12/30/10

Can I Be Saved If I Am Living in Constant, Secret Sin? | CCEF

This is a question I get from many, MANY bulimics: "Can I truly be saved/can I lose my salvation if I am secretly bingeing and purging?"

CCEF counselor David Powlinson carefully and compassionately answers this nuanced question, sent to him by a young man struggling with secret sexual sin. Scenarios and details of sin differ; human nature and the solution to sin found in the Person and work of Jesus Christ remain the same:



Can I Be Saved If I Am Living in Constant, Secret Sin? CCEF

12/24/10

Will You Be Attending Jesus' Birthday Party?

The title of this post is inspired by an "event invitation" I received a few weeks ago on Facebook. For those of you not familiar with its interface, Facebook has many special interest "groups" which can plan "events", either cyber or real-time, and send out "invitations". This can actually be useful when planning a high school class reunion party, as guests RSVP online. This particular cyber-invitation, to "Jesus' Birthday Party", came from a Christian group committed to getting 1 million "fans".

Nothing wrong with that, I suppose; although in the greater scheme of things, I don't see how getting 1,000,000 people to click a button is going to evangelize unbelievers or edify Christians. However, the very philosophy behind the "invitation" intrigued me, and I'd like to share it with you as encouragement.

As I type these words, it is just past noon on Christmas Eve, 2010. My daughters are in the kitchen baking cookies; my husband has just assembled the doll carriage and Razor Scooter which "Santa" will leave under the tree tonight; and the boys are playing. Thanks to a certain Jewish oncologist, I am enjoying the first Christmas Eve in 5 years I have not had to work, and as the stuffed grape leaves and soup are all prepared, I am sitting here blogging....church is five hours off. All of these fun, relaxing activities (well, except for blogging), evoke anticipation - the expectation of something special. Of course, we as believers celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ - all of these festive touches (even the presents "Santa" leaves for the little ones) are sidebar niceties to the real event. Our five-year-old gets much more excited about Jesus than Santa Claus - the fact that he leaves presents is just icing on the cake for her...a mere party favor at Jesus' birthday celebration.

Some people celebrate "Christmas", but want to leave Christ out of it. In essence, they want to come to the party, but ignore the guest of honor. This is how the world, by and large, celebrates Christmas. But think about that....isn't that what we do, when we get so wrapped up in holiday preparations and anxiety that we lose sight of Him? For me, my prayer life often suffers this time of year because of the painful emotions "seasonal depression" I still struggle against. I still find it impossible to be joyful on demand. It makes me feel as if I'm "missing the party", because I can't seem to get in that joyful, celebratory mood that I ought. And yet, I love Jesus and want to honor Him by being at His party and glorifying Him. To have a morose or dismal attitude is to show ingratitude and rebuff the One Who gave us everything - the whole meaning of Christmas is bound up in Christ's purpose for coming to earth. The manger was eclipsed by the shadow of the cross.

If you are still in the grips of an eating disorder, this battle may be even more intense for you. You wish to be at the party, celebrating and worshipping Jesus, but fellowship (either with family or church) has the added obstacle of food addiction for you. You may be feeling isolated or alienated; ashamed because of this struggle. How can you be carefree and enjoy the Guest of Honor while the connotations of the holiday pose so much temptation to you? You may stay home from the party entirely, because you feel you simply "cannot do it" - and yet you know that if you did, you would be spurning the very One Who requests your presence.

There was a time when I couldn't have imagined a holiday without alcohol. And yet, when I began to walk through those moments of temptation in a deliberate, conscious awareness of Christ's presence and approval, the temptation faded. He was there with me, even though I could not see Him or "sense" Him, I chose to walk by faith. The same, believe it or not, applies to food addiction. No matter what is on the table, you don't have to "abstain" (restrict) or binge/purge. While you know intellectually you are no longer a slave to sin, in the face of holiday temptation, this knowledge may seem like nothing more than a pious platitude. However, think about tonight and tomorrow as Jesus' Birthday Party. You are an invited guest, along with ALL of His friends and all the host of heaven. If this party were literally taking place within the courts of heaven, and you were seated at the table with the King, would your focus be on the food?

Really, now.

I promise you that if you really consider the meaning of what, and Whom we are celebrating, you will have a new perspective. Go to the party. Honor Him with your presence. Praise Him for Who He is. And remember that He is right there next to you, fellowshipping with you and the other spiritual brothers and sisters He's blessed you with so abundantly. Enjoy Him, enjoy His people, and have a blessed and joyful Christmas!

12/7/10

Just Did a Radio Interview about my Book...

Lucy Ann Moll, host of "Sisterhood of Beautiful Warriors" radio show, just interviewed me today and we talked about my book...the biblical solution to eating disorders....what repentance is....and why you need to learn to hate your sin to walk in true victory:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cwa-radio/2010/12/07/sisterhood-of-beautiful-warriors

I was pretty nervous...hopefully it didn't seem too obvious! I really hope I spoke the truth only, and that God was somehow glorified in what I said.

12/5/10

Fear of Man Around the Holidays

Last week, I interpreted for a jury trial out of state. As I stood next to the witness stand, dutifully interpreting every sentence the prosecuting and defense attorneys asked of the witness, in the back of my mind I was worrying what the members of the jury were thinking of me. Did they think my skirt was goofy? Were my bangs uneven? Could they tell I have an accent in Bulgarian?

As you can see, insecurity (what the Bible calls "fear of man") takes many forms. Even though I haven't struggled with food addiction or drowning my feelings in alcohol in seven years, like all people, I still have to guard against this sin daily.

This is a difficult season for anorexics and bulimics for many reasons, not the least of which is worrying about "what other people think". This year, I counseled a young lady well on her way to overcoming anorexia and bulimia who struggled with the fact that her own immediate family members "watch" her when she eats dinner. In the case of someone still in the throes of an eating disorder, multiply that anxiety about tenfold! Unfortunately, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays do tend to create as much stress and anxiety as they do joy, peace and goodwill for anorexics and bulimics. Part of this comes from the "food-centric" way we celebrate; another reason arises from tense interpersonal relationships with family members.

Broadly speaking, unresolved anger, bitterness, hurt, and unforgiveness will contribute to someone continuing on in addictive patterns. If I am holding a grudge against my mother, and I must see her socially for several hours, it will be more difficult to refrain from my old crutch: stuffing my angry, distrustful feelings with food - and then vomiting those spiteful feelings away. Sometimes family can stir up negative memories and emotions we would rather leave behind us.

Another way insecurity rears its ugly head is worrying about our appearance - specifically, about our weight. As we surrender this idol to God and we learn to eat in a God-glorifying way, we gain weight. It's healthy, necessary, and inevitable. However, we often are tempted to take our eyes off of what our Heavenly Father thinks, and obsess about the attention we believe our weight is drawing from others (although positive). I remember when I was first acheiving a healthy weight, feeling embarrassed and even a bit violated when relatives would comment on how "good I looked since I'd gained weight".

It is bound to happen, but if you are in Christ, He has promised "never to leave [you] nor forsake [you]". (Hebrews 13:5). The antidote to fear of man is not to focus on own assets or attributes; it is to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving to the Father. Regularly praise Him for Who He is, and what He has done in your life.


Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

When we get caught up in this all-too-human tendency to obsess over other people's opinions, compare ourselves with others, or become so concerned with how others view us, we need to remember the message of the Gospel and how to apply it. The Gospel is the Person and work of Christ; all that Jesus was, is, and shall ever be; all He has done and will do. This is important to get straight in our minds, because many Christians tend to see the Gospel as only having application for salvation. Until you are rightly affected by the Gospel in your day-to-day life, you will not be rightly motivated to live for the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
He has promised us His eternal friendship (John 15:15) and an Advocate with the Father (John 14:16;26). Repeatedly in the Gospels He exhorts us to live for an audience of One: God Himself (Luke 12:4-6). Stop dwelling on what others can do to you (or think of you), and imerse yourself in the Truth of His Word. He will dwell in your heart through faith this holiday season, (Eph. 3:17) and fill you with His peace and joy if you allow Him to. Pray your way through all stressful family situations, and remember that He had them too (John 7:3-9) and understands the pain.

11/20/10

Beware of Soothing Words that Don't Line up with God's!

Psycho-babble and the Bible Don't Mix.
Many of today’s popular Bible teachers equate sinful patterns with not loving one’s self enough, or having shaky self-esteem. In one recent women’s Bible study, the following “conditions” were listed as being rooted in insecurity: jealousy; envy; promiscuity; manipulation; and unbelief. By contrast, the Bible uses the term “sin” for each of these tendencies and links them to pride.

