brilliant neighbors!

===========

Matthew 5:14-16 Living Bible (TLB)

You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father.

Oops! I did it again!

I grabbed that big bag of organic, GMO-free, blue tortilla chips that was on sale. When I got home and opened the bag and dipped a chip in my salsa and started chewing, I realized the bag also said, “No Salt Added.” Yuck! Who wants tortilla chips with no salt? Not me!

Salt is an extremely important condiment in my life. I use either pink Himalayan or gray Celtic sea salt because my doctor tells me they’re “real” salt and they’re actually good for me. And I have to say, they add a LOT more flavor.

But salt does more than just add flavor to food. It also preserves it.

Remember the saying, “He’s not worth his salt!” That comes from ancient times when Roman soldiers were paid a salary (sal is Latin for salt) to buy salt. They were responsible to provide their own food and the salt helped preserve it—since there were no refrigerators or freezers or portable Igloo coolers around. The salt method of preserving food was used for thousands of years.

Today’s verse talks about us being salt in our world.

I think this means believers are to add flavor to life. I know Jesus certainly did. People enjoyed being around him. Well, except for those stick-in-the-mud, stiff-necked religious leaders. Based on Whose child we are and how much He loves us and the abundant life He makes available to us from now through eternity, we should be the most joyful and most enjoyable people on earth. And if we are, we will attract people and add flavor to their lives.

I also think being salt means we preserve life. We know what’s really important in life and part of our job is to work to keep those things a priority in our corner of the world. Sometimes that can mean supporting things that are not popular with a lot of people. In those times, we need to remember that we are in a spiritual war and our battle is not against flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6:12) To me that means, don’t take it personal and don’t make it personal.

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:13 and the Amplified Bible says,

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.”

So what happens when we lose our way. When we’re no longer adding flavor to life and we’re no longer preserving what’s important in life. When we’ve lost our strength and our quality and our “saltness.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. I’ve lost my “saltness.” It’s no fun. You know in your heart you were created to do more and live larger. But you don’t have the strength. And your quality of life is gone.

When salt reaches that point, this verse says the only thing left to do is to throw it out for people to walk on.

I lived in Denver for six years and I was very thankful for the salt thrown on the sidewalks and the parking lots and the roadways during the winter months. In fact, I would not have survived without it. It is essential in places that get snow and ice.

So what I see in this verse is not that there is no purpose left in your life at those times. You can still accomplish a purpose and do some good for some people. But it’s not what you were created to do—it’s not what your passion is—and you’re not going to be fulfilled.

I know that’s been true for me. During those times when I lost my “saltness,” I was still a productive individual. I provided services that were a necessary part of the places I worked. I did a good job. People appreciated me.

I just didn’t appreciate who I was—because I knew I was designed to be so much more. And I knew I wasn’t living life with the passion I was designed for.

Even though there is no way to put the “saltness” back in salt, Jesus provided a way to put the “life” back in us—by forgiveness offered through His work on the cross and by complete restoration offered through His resurrection.

I encourage you to take some time today and talk to God about your “saltness.” If you’ve lost it, ask His forgiveness and grab hold of the restoration He offers through the power working inside you—it’s the same incredible power that raised Jesus from the dead. (Ephesians 1:19-20)

Then get out there and do some preserving and some flavoring in your neck of the woods.

Look for those “No Salt Added” places. They could really use your help.

I like you. Do you like me? Circle Yes or No.

Does anybody else remember sending notes like this to a classmate you were ‘sweet’ on in elementary school? I guess Valentine’s Day this past weekend brought back some OLD memories. Ha!

 

Do you like to be liked? I know I do.

 

In fact, I used to like being liked so much that I spent decades doing whatever it took to be sure everybody liked me. The problem came when I would have to be essentially two different people in order to please two different friends.

 

To say it caused a lot of internal stress is definitely an understatement. I realized that I probably wasn’t going to have a happy, fulfilling life if I chose to keep living that way. And I finally figured out that I only had to live my life to please ONE person.

 

I learned that God is the only ONE I need to live my life for.

 

That doesn’t mean there aren’t other people I need to love and respect and obey and honor and take care of and even rescue, if necessary. (See Ex. 20:12; Eph. 2:6; Eph. 5:25; James 1:27; Ps. 82:4; I Pet. 2:17.)