Scripture warns repeatedly against a prideful spirit – the fruits of pride are innumerable and poisonous. Insidious forms of pride fuel both anorexia and bulimia. As a Christian anorexic or bulimic, the guilt and shame you feel over your behavior is instinctive. Even if you are unaware that your weight (and/or food) have become idols, you carry a general realization that you are doing something wrong. No one needs to tell you that your eating disorder is not within God’s will for your life, regardless of how you may have attempted to privately justify it. The Holy Spirit will only let you get away with that for so long. Still, it cannot be emphasized enough that His conviction of rebellion against God is merciful, not condemning. The correct response is to repent of this idol and turn away from the behavior, ultimately being freed from guilt and shame. God will help you and subsequently renew your mind. Sometimes, however, Christian counselors will inadvertently short-circuit the Holy Spirit’s work by telling the client she is carrying “false guilt” or suggesting that spiritual conditions are “diseases”.

In “The Zippered Heart: Healing for the Secrets We Hide Inside,” Christian psychologist and Women of Faith author Marilyn Meberg writes about a bulimic pastor’s wife who hid her secret from those around her, finally seeking inpatient treatment at a Christian facility.

“One of the biggest changes in Becky’s thinking was to realize that she didn’t deserve to wear the shame banner. Her depression had an environmental root; it was not a sin and it was not her fault. Her challenge was to face her issues and be healed from them. Her bulimia was not a sin either. It was one of the many expressions of all the childhood pain she had never resolved. At Remuda that process of understanding and healing began.” (Emphasis mine).

While I appreciate the compassion and loving concern that Meberg brings into her counseling, I believe she is doing women a grave disservice by telling them their bulimia is not a sin (elsewhere in the book she denies that masturbation is always sinful). God extends grace to us, as we must to each other. The erring brother (or sister) must be restored gently, (Galatians 6:1), but she must be restored. A Christian unable to stop destroying the tissues of her God-given body by self-starvation or purging needs a renewed mind, not soothing words.

When I first read the above-paragraph in 2001, I was shocked. Still stuck in the bondage of bulimia myself and despairing of ever overcoming it, these words were exactly what my itching ears wanted to hear. Unfortunately, they were not what I needed to hear – I needed hope that I could repent and be forgiven. I needed to know that I could confess my bulimia as sin, fully repent of it, and walk away clean and forgiven. Although I had tried before, I needed to know that I could try again – and that God would grant me the gift of true repentance. I knew that as sweet and sincere a Christian as Ms. Meberg may be, on this issue she was off base. I began reading the Bible again.

How Ms. Meberg knew that the woman’s depression “had an environmental root” escapes me. As a born-again believer, she must have known her bulimia was a sin (hence the “shame banner”); therefore, is it not logical to conclude she was depressed over her inability to overcome this sin? The way to be free from this shame is by turning away from sin and to Christ. There are no shortcuts around it – as long as we choose to stay in our sin, we will be carrying this sense of shame. Unfortunately, in their zeal to make Christians “feel good” about themselves, some counselors re-name sinful behaviors “issues” and talk about “understanding” and “healing” rather than repentance. God is clear in His Word: if we repent, He will heal us Himself (Isaiah 53:4; 2 Chronicles 7:14). As Charles Spurgeon put it, until we have felt the noose of sin around our necks, we will not weep with joy when Christ cuts the rope.

True repentance is a gift, and yields lasting freedom and joy. Praise God for His mercy and long-suffering character!

11/2/10

A 13-Year-Old's Synopsis

Last week, I had a lengthy discussion with the author editing my book on the content and format of one of its chapters, "What About Counseling?" I had originally devoted three chapters in the manuscript to discussion of the hollow, deceptive philosophy of behavioral psychology; the atheist roots of psychoanalysis; and the influence of Freud, Skinner and Maslow in contemporary addiction therapy.

"Whoa!" said she. ("Whoa!" is, according to Jay Adams, the most important word in biblical counseling). "Let the Bible speak for itself," she counseled. "You need to spend more time showing the reader what the answer is from Scripture; how GOD is going to help them, than on all these other things." She was right, of course. I condensed my warning about contemporary psych-based treatment down into one chapter, and augmented it by a thorough expanation of why counseling from the Bible alone is more helpful in bringing about true transformation. No rabbit trails (no matter how fascinating) allowed.

It was still too "heavy". She told me to use more Scripture, quote Reformers and other writers less than I quote Christ, and above all "stop writing like a PhD - you're going to lose your audience." Good point. She instructed me to strive for a seventh grade reading level, which was excellent advice, as not every Christian lady struggling with an eating disorder has been to Bible college (or graduate school). My assignment? To re-write, and have several ladies read it and comment on clarity and "flow".

I enlisted my 8th-grade daughter's help. Valentina is a bright kid, but she's never been to seminary - nor has she studied psychology (although I suspect that is coming, as she is a public school student. Sigh). I do feel that my mission has been accomplished....having never yet looked at my book, or really knowing my thesis, she not only appeared to "get the point", but was able to articulate it well, too:

I think the author’s main point was to talk about Biblical counseling vs. the therapy or psycology that the world today uses in order to get rid of peoples’ problems. She was saying that you can’t deal with the addiction yourself, and the Biblical counselor can’t either, because he/she isn’t God. Only God can help you, and you have to repent from your sin in order to change. It’s not like God is just going to change you in one day. You have to work too, although only God can heal you from your addiction. However, the counselor is there to guide you and help you understand the Bible.

3. What do you remember BEST about the chapter? In other words, when you finished reading, what stood out in your mind the most?

When I finished reading the chapter, I remembered when you talked about how addictioons ARE NOT diseases, but they are sins, and we are sinners. People today try to blame everthing and anything on somebody else, because they are to prideful to admit that the addiction is their fault. So, they blame it on their childhood or genes in their body which obviously aren’t the reasons to an addiction.
Well put. Maybe I should just have her write this book.

10/28/10

Cycle of Failure - Will You Run FROM the Cross, or TO the Cross?

Marie,


I have gotten away from eating as I should. I seem to be in the pit again, and don't know how to get started. I feel like an alcholic who has fallen off. The guilt is incredible, and weighing me down again of failing. How do I get back to God, and walk in forgiveness when I cant even forgive myself.

What am I doing that I can not walk in freedom in this. I know that you were healed in about 6 months. I keep sinning, but do not know how to stop, I have a few good days, then I blow it, and never get back up- at least not for a while.

I want to be free of this, but don't know how to begin again, once I 've failed, or been in a cycle of failure...

This letter is typical of many e-mails I receive from Christian ladies struggling with binge eating and bulimia. My response:

There is definitely a way out of this, but it sounds almost as if you have run out of hope! Don't!! Hey, about failure - I want to share with you one thing that I've learned...that failure that keeps you in defeat and makes you essentially run from God (rather than towards Him, as He continually says "Come to Me"), is that worldly sorry (remorse rather than repentance).

It's what Judas did! That hit me today when I was driving to work; Judas and Peter both betrayed Jesus. They both were ashamed and felt guilt weighing them down. So, what was the difference? Judas ran AWAY from Him; ultimately self-destructing out of shame and misery. If he had truly repented, he would have gone to Christ - while He was on the Cross, even - and confronted the full horror of his sin. He would have been forgiven, even then.

Now, contrast that with Peter. We really don't know the exact details or time of when Peter repented; but we know that he did because he's with the other Apostles Sunday morning (they were all hiding out together); he's there in the Upper Room when Jesus appeared to them, and obviously he had become "right with God" before John 21's beachside picnic, because he jumped right out of the boat to swim to Jesus (and of course Jesus reinstated him in a sense; the past was finally laid to rest).


Sure, what these guys did seems way more dramatic than your struggle with eating, but there's a principle to be applied there: don't let the guilt of your sin drive you further down into defeat, or away from Christ. Don't believe the lie that it's too late or futile to repent. That's pride, and it cost Judas his very soul. Be like Peter -- by no means perfect, but willing to humble himself before his best Friend and confess that he needed Him.

You don't need to "forgive yourself". Just confess and repent of this sin, and trust that God has forgiven and cleansed you - because He has promised to (1 John 1:9) and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Yes, it seems like you have all the right books, but any truth contained within them is not making its way down to your heart. It sounds from your note as if you are not spending much time renewing your mind in the Word, either...and subsequently your prayer life has suffered. I don't want to give you another book to read, but in Jay Adams' "Godliness Through Discipline" he explains biblically how we cannot expect to grow in sanctification without a measure of discipline. For a bulimic or habitual overeater in the process of transformation, that would include considering ahead of time (before you are in the middle of temptation) what you are going to eat, and how much. Prayerfully consider what your weaknesses are ("binge triggers"), and where and what circumstances are most likely to set you off.

Don't eliminate all carbohydrates, as that will cause cravings also, but avoid those sugary/fatty things that you are most likely to binge on. The One Who is in you is stronger than the one who is in the world...remember that prayer fortifies you, and being in Christ means that you are no longer a slave to sin. The only way to begin again is by repentance...it's not a one-time event. Tomorrow is a new day. Get out of that kitchen once you have finished a reasonable, healthy meal, and go spend time with God! That was a BIG factor in my breaking free - realizing where my idol was, and that Christ was far more beautiful than any temporary satisfaction that "idol" could offer.

Let me know how this week goes! Go back to God, humble yourself (again), and ask for His help. Establish an eating plan and prayer time, and stick to it. Discipline is key to growth (Proverbs 15:32).

In Him,
Marie

10/19/10

Encouraging Feedback from Group

Last week, I had the priviledge of speaking to a "Thin Within" group about my testimony, and I was able to share some insights about food addiction. I received the following e-mail from the facilitator, which really encouraged me:
Hi Marie,


Thank you so much for coming on Monday and sharing your testimony. You were amazingly calm, poised and clear! Your words were obviously well thought out and none of the awkwardness of the written word came through as you talked with us. :)


I would bet that your words will reach more than just those sitting in the room. I know I personally really appreciated what you had to say. A few things struck me in relation to my own struggle with food, sin, food filling the void, etc. 6 months ! In 6 months you were transformed through the renewing of your mind to a place of freedom from food. How many of us have struggled a lifetime? But freedom in Christ is really attainable. (I just quickly checked out the blogspot - your answer to "practically turning" from sin once confessed is excellent and applicable to the "typical" overeater.) Also, interesting is that this Thin Within session is laid out to be just short of 6 months! :)


The other thing that struck me was, in the end who cares what I weigh. If I am being obedient and turning to Christ every step of the way to freedom, then weight will come off and I will be where I will be. Up until now, I still had a goal - I would like to lose 20 pounds and then when I get there, assume I will work hard to maintain that goal. But I don't want that any more. I'm not opposed to knowing what I weigh and using that as part of my testimony, but I don't want a goal in terms of pounds. Freedom is such a better choice!


Thanks again,
"J"

10/12/10

Identifying Your Idols (NANC Conference 2010)


 Last week, I attended NANC's Annual Conference in LaFayette, Indiana. As many of you may know, NANC stands for the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors and is the certifying/supervisory organization for biblical counselors in the United States and about a dozen other countries. This conference was extremely edifying and useful to me for several reasons. I was able to meet and talk with Martha Peace, Dr. Mark Shaw, and Jocelyn Wallace - who have been extremely helpful in the process of publishing my book, and have offered endorsements. Secondly, the general session speakers, particularly Al Mohler (who I can only describe as "scary smart"), gave inspirational messages about counseling for the glory of God and helped me revive my own relationship with Christ. Lastly, and most germane to the reason for attending, several of the five workshops I attended directly dealt with counseling ladies with bulimia.

The first evening of the conference, I attended a session taught by Jocelyn Wallace, Executive Director at Vision of Hope - the long-term residential facility located on the campus of Faith Ministries (where the conference was being held - I later was able to tour the home). Jocelyn was and continues to be very helpful to me in writing "Redeemed from the Pit", and an interview she granted earlier this year provides much of the information on residential counseling for eating disordered ladies in chapter 9. Her workshop was entitled "Helping Addicts Learn to Identify Their Idols", and she opened with the bottom-line premise that each one of us needs to embrace: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Someone with a life-dominating sin ("addiction") such as bulimia has learned to use tools to acheive a counterfeit satisfaction or happiness, rather than seeking God as the source of her joy and peace. The eating disordered individual, as is the case with other addicts, will use different means to acheive her goal - to avoid pain/confrontation; not be miserable; to be thin at all costs. Jeremiah 2 describes these "broken cisterns" as hopeless and futile; but when trapped in the bondage of addiction, this idolatrous pursuit turns into the downward spiral described in Romans chapter1. As the "worship" of this idol progresses, sinful actions ==> become sinful habits ==> become life-dominating (see Romans 7:14-25).

As Jocelyn pointed out, basic discipleship is necessary until a counselee understands and grasps the basic premise of the Gospel. (See my review of Elyse Fitzpatrick's "Because He Loves Me"). Trying to change behavior is futile until she really trusts in Christ as her Savior and has become broken. Brokenness means giving up the fight (for her own idol); not trying to win or acheive satisfaction apart from God anymore; yeilding in submission and humility to God's will. Once she embraces her true purpose - to glorify God and seek her satisfaction in Him - she is then in a position to choose the path of righteousness (1 Peter 2:9; 12; Psalm 23:6). Jocelyn cited an analogy from the book "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23" as useful for struggling counselees - the repentant bulimic (or other addict) is like the little lamb with the broken leg, being carried by the Good Shepherd. In her brokenness, she learns to trust the Good Shepherd and not leave His side. From this place of trust, she will learn to continue walking by His side, even blindfolded, with her hand in His.

Once the bulimic is able to begin examining the lies she believes, James 4:1-10 is useful to illustrate a simple progression: what I want in my heart ==> what I do; this controls how I feel. Repentance, defined as 'turning and walking in the opposite direction', means that one will no longer turn to idols anymore to serve one's self. God alone can be served froma  heart of joy and gratitude that is singular in purpose - to love and glorify God. Lies are replaced with the truth as the counselee researches what God says about the idols she realizes are present in her life. She is then taught how to build up walls of protection against temptation to return to that idol, and/or radical amputation of her access to the tools used to serve that idol.

For example, Stuart Scott described the following incident in his workshop, "Helping Counselees Mortify Sin in Their Lives". He and his wife were joint-counseling a young bulimic woman, who seemed to "talk a good talk". Something seemed a bit "off", and Scott's wife asked the young lady if they might go through her purse. Immediately uncomfortable, the counselee bristled but finally consented. Her purse was filled with laxatives, enemas and diet pills. "Radical amputation" (Matthew 5:30) in this case, of course, would include throwing away all of the "purge paraphanelia" one would use, as well as seeking accountability.

Throughout the counseling process, godly tools are introduced to take the place of wicked tools and the idols are compared to the One True God. Over and over, these idols are shown to be worthless.

Living each day to glorify God - with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength - is infinitely better than wallowing in the muck and mire of an eating disorder, ladies. Trust me: Jocelyn is right. These idols of self, thinness, avoidance of discomfort, vanity and attention are just not worth it. Do not forfeit true fellowship with Christ for the deceit of temporary, empty "satisfaction".

9/30/10

"How Do I Change When I Have an Eating Disorder?"

Dear readers,

This morning I received the following question from a young lady who deeply and passionately loves the Lord Jesus, yet struggles to repent of anorexia. I am often asked this question in one way or another, and so I will post my response to her, in its entirety, below. She writes:

Hi Marie,
I know this is a really basic question, but once you saw your eating disorder as a sin and repented and died to self so Christ can live in you, how then did you actions change, did it happen all at once or was it still a process over time?

My response:

Well, first of all, to really understand what repentance is and how to implement biblical change (of the heart, which affects our actions), we have to realize that AS we confess something as sin (agree with God), concurrently our actions will change. Yes, it's a process in the sense we are NOT perfected overnight (sanctification is progressive), but neither are we honoring God if we sit back, take a passive role in our sanctification, and expect Him to mysteriously change us. There is an interplay between God's sovereign power (the Holy Spirit convicts and encourages the believer towards holiness) and our responsibility (we must actively work against sin in our lives). The two go together.

Let me give you an illustration of how this might look in the life of someone struggling with the sin of drunkenness. This was, in fact, a sin in my own life, which I turned away from at the same time as bulimia. Since alcohol is a more "black and white" issue than food addiction, it might help to clarify the principle.

If a Christian is enslaved to alcohol, the Holy Spirit convicts him that he is in sin. He does this through the Word of God, and impresses that drunkeness is disobedience to Him. The Christian agrees with God, gets on his knees, and begs God to grant him repentance. His sin is forgiven, Christ has paid it in full! Weak though He is, the Christian wants to honor God by his actions, and so he resolves to stop drinking. This is true repentance; he does not try to rationalize his drinking or strike bargains with God: 'I'll drink in moderation; I'll only have one on Friday nights.' He recognizes that he, personally, has become enslaved by this particular "lust of the flesh" and must forsake it.

Now, when he gets up off his knees, what must he do?

The next evening comes. He is tempted to drink. Does he say to himself, "Well, I'm the same man I was last night (true) with the same desire for a whiskey (also true). Since I still have this temptation, I may as well give in to it....clearly, Christ hasn't changed my heart yet. When He does, I'll just "yield" to Him and let Him have His way....but since I'm still weak, I'll just go have a drink. Anyway, I'm 'powerless' over this addiction. I cannot resist, so I'll just 'let go and let God'. When HE wants me to stop drinking, HE'll deliver me supernaturally!"

If this is the believer's understanding of repentance and he gives in to his temptation, goes down to the bar and gets drunk, he's going to wake up even more miserable than the day before. Plus, his faith in God and His power to save and sanctify will be even further eroded -- because He was not walking by the Spirit and determining in his heart to obey Christ's clear command.

What should he have done (besides pray and seek forgiveness)? Well, obviously he must not have any alcohol in the house. Leaving himself a constant temptation will make obedience harder. He, like all believers, "is called to holiness, and created in Christ Jesus to do good works" (Eph. 2:10). Secondly, he ought to identify those places and times of temptation to drink excessively, and plan to avoid them. "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," (James 4:7). As he begins each day, he should "put on the full armor of God so that he can take his stand against the devil's schemes," (Eph. 6:11; emphasis mine). Putting on that spiritual armor starts as he reads the Bible, prays and asks God to renew his mind, but it doesn't stop there. How does he "take a stand against the devil's schemes" (temptation to sin by getting drunk)? By actively resisting it.