 

But my main priority is to be my relationship with God. As a result of making that my #1 focus, I will finally be able to love myself and then, in turn, be able to love other people. (See Matthew 22:37-40.)

 

However, according to today’s verses, that still doesn’t mean things are always going to be rosy.

 

In fact, being a God follower can get you into serious trouble in some areas of the world. And, unfortunately, those arenas are becoming more and more vocal and active.

 

In the next few verses in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us some encouragement. Well, first He tells us the truth and then He gives us some encouragement for those times we have to live in this truth.

 

Here’s what it says in Matthew 5:10-12, NIV:

 

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

Now first let me say this. These verses aren’t giving us permission to pick a fight or be obnoxious or just be plain out rude to people we don’t agree with. The only people Jesus ever came close to getting rude with were the religious leaders who were making a mockery of His Father’s House.

 

These verses are talking about us being in a right relationship with God and, when necessary, standing up for what is right in God’s eyes, instead of caving to man’s opinions. It’s talking about being persecuted because we’re not ashamed to be affiliated with Jesus or for doing what He says is right.

 

The bad news is that if we do that, some people may insult us, some may persecute us, and some may even tell lies about us that, in certain places in the world, could get us . . . well, dead.

 

The good news Jesus gives us is that when these things happen to us,

(1) we are blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of your outward conditions),

(2) we are fulfilling our assignment from God to expand the kingdom of heaven into our corner of the earth, and

(3) our reward in heaven is going to be awesome. Not to mention we’ll be in good company with God’s prophets who were also mistreated.

 

Check out what II Chronicles 36:16 (referenced in today’s verses in the Amplified Bible) says about this mistreatment of God’s prophets.

 

“But they kept mocking the messengers of God and despising His words and scoffing at His prophets till the wrath of the Lord rose against His people, till there was no remedy or healing.”

 

This verse isn’t talking about the world mocking God’s messengers and despising His words and scoffing at His prophets. It’s talking about the Israelites. Which makes me think the same can be true today.

 

Believers can also mock God’s messengers, possibly when they’re “different” than they’re used to hearing from. And we might even despise His words when they make us uncomfortable or aren’t socially and politically acceptable. And some believers may scoff at God’s prophets that He still sends to His people today—if that method of God speaking to us doesn’t fit in our denomination’s mindset.

 

So while it sounds easy on paper—just follow God and do what He says is right—the choices we may have to make in the near future—or choices you’ve possibly already made—could have side effects that can’t be altered. Some friends and family may shun you. Some people who stand up for what is right may lose their job or career. And in some situations, it has already cost people their lives—starting way back in the Old Testament and continuing to today.

 

But the other choice (spelled out in the II Chronicles verse) sounds even worse to me. Choosing to NOT listen to what God is saying to us can cause the Lord to be against us. And that’s definitely NOT something I want.

 

Whew! Following God is not for people pleasers or sissies.

 

So I’ve changed my mind. I like you. But it really doesn’t matter if you like me or not. I need to focus on God and what He’s saying to me. Then when I do what’s right, He’s more than capable of taking care of any fallout.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” Matthew 5:9 The Message (MSG)

 

I love the wording of this verse in The Message: “show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.”

 

That is such a powerful way to live—finding common ground instead of always looking for our differences and then arguing about them.

 

When Jesus is talking about peace in this verse, I don’t believe He is talking about peace at any cost—making an agreement that causes you to compromise your core values or core beliefs.

 

Later on in Matthew 10, Jesus says that He Himself didn’t come to bring peace to the earth. Instead, He says He came to bring a sword.

 

Now Jesus didn’t go around swinging a sword and dividing people into two groups. But He was the catalyst for such a division. He still is.

 

So I don’t believe today’s verse is talking about doing whatever it takes in order to get along with anybody and everybody.

 

Instead I believe it’s saying that peace is available to Jesus’s true followers in any situation. Personal peace with God is always available to believers, no matter what’s going on. And I believe true Christ followers can have peace among themselves.

 

Even among believers who disagree about the meaning of some scriptures.

 

Even among believers who disagree about the best way to worship corporately.

 

Even among believers who have a hard time finding anything they agree on—except when it comes to Jesus. And who He is. And what He’s done for them.

 

I believe that’s enough to keep the peace in our “family”—instead of acting like our brother is the enemy.