In John 14:15 and 14:21, the Lord Jesus Christ affirms that if we truly love Him, our actions will show it. Now, love for God is not defined by actions, (in other words, you could do 'good' things, but not necessarily love the Lord), but if our devotion to God is sincere, that will affect the way we act. If my kids love me, they will obey me. If our Christian repenting of drunkeness truly loves the Lord, he will obey Him - by making those tough lifestyle changes. Besides 'cutting off' the alcohol, it would be wise for him to tell a Christian brother of his struggle and commitment to sobriety ("confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed"; James 5:16). Accountabilty is often an important part of repenting from a life-dominating sin. By extension, seeking biblical counsel from an appropriate counselor or pastor may also be a part, but again, the counselor cannot change the individual. Doing the hard work of biblical change comes out of a pure desire for holiness, and is something that each person individually must walk out.

How, then, do we apply this to eating disorders?

Well, we certainly don't have to whomp up any warm, loving feelings towards God in order to desire to repent. He has graciously granted us conviction, and in His kindness is leading us to repentance (Romans 2:4). The change in heart attitude towards the sin of anorexia or bulimia should, ideally, go hand-in-hand with changes in behavior. This is true repentance, and although a child of God may fall many times, there is going to be an overall tendency of change and more healthful behavior (whether resisting the urge to binge or faithfully eating and digesting meals) as one walks in obedience.

The process might look like this:


1.) Conviction ==> hatred of sin

2.) Prayerful determination to forsake it (end cycle of binge/purge; stop starving one's self) (Phil. 3:19)

3.) Renewal of mind (rejection of idolatry/obsession with food) WHILE re-establishing healthy eating habits (Romans 12:2; 1 Cor. 6:19)

Naturally, one must faithfully stay in the Word (prayerfully read the Bible daily) to truly be transformed and have the mind of Christ; the verses I cited above are only examples and are by no means the final word or "magic verse" that will combat eating disorders!

True, biblical submission entails a very real and active committment to DO the things we know are pleasing to God -- whether it be throw away drug paraphanelia, avoid the bar, eat a nutritious meal, or abstain from a fat and sugar-laden binge. We turn TO Him in the moment of temptation, asking for His supernatural strength and to give us a holy hatred for our sin; but we simultaneously turn FROM the sinful behavior as an act of the will.

When I was still struggling with the temptation of bulimia, not only did I avoid going into Dunkin Donuts or McDonald's; I'd catch myself as soon as the thoughts of planning my next binge entered my mind (2 Cor. 10:5) and reject it. Before eating (remember, eating disorders are harder to overcome than other addictions because we MUST eat to live); I would plan what, realistically, I ought to eat for nourishment and how much. Seeking the Holy Spirit's help, I would then discipline myself to stick to that plan, so that I would not spiral into "binge mode". See? Thoughts, prayer and action all go together. You cannot isolate repentance from obedience.

Many Christians have a skewed view of sanctification, thinking that if they just "yield" or "submit" to Christ, He will automatically change them. Of course, we should be living lives of surrender and constantly be yielded to His will - that is the picture of joyful obedience - but it is by no means a passive process. We must take an active role in our sanctification and practice discipline (1 Cor. 9) if we are to bring about changes that are pleasing to God. See "Godliness Through Discipline" by Jay Adams for a more thorough discussion of what this looks like when the rubber hits the road. Praise God for His Spirit within you, Who "works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:13)!

"To repent is not to stay in the pig trough and carry on indulging in sin." -- Pastor Kevin Williams
For an excellent discussion of what biblical repentance is and isn't, listen to Williams' sermon "A Biblical Definition of Repentance".

9/17/10

Kristie's Testimony - Free in Christ!

An online friend of mine suffered for several years from an eating disorder called "orthorexia". Like anorexia and bulimia, orthorexia starts as an unhealthy obsession with food, and became life-threatening. As Kristie says in her interview, God had a plan for her life and was able to miraculously restore relationships and her health.




Interesting in Part II (below) to hear a medical doctor admit eating disorders are not "medical disorders", but rather behaviors:



Psalm 103, which Kristie read with new eyes in the hospital, became her life verse:
"Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD,O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things" - Psalm 103
I completely agree with Rachel Ray and the doctor's "common-sense", all things in moderation approach. Let our minds be set on things above; not obsessing over food labels!

9/8/10

Verbal Cruelty and the Balm of the Good News

Next month, Dr. Laura Hendrickson, trained as a psychiatrist and now serving as a nouthetic counselor, will be presneting a workshop at the annual NANC Conference entitled "Counseling Women Who Binge and Purge". Needless to say, this is one of the six conferences I have registered for at the conference, and am looking forward to meeting her.

Dr. Laura herself is an abuse survivor. Those of us who have experienced deep pain and wounding at the hands of others are often able to better identify and feel compassion for those we counsel - and see what is behind the irrational self-abuse counselees practice. Recently, Dr. Laura posted an excellent entry on verbal abuse - what is the driving force behind mocking, sarcasm, and cruel joking at the expense of others. Shouldn't we, who have "been there", know better? Why do we cut others down? She writes:
Those of us who've been hurt are sometimes the first to hurt others in similar ways. It seems as though this shouldn't happen, yet it does. Why?


Many of us who've survived painful experiences struggle constantly with feelings of inferiority. Some of us were told repeatedly that we were of no value to the ones we loved. Others were treated by others in ways that told us that we had no value. Our memories of mistreatment send us powerful messages about our inadequacy and inferiority--messages we hope aren't true, but fear that they are.
Read more here: http://blog.drlaurahendrickson.com/2010/02/23/verbal-cruelty-and-the-gospel.aspx

9/2/10

"Cutting" and Bulimia: Striking Similarities

It is with interest that I just read Mark Shaw's booklet, "Hope and Help for Self-Injurers and Cutters" (Focus Publishing), as very little has been written about this growing phenomenon from a truly biblical perspective. Shaw, who is the author of "The Heart of Addiction", condenses extensive research into the physiological and emotional drives behind this maladaptive behavior into 29 pages of scriptural exhortation. This booklet is extremely helpful both to "cutters" who want to understand and break this dangerous habit, and to Christian counselors who are perplexed by "cutting".

While many young people involved in the stereotypical "emo" lifestyle may experiment with self-harm either for attention or to deal with very real pain, the fact is that "cutting" does become a very real addiction...very much like eating disorders. In fact,  the reason for my research stems from the high correlation between "cutting" and bulimia. Many bulimics who have written me for counsel (especially from the under-30 generation) are also "cutting". In the 1980's, when I was a teenaged anorexic/bulimic, "cutting" was unheard of. Now, partly due to the media and perhaps the sub-culture, it has become a self-destructive addiction for increasing numbers of young people.

Shaw explains the physiology of "cutting", and why it becomes so difficult to stop:
"The pain signal sent to the brain causes a pain relief response in the body. Natural pain relievers produce pleasure in the brain and body. An unpleasant action produces a pleasant feeling in a short amount of time. "Cutting" can be addictive because the endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin that are released by the body can feel similar to a drug rush, although to a lesser degree. Chemically, these neurotransmitters are very similar to many prescription pain killers."
Similar to the "endorphin rush" that follows a purge and generates an artificial sense of calmness, the chemistry behind the behavior produces a certain response.

After citing specific Old Testament passages that forbid cutting and other forms of self-mutilation (see Leviticus 19:20; 21:5 and Deuteronomy 14:1-2); I previously blogged about cutting in the New Testament here), Shaw illustrates seven ways in which modern-day "cutters" are imitating the idolatrous pagans who "cut" themselves ritualistically:

1. “Cutters” of today are responsible for their actions just as the pagans were for their actions.


2. “Cutters” are grieving that they are not getting what they want. God’s people have the hope of eternal life and must not allow their focus to be upon receiving satisfaction in this world alone.

3. The severe, strong emotions experienced by the “cutter” of today are very similar to those felt by grieving pagans as they experienced terrible, final, and traumatic loss of a loved one. Remember that those strong emotions are preceded by negative thoughts about God or about the person who offends and hurts the “cutter.” (MY NOTE: Or both – often Christians with addictions, like cutting, are angry at God because He “allowed” the abuse to happen).

4. “Cutting” is often planned in advance of the actual cut. The “cutter” places a knife or sharp object in a drawer in her bedroom with the intention of using it later if the desire to cut arises.

5. The “cutter” and the grieving pagan have lost control and cried until there are no more tears left. All of this occurs with no real resolution: the pagan’s deceased loved one did not return to life as a result of the idolatrous ritual the pagan performed nor does the “cutter” resolve the hurt in a biblical manner (Luke 17:3-10) with the person who hurt her.

6. Some “cutters” want to be discovered because they desire attention or are crying out for help.

7. “Cutting” oneself produces blood for both the ancient, grieving pagan and the modern “cutter”.
 
Reading this list (and the elaborations under each point) really clarified the connection between bulimia and "cutting" to me. The rage, pain, and shame felt are "transferred" to the cut - and then "released" physically. This is very much analogous to what the bulimic does when she vomits - she is attempting to "purge" herself of both the self-indulgence (the food consumed) and the negative emotions.
 
The cycle a "cutter" follows and the self-reliant reasoning behind it is similar to the bulimic's. The answer to the problem, of course remains the same. Rather than taking refuge in the temporary "rush" of self-injury, the "buzz" of drunkenness or the "high" of a binge, God wants the person enslaved by addictive sin to turn to Him for comfort and encouragement. This is a key factor in resisting the temptation of an eating disorder, and the importance of accountability is just as real to the "cutter" as to the bulimic.
 
Describing a counseling scenario of an adult "cutter", Shaw writes:
At first, Pam did not want to think of it as "grief" but she took the wrong that she perceived to have experienced at the hand of her parents as a serious oppression that caused deep distress and mental anguish to her 'teenage world'. Just as the 'cutters' who grieved over the death of a loved one in biblical days, Pam felt a type of grief: intense emotional pain that caused her to mourn the deep injustice she felt inside.
 The pain is real, and just as is the case with eating disordered women, there is a high correlation of abuse among "cutters". The answer to dealing with this pain, however, must be firmly rooted in Scripture in order for the "cutter", like the bulimic, find true and lasting freedom. Internalizing anger (justified or not) leads to bitterness, which only further fuels the addiction. Just as is the case in overcoming eating disorders, biblical confrontation and forgiveness of abusers plays an important part in the restoration of a "cutter".
 
As I do in my own book, "Redeemed from the Pit",  Mr. Shaw makes the case that "cutting" is a sin because it offends a holy God (and violates 1 Corinthians 6:19-20): "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." As I did recently, Shaw countered the oft-thrown criticism that calling these attitudes and behaviors 'sin' is harsh, or that it is preferable to think of "cutting" as being a 'mental illness'. Citing 1 John 1:9-10, he reminds the reader that in Christ, the sinner is forgiven (including the sin of self-injury). This should give the addict great hope, because A) the guilt associated with the life-dominating sin is also resolved; and B) by acknowledging her sin, the "cutter" is now free to experience the forgiveness and encouragement of a loving God.

As is the case with eating disorders, repentance from "cutting" must follow certain steps:

- "Putting off" the sinful behavior and habitual, idolatrous thoughts (Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 2:11);
- Renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2; see also my posts on the importance of renewing the mind here);
- "Putting on" new, God-honoring behaviors and thoughts (Romans 13:12). Often, addicts will inadvertently replace one self-destructive habit with another one. For this reason and in order to have the mind of Christ about her situation, the "cutter" must rely on consistent, deliberate Scripture reading in order to become more like Christ. Sanctification, which is the goal of all biblical counseling, does not happen automatically or passively.

Much like her eating-disordered counterpart, a "cutter" is stuck in a deadly, seductive cycle of trying to solve her problems and ease her inner torment by means apart from God. The addiction, whether purging or "cutting", will ultimately only bring more misery and alienation from God and others. By recognizing the futility in self-harm and seeing the compassion of the Father, both bulimics and "cutters" can find true hope, genuine renewal in heart and mind, and a permanently changed life.

8/22/10

Those Who Hunger: The Daniel Fast and You

Folks, I just found a great online resource for you as you fight the good fight of faith against your eating disorders. A Christian blogger names Kristen Feola has a page (has writen a book, too) about the biblical principle of a "Daniel Fast" and how to practice this form of abstinence as a spiritual discipline. Her blog, "Those Who Hunger", contains many, many recipes, and is nutritionally very sound.

I recommend this site to all of you still struggling, whether your fight is against anorexia or you are still in the early stages of battling bulimia. What makes this blog's approach so good is that the focus is where it belongs - on Christ, and growing closer to Him - and not on the food itself. It is not a "diet"; nor is it a meal plan. It is not a magic "Six Steps to Self-Improvement" program. Kristen cites appropriate Scripture, points people towards the Word of God as they choose to "simplify" their eating for a season, and has a daily devotional for her readers.

Why am I recommending a page about "fasting" to my eating-disordered readers? Remember, this is NOT a complete food fast; it is a "Daniel Fast". This practice is taken from Daniel's abstainance from the Babalonian king's "choice food" for spiritual reasons. Bringing discipline and self-control into your eating habits (honoring God with your body; 1 Corinthians 6:20) is a spiritual matter. Being constantly in prayer, humble before our God, is the goal of any fast - it affords an opportunity to draw nearer to Him. Kristen writes:

A 21-day partial fast based upon Daniel's own experiences as recorded in the Bible. The purpose is to restrict commonly enjoyed foods as an act of worship and consecration to God. Someone who chooses to undergo a Daniel Fast demonstrates a physical commitment that reflects a deep spiritual desire for a more intimate relationship with the Lord.


On one occasion, Daniel was greatly concerned for his people and sought the Lord's wisdom during a 3-week time of prayer and fasting. Daniel 10:2-3 says, "At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips." The meaning of "choice food" is not clear; however, most commentaries conclude that he ate no bread or sweets. The Message translation sums up Daniel's eating habits during that time: "I ate only plain and simple food."

The intention of today's Daniel Fast is not to duplicate exactly what Daniel did but the spirit in which he did it. Daniel's passion for the Lord caused him to hunger and thirst for spiritual food rather than physical food, which should be the desire for anyone doing the Daniel Fast.
Additionally, I really recommend the recipes and guidelines she gives (on what to eat) as being very appropriate during the "abstinence phase" or "re-feeding phase" for bulimics and anorexics. You will not be overwhelmed with the heavy, fatty or rich foods that often trigger a binge; nor is sugar allowed on this fast (which is chemically addictive and a known binge-trigger). Of course, those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I am certainly not a "food legalist" - there are no "good foods" or "bad foods" and I believe that everything can be enjoyed in moderation - but in my experience, the more simply and "abstinently" you eat in the early days of your repentance from food addiction, the less tempted you will be to purge. Following the guidelines on this site (with special emphasis on prayer and Scripture study) will surely be beneficial to any recovering food addict.

Zondervan's synopsis says of the book:
"The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast offers practical encouragement for doing the Daniel Fast, a 21-day fast from foods like sugar and meat, so you can spend less time thinking about what to eat and more time focusing on the Lord. You will discover that “to fast” means “to feast” on the only thing that truly nourishes - the powerful Word of God."
(Emphasis mine). I always recommend that ladies, in addition to seeking biblical counseling, meet with a nutritionist wherever possible. Distance or money may prevent some of you from doing that. I am happy to offer whatever doctrinal counsel I can, but I am not nearly as inclined to provide specific "food guidelines" as some others are (I'd much rather study systematic theology than cook, anyway). So I am very glad to recommend a site to you which provides both practical eating advice with Scriptural encouragement! Do NOT, however, get so caught up in "doing the fast" and obsessing over the recipes that you lose sight of the main point - drawing nearer to God. Be blessed by it, and be sure and let the author know if you find something helpful on her site.

8/21/10

What Makes Anorexia a "Harder Case"?

Earlier this week, I was chatting with Martha Peace, who is working closely with me on my book and discussing revisions with me as we go. I very much consider her a mentor, and the depth of her experience in the biblical counseling field helps me to learn about how to best minister to young Christian ladies. (Not to mention, as a bestselling author, her writing suggestions are much appreciated)!

During the course of conversation, she mentioned a book she and several other recognized biblical counselors, including the brilliant Stuart Scott, are compiling on hard counseling cases. The topic on which Martha will write, for her contribution to the anthology, is anorexia nervosa. (Needless to say, I am looking forward to the book's release - I want to be as well-prepared as possible when I am a fully-certified NANC counselor).

Now, bulimia is quite a bit more common than anorexia, but this project is to zero in on the toughest cases of all.

This got me to thinking: why is it, exactly, that anorexics are more difficult counseling cases than bulimics? This was not a subject I got into in my own book - I did not focus on the differences too much between the two disorders, but rather dealt primarily with the root sins contributing to both behaviors. Moreover, most anorexics end up becoming bulimic at some point, anyway...it is much harder to continue to starve than it is to give in to the urge to eat, and then purge as an "escape hatch".

However, there are women who maintain anorexia long-term without ever giving in to bulimia. I have known of women to go well over a decade as anorexics, while their body tissues slowly disintegrate, still pursuing that elusive "thinness". This scenario is much rarer than the more common one: a low-to-average weight woman who binges and purges in secret, or an overweight lady who habitually overeats and cannot seem to moderate her eating habits.

What is it about anorexia that makes it harder to counsel? Here is my theory (and it is just that; my somewhat-educated opinion): the level of self-delusion in anorexia is deeper.

A bulimic knows that what she is doing is wrong. She feels shame constantly, even when she has been purging for so long her conscience is desensitized. Even before she seeks counseling, inwardly, she knows it is sinful to gorge and vomit up food. She knows the risks of laxative abuse, and is filled with disgust and self-loathing. She wants to stop the binge/purge cycle, but on the other hand is conflicted: 1) the frenzied act of eating/purging retains some sort of "reward" to her that she is reluctant to give up; B) she is deathly afraid of gaining weight. As with her anorexic sister, the bulimic has made weight her idol. Nevertheless, she rarely has any delusions that bingeing and purging is anything less than sinfully self-destructive.

The anorexic Christian, on the other hand, is less likely to really see her self-starvation as wrong. Anorexia seems the more "noble, stoic" of the two eating disorders -- after all, it takes enormous willpower to consistently refuse food. The anorexic is typically very proud of "overcoming" her baser human instinct - the need to eat for survival - and sees herself as of stronger, more self-controlled stock than other women. She has never eaten food only to "get rid of it"; what's the problem? she may reason.

Add to this the grossly distorted body image more common to anorexics, and you would have a hard time convinvcing them that they need to gain weight. I remember when I was anorexic in 11th grade, looking in the mirror (at 5'5" and 90 lbs.) and seeing a normal-weight girl. Interestingly, in photographs of myself I saw how emaciated I was; but anorexics do not see themselves realistically in "real time". For this reason, I highly recommend meeting with a nutritionist as well as a biblical counselor during the re-feeding process. A nutritionist provides an objective, science-based eating plan according to biological, nutritional needs. In my experience, this was helpful in giving me the confidence to eat nutritionally-balanced, if small, meals and to gain weight without freaking out.

A third reason anorexics may present tougher counseling cases than bulimics is the connection between asceticism and "religion". I use " " around the term 'religion' to distinguish this way of thinking from true, biblical Christianity. The ascetics were an ancient group that believed in subjugating the body (believing all matter to be evil, like the Gnostics) in an attempt to reach a higher level of 'spirituality'. This way of thinking was also rampant in Medieval Catholicism (see my post on 'holy anorexia' and the contemplative nuns of the Middle Ages) where flagellants and penitents would beat, starve, and sleep-deprive their bodies mercilessly as "penance".

The notion of "penance" is antithecal to the Gospel, which teaches repentance. Repentance is godly sorrow over sin; trusting in Christ's finished work on the Cross as atonement; and dependance on Him to turn away from the sin. Penance, on the other hand, is self-inflicted punishment or man's attempt to "make it up to God" by performing some act. This is the height of pride (thinking that we can add something to our redemption, on top of Christ's sacrifice); it is also a gross perversion of the true motivation for the spiritual disciplines (including fasting).

A Christian anorexic could easily justify her habit as "holy", by calling it a "fasted lifestyle". The secular media certianly reinforces this mindset, by glorifying women who successfully lose weight through "willpower" (the secular term for "self-control"). Self control is certainly a fruit of the Spirit, and fasting is something Christians are expected to do in seasons of intense prayer, but the anorexic mindset perverts them both. Although she is called, as a believer, to "put on the new self", she is in fact giving reign to vanity and self-absorbtion. Paul writes:
"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-3)
The anorexic's mind is most definitely not set on "the things above", nor is she walking in the Spirit. Her mind is set on the carnal desire for unnatural thinness and audulation; she ruminates about food day and night. Her lifestyle and habits "sow to the flesh" (Galations 6:8). However, it is much more difficult for her to see her true spiritual condition through the eyes of faith than it is for a bulimic, whose purgeing habit is more obviously sinful (gluttony; waste; destruction of the temple - 1 Corinthinas 6:19). Anorexia is just as grievous a sin against the body as bulimia is, but for these reasons I believe it can be harder to convince an anorexic that this is, indeed, the case.

What are your thoughts on this? I am especially interested in feedback from some of you ladies who are (or have been) struggling with anorexia. Do you see this as a life-dominating sin, or something that makes you "purer" (even if only in your own eyes)? Do you consider jeopardizing your health by self-starvation as wrong as overeating; or do you see it as "virtuous" (even if only secretly)?

8/18/10

Enter the Tabernacle with Eyes of Faith

(HT: Puritan Fellowship)

"Lord....have mercy on me, a sinner...
.....again."
Pastor Garrett Holthaus of Lakeside Road Chapel has just completed a 4-part sermon series on avoiding and conquering spiritual drift. I would really, really recommend it to you ladies, as you know first-hand how much of a stuggle it can be to return to the prayer closet when you battle a life-dominating sin such as an eating disorder.

A major cause of spiritual drift and taking our eyes of off Jesus is, of course, prayerlessness. This is especially true when we know we've sinned, and are too ashamed to face Him. I remember so well, even though it was so many years ago, feeling like a hypocrite for even attempting to repent (again)! The failure of the sin itself, coupled with the additional sin of prayerlessness, keeps us needlessly away from the Throne of grace. Holthaus says this:

"The only thing that keep sus from the Throne of grace is ourselves. If your sins can keep you from the presence of God, then it was your own rigteousness that got you there in the first place. In fact, it's when we've sinned that we need most to draw near to God."

He quotes Octavious Winslow (a Puritan preacher I've just recently discovered who wrote more on the nature of divine love than anything else):
"Learn to take your guilt as it comes, and your corruption as it rises, directly and simply to Jesus. Do not allow the guilt of sin to remain long upon the conscience. The moment there is the slightest consciousness of a wound received, take it to the blood of Christ. The moment a mist dims the eye of faith so that you cannot see clearly the smile of your Father's face, take it that instant to the blood of atonement. Let there be no distance between God and your soul. Sin separates; but sin immediately confessed, mourned over, and forsaken brings God and the soul together in sweet, close and holy fellowship. Oh, the oneness of God and the believer in the sin-pardoning Christ; who can know it? Only he who has experienced it. To cherish, then, the abiding sense of this holy, loving oneness, the believer must build his house in the fountain [of Christ's blood]. He must wash daily in the bronze lavar that is outside the Holy Place; then, entering in within the veil, he may draw near to the Mercy Seat and ask whatever he will of Him Who dwells between the cherabim ."
Holthaus concludes, "You don't go as a criminal goes before a judge; you go to Him as a child goes to a Father."

Keep that message in mind, as you face another day...perhaps your first one of prayerful repentance.

8/10/10

Spiritual Change Requires Discipline

I have quoted before from "Godliness Through Discipline", the booklet written by Jay Adams (founder of NANC and CCEF). When repenting from a life-dominating sin, radically amputating the ungodly areas in our lives over and over again, by God's grace, is the key to overcoming.

Christian author Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes:

"I can remember sitting in tiny, windowless practice rooms for hours on end as a college student, playing the same piece of music over and over again. I knew I would never reach my goal—to make beautiful music—without that rigorous discipline.

Discipline for the purpose of godliness is not the same as self-effort. Rather, it means consciously cooperating with the Holy Spirit—yielding to Him so He can conform us to the image of Christ.

The problem is, we want the outcome without the process. We want victory without the warfare. It is futile to pray and hope for spiritual change, while sitting glued to a television set or neglecting the means God has provided for our growth in grace. Bible study, meditation, worship, prayer, fasting, accountability, and obedience are disciplines that produce a harvest of righteousness in our lives.

Who or what are you worshipping today? Also, what area of your spiritual life could use some discipline? Why not call a friend and ask them for a little accountability?"

(Me again...) God is the Vinedresser (John 14), and He prunes whatever is unfruitful out of our lives so that we may be MORE fruitful for Him. If you have an area of besetting sin in your life, what are you doing about it? It is important to pray and ask God for help; but crucial that you not stop there.

What tools has God given us to aid in our fight against indwelling sin? The most important one is, of course, the Bible. It is His Word, and the only way in which He has revealed Himself to us in these days. If you are seeking Him or His Truth elsewhere, whether in a secular therapist's office, a "12-Step" support group, or universalist teachings on the Internet, please stop.

Get Offline and Into the Prayer Closet

I cannot tell you how many ladies I have counseled (formally or informally) who rely more on their online "friends" (who will tell them what they want to hear) than on the Word of God. I cannot get these ladies off of Facebook long enough to open their Bibles! They waste hours and hours online or in front of the TV, yet never have time enough to seek God. If this is you, please repent. I am not saying you necessarily should delete your Facebook account or do a complete audiovisula "fast", but ask yourself: where do I spend the majority of my non-working hours? If you are spending more time online (the Internet, and "Christian bulletin boards" in particular, are rife with bad theology and false teaching), ask yourself, "Has this helped or hindered my walk with God? Am I growing in holiness due to my online interaction?"

Another instruction we are give is to take up the Sword of the Spirit. How does this affect one's battle with a food addiction? Well, the Bible speaks repeatedly about "lusts of the flesh". I relate this concept in some depth to bulimia and gluttony in my book, but the bottom line is that carnal self-indulgence is "sowing to the flesh" (Galatians 6:8), which Paul contrasts with "sowing to the Spirit". The latter will result in eternal life; the former, corruption.

Fortified with prayer and armed with knowlege of the Word, you are better prepared to "stand firm in the faith" (1 Corinthians 16:13) and resist temptation. The Scripture you have stored up and hidden in your heart comes back as a fortifying, sustaining promise at the moment you feel yourself slipping; the hours spent playing Farmville on Facebook will do nothing for you.

8/3/10

Abstaining and Dealing With Food Temptation

Ladies, the following article appeared online today courtesy of The Reader's Digest. For those of you in the beginning stages of turning away from an eating disorder and particularly if you find it necessary to practice abstinence from certain types of "trigger" foods, the advice may be quite helpful. At least you know you are not alone - it's not only bulimics who have to be on guard against gluttony!

11 Ways to Deal With Food Temptation
by Reader's Digest Magazine, on Fri Jul 23, 2010

Let's be honest: Improving your eating habits is hard, even when you are doing the shopping and cooking. But what do you do when you are constantly being tempted to eat more by the people around you, or the situation you're in? Relax. While resisting temptation is never easy, we've come up with stay-in-control strategies for 13 of the most common situations in which temptation might call. If there's a common theme, it's this: Be prepared! By having a plan (or merely a script for what to say) you can make smart eating choices in every situation that life throws at you.

1. It's birthday-cake time at work

Passing on your colleague's cake looks as curmudgeonly as refusing to sing 'Happy Birthday,' but it's hard to celebrate the 300 calories, about half from fat, packed into a simple slice of store-bought frosted yellow cake. The socially acceptable way out is to ask for a thin slice, and then eat a small number of bites you've decided on beforehand, says dietician Elizabeth Somer, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. You're most likely to keep your promise to yourself, adds Somer, if you've eaten right all day, without 'saving room' for cake. Another calorie-saving trick: leave the icing on your plate and just eat the cake. And while most office parties involve soda, skip it and bring a full coffee mug.



2. The only food at the picnic is hamburgers and hot dogs

Most barbecues leave dieters trapped in the great outdoors. Meat grilled over a fire does tend to be less fatty than pan-cooked, but most grillers still depend on fatty burgers and dogs to feed the masses, while the traditional sides like potato salad and slaw are filled with high-calorie mayonnaise. Worst of all, you can't get away from the deliciously wafting smoke. Go ahead and smell the burgers, but eat the hot dog. A dog on a bun with a smear of ketchup will set you back about 250 calories. That's as many as the burger has in fat alone. Load up your plate with the low-calorie burger fixin's, like lettuce, tomato and onions, to round out your meal.

3. You have only a few minutes to grab a meal

Don't assume a fast-food drive-thru is an automatic no-no. True, a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese clocks in at 740 calories, more than half of them from fat. But the big boys have begun to grasp that customers want some reasonable options: '395 calorie meal for $3.95′ read one sign outside a fast food franchise recently, and Taco Bell brags of its Fresco menu, including a 160-calorie grilled steak soft taco wrap with just 4.5 grams of fat. At McDonald's you can get away with a salad, even one with meat, as long as you 'avoid anything with the word 'crispy',' says Somer. Just as important, choose a no-fat dressing. Also remember: no burgers bearing mayo-heavy sauces; skip the french fries; and low-fat milk or water rather than soda.


4. Your friend insists you meet at Starbucks

In diet circles, Starbucks has come to be regarded as the evil empire. It's not just 'all that caramel goo' in those ventis, which turn a cup of coffee into an ultrasweet high-calorie dessert, says New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle. 'Their stores are set up to make it convenient and entertaining to choose larger portions and more foods.' Treats — like the 410-calorie lemon poppy loaf — are sumptuously displayed in eye-level glass cases, while the more wholesome chow languishes below. Look down. Starbucks now offers sensible snacks like fruit rollups and paninis that swap out chili spread for mayo, but they're going to make you find it. As for drinks, begin any order with the word 'Skinny' and you can cut the calorie count by up to a third. The best choices: a steaming 16-ounce grande Pike's Roast black coffee, 5 calories or a grande Tazo Full Leaf Tea, 0 calories.

5. A date takes you to a hot restaurant

At a casual meal, say a Denny's or a Red Lobster, paring back the calories by skipping sauces or having them on the side is a good way to turn a fat fest into a square meal. Plus, many family restaurants now offer low-cal meals. But a meal in a top-flight restaurant is all about the sauces and special preparations made by a chef who is closer to an artist than a cook. 'I don't recommend trying to diet when eating out,' Nestle says. Instead, order less food, confident that the intense flavors will satisfy you. Pick appetizers as your entrée and share them; after all, it's more romantic to make the meal a shared exploration of flavors. Also sample the creative broth-based soups or salads. And if you must have dessert, share that too, and order the one with the most fruit.

6. Your lover surprises you with a big box of chocolates

First, a quick lesson in love: your lover doesn't bring chocolate in hopes of watching you eat. Before surrendering to the temptation of what's in the box, think about this: A concerted half-hour of sex can chew up 85 calories, and the longer you linger, the higher that number. [edited to note: this refers to your HUSBAND. Under no circumstances is sex outside of marriage okay. - Marie] Then feel free to enjoy a single piece of chocolate — a Godiva truffle tucks a lot of sweetness into 105 calories. If you limit yourself to one chocolate a day as a snack, you'll be fine.

7. You're shopping and are fading from hunger

Shopping marathons are like any other kind: you need constant, small boosts of energy to keep going. And keeping going is key. Avoid settling in at the food court; pick up a hot pretzel, a small bag of roasted nuts from a kiosk, even a chicken taco, and nibble on the move. Portable meals, of course, can still seriously weigh you down. At Aunt Annie's Pretzels, a pepperoni pizza pretzel twists together 480 calories with 8 grams of saturated fat. The original pretzel is no bargain at 310 calories without the butter sauce. But with less than a gram of saturated fat and 2 grams of fiber, it's a good choice, particularly if you eat it in small amounts over time.


8. You're dashing for an early morning plane

The best place for breakfast in an airport may be…Starbucks. A venti latte with soy milk or skim is 9 ounces of milk, a helpful shot of caffeine and just 170 calories, note Heather Bauer and Kathy Matthews in The Wall Street Diet, which provides tips for people too busy to plan healthy meals. Add a banana and a yogurt to get your day started for less than 400 calories and in under ten minutes (depending on how many other frequent flyers have missed breakfast at home and are lined up in front of you).

9. Your best pal wants to go out for ice cream

Remember when the two of you used to gorge on late-night sundaes? That was back when your metabolism could shake off 1,360 calories and 89 grams of fat — the going rate for a banana split at Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops. Liz Brenna, the self-described 'p.r. chick' at B&J headquarters, points out that the premium-cream pioneer has beefed up its line of fruit smoothies. While their 20-ounce 'Life's a Beach' mango smoothie is made only with fruit, sorbet and fruit juice, it still clocks in at 360 calories. For true nostalgic glow (and a few more grams of fat), choose a 3-ounce kiddie cone. At that size, most of the 30 ice-cream flavors hover around 220 calories. Better yet, go with frozen yogurt or sorbet, which range from 100 to 160 calories — and little or no fat.

10. It's 3:30 pm and you're hungry

The energy drop that hits in afternoon is likely a combination of perfectly natural factors: the result of a light lunch, mild dehydration, a momentary lack of iron, or a crash off that coffee you had at the late-morning meeting. Before wandering to the cafeteria or fridge, start your recovery with a tall glass of water, which boosts your blood flow and, as a side benefit, makes you feel full. Ideal snacks for clearing your cobwebby head are hummus or almonds, but if your only option is an office vending machine, look for any hint of protein — those orange crackers with peanut butter, at 200 calories, are better than a sugary cookie. Wash it down with a cup of coffee doused in iron-rich cinnamon.

11. Your family forces food on you when you go home

Food is love, and when Mamma tells you 'mangia' and you don't, she acts like you're rejecting her, not her pot roast. The answer: Have some of everything pushed at you during the holidays or a weekend visit home, but only a spoonful. That means your plate will be more of a tasting sampler than a full meal. Remember: Just one bite of a dish, preceded by a loud 'I can't resist!' will do your parents good and won't kill you. Another strategy: make yourself useful serving people and cleaning up. It gets you away from your plate, but still makes you a vital part of the meal. Most of all, 'focus on what's important,' says Somer. 'You're there to visit with your loved ones, not to pig out.' If you can transfer your emotions from the food to those around you, you'll live a long and happy life.

...And most importantly, remember to pray, seek God in every moment of weakness, and practice the spiritual disciplines of worship and Bible study. You live to glorify Him; not to focus on your weight!

8/2/10

Article Published in "The Gabriel"























One of my articles (originally appeared last spring on this blog) was just published in The Gabriel, the quarterly magazine produced by Christians in Recovery. My piece, entitled "Lessons in Faith: Life After Bulimia" runs on pp. 14-16 of the publication (it takes a minute to download.

Writing for them seems like a great way to share the truth that is in Christ, and encourage Christians who struggle with substance abuse.(They have already published several of my articles on their regular website).

I noticed that they have a link to Mark Shaw's book, "The Heart of Addiction" (Focus Publishing) there as well. Funny; he is currently reading my book for endorsement! Small world.


7/26/10

"Breaking the Addictive Cycle" Sneak Preview

CCEF's New Growth Press is offering a sneak preview into David Powlinson's new mini-book: "Breaking the Addictive Cycle: Deadly Obsessions or Simple Pleasures?"

Go to the link here: http://wdn.ipublishcentral.net/growth_press/viewinside/14086178754899

Then buy the book and be blessed by it!

7/22/10

"Chemical Imbalance" Theory Proven to be Just a Myth

With renowned psychiatrists now publically admitting that the chemical imbalance theory of depression and "mental illness" has been disproven, I thought it would be beneficial to cover this topic for readers of mine who may still believe bulimia has an organic origin. The depression you feel is, of course, due to your unhealthy and destructive behavior and the idolatry fueling it; it is not the cause.

I did not write the following; rather, it comes from prozactruth.com. Pretty much what I've been saying all along, hmm?

Also: See here for an excellent article by Chris Kresser, "The Chemical Imbalance Myth". Excellent medical research.

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Psych Drug Truth. The chemical imbalance myth? Chemical imbalance seems to mean different things to different people as well as physicians. Chemical imbalance myth? Why when a women is shown to have low estrogen levels after child birth would a Psychiatrist believe that is a chemical imbalance in the brain and prescribe an antidepressant? Would having a cold be a chemical imbalance?

Chemical imbalance.

As the debate on "chemical imbalance" escalates, I would like to pose a few questions for my readers.

If you have a cold or even the flue, do you think you have a chemical imbalance?

If you feel depressed by the loss of a loved one, do you think you have a chemical imbalance?

If you eat very poorly for 2 months and your body begins to slow you down, do you think you have a chemical imbalance?

If you have a baby and your hormones take a dive in the wrong direction, do you think you have a chemical imbalance?

In an explosive admission, American psychiatric Association President Steven Sharfstein did a 180-degree turnaround from his TODAY show interview (June 27) and admitted that there is no way to test for a “chemical imbalance” as the cause for mental disorders. PEOPLE magazine (July 11), quoted Dr. Sharfstein conceding, “We do not have a clean-cut lab test.”

What do we do with the chemical imbalance debate?

You feel bad, you are depressed, you have anxiety, you have lost a loved one and you feel very down, what do you do with that?

The FDA will not let the drug manufactures claim there is a chemical imbalance without their qualifiers.

Why?

It is only assumed there is a chemical imbalance.

It was once assumed the earth was flat. People were put to death for believing otherwise.

Today, in our scientific world, we are only able to assume chemical imbalance. This is even after the drug manufactures spending billions of dollars to try and prove their theory.

Who has something to gain by getting people to believe in the theory of chemical imbalance?

Drug manufactures and psychiatry have to profit.

The drug manufactures need to provide capital gain for their stock holders.

The psychiatrists have been using their tools of destruction for many years.

How did the chemical imbalance theory come into acceptance?

By some of the slickest marketing the world has ever seen.

The above comments are not to make less of a person suffering from depression or any other symptom. I have felt low at points in my life, just the same as any person who lives on planet earth, if they would tell the truth.

The low points and or call it depression have nothing to do with a chemical imbalance.

Does our endocrine change each and every day?

Yes it does. Don't eat lunch and your endocrine will change a little.

You could even call it unbalanced if you wish.

But it is not a chemical imbalance as being described by the drug manufactures and or psychiatry.

There are countless stories and press releases regarding chemical imbalance.

7/11/10

Review: "Because He Loves Me"

Elyse Fitzpatrick is who I want to be when I grow up.

Of course, I mean that completely in the Ephesians 4:15 sense of "grow up". The ability to articulate the simple, profound truth of the Gospel and its implications for day-to-day life as beautifully as Elyse has in "Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life" speaks of a real spiritual maturity. Her passion, from the first page of this encouraging book, is for her reader to have the same joyful, settled assurance of Christ's love that she herself has found in the pages of Scripture.

Why is it that so many of us recognize our need for the Gospel - the Person and work of Jesus Christ - for salvation; then slowly move past the Good News in our daily strivings to "please God"? We come to the Cross for justification, but practically live as if sanctification depended solely on us. Elyse spots this tendency - which often leads to a moralistic, defeated attitude - and reminds the reader of the only antidote: applying the finished work of Christ to our continually sinning hearts. Weaving the entire thread of Scripture around a central point - that God FIRST loved us - Elyse shows how getting this knowlege of His deep, abiding, personal and unfathomable love for us down into the very marrow of our bones completely changes everything. In fact, it transforms our whole identity - who we reckon ourselves to be.

If we see ourselves as "foster children", who can be evicted or abandoned at any moment, we will live like it. Realizing we are a permanant, cherished part of the family - His adopted children - transforms our hearts and enables us to live for Christ in His strength. As she writes on page 148, "Any obedience that isn't motivated by His great love is nothing more than penance." Well said.

How does the Gospel message impact our walk, 10, 20, even 30 years after our conversion, when we can rattle off the Doctrines of Grace like the days of the week?

"If we don't consciously live in the light of His love, the gospel will be secondary, virtually meaningless, and Jesus Christ will fade into insignificance. Our faith will become all about us, our performance, and how we think we're doing, and our transformation will be hindered."
This tendency to take our eyes of of Him and focus inwardly on our failure becomes a viscious cycle, especially when one is battling a life-dominating sin. Many of you bear witness to this fact. This week, I received the following in an e-mail from a reader:

"...I have been REALLY struggling again lately. I have trouble turning to God, because I feel sometimes like I don't deserve His forgiveness, or to ask Him for help. Lately I have been obsessing about food and eating all day long, and binging and purging A LOT! I work as a nanny, so I am alone with kids and in a house full of junk food I wouldn't buy, and have found myself unable to keep from destructive eating behaviors. Please pray for me that I will go back to Christ for guidance, and be able to truly repent for my sin. Please also pray that I will stop worshiping false idols of food and thinness, and instead live to glorify Him..."
(emphasis mine).

This young lady sincerely loves God and wants to please Him, but her words reveal that she has fallen into the trap so common to all of us: living as if our position before God is based on our own merit. When did any of us, in our "best" moments, EVER "deserve" His forgiveness? We didn't. Christ secured it for us - while we were still His enemies. We forget this. When we succeed, we feel good and can worship. Failure brings shame and a fear of approaching God, which naturally leads to more failure and despair. We are, as Elyse points out in this book, essentially not trusting God that He is as good as He says He is.

This is unbelief, and it leads to idols. When we don't feel fully secure in our position in Christ - solely based on His righteousness and grace - we seek the satisfaction that should be found in Him alone through counterfeits. Putting our trust in these "earthly treasures" leads to fear, worry, and anxiety - which leads us ever further away from the Cross. Freedom from fear comes from contemplating and remembering the love of God, manifested in Christ. As I have written before (and Elyse so much more articulately), change in our behavior can only come from truly realizing and appreciating who God is and what He has done for us. Knowing that His kindness is what has led us to repentance (Romans 2:4) motivates us to love Him back, and approach Him with confidence. Our 'identity in Christ' (as Elyse refers to it; I might use 'position') is permanent and irrevocable. It is what frees us up to walk in love.

In the final section of "Because He Loves Me", Elyse demonstrates how remembering and contemplating this unfathomable love God has for us is the true motivation for lasting change. She writes,

"Our natural unbelief will always cast doubt on His love for us. It is the awareness of His love and only this that will equip us to wage war against sin. Until we really grasp how much He loves us, we'll never be able to imitate Him. We won't come near to Him if we're afraid of His judgment. We won't repent and keep pursuing godliness if we don't believe that our sin doesn't faze His love for us one bit. We won't want to be like Him if we believe that His love is small, stingy, censorious, severe. And we'll never be filled with His fullness until we begin to grasp the extent of His love (Eph. 3:19). As a member of His family, you're the apple of His eye, the child He loves to bless. You're His darling."
"Every failure in sanctification is a failure in worship."

Far from minimizing the seriousness of sin, Elyse reminds the reader how costly it was to God - and invites her to rest in this reality. At the same time, we are thus enabled to "wage a vicious war against sin" - the imperative (command) that naturally follows the indicative (what God has already declared to be true). Every sin, from greed to sexual immorality, is a failure to love as we've been loved - at its root, unbelief. The key to walking in freedom and joy, then, is remembering that we're beloved children, redeemed by Jesus, set free from the power of sin. This settled confidence produces thanksgiving ane edifying speech, rather than complaining and bitterness. This is what applying the Gospel to every area of our lives looks like in practice.

I have been recommending "Because He Loves Me" to women who write me about their specific struggles, as well as counselors and anyone else who would benefit from the reminder of what Christ's perfect life, love, cross, resurrection and intercession really mean to us as we grow in Him. In short, everyone reading this would likely benefit from the encouraging and joyful explanation Elyse presents on the synergy of God's grace and our response. Like C.J. Mahaney's "The Cross Centered Life", "Because He Loves Me" trains the reader to reflect more deeply on the finished work of Christ on her behalf as a catalyst to worship, rather than presenting sanctification as a spiritual self-help plan.

See more about this wonderful book at the official website: http://beta.becausehelovesme.com/