Yo-yo diets

Recent research has discovered that those people who practise yo-yo diets unwittingly release dangerous toxic chemicals into their bloodstream. Four men and four women were sealed into a large greenhouse-like structure known as Biosphere 2, to study the feasibility of setting up self-sustaining environments on other planets. “The team was forced to follow a strict diet when overcast weather caused by El Nino and losses due to insect pests greatly reduced the yield of the crops they were cultivating.”

To counter this problem they were compelled to adopt a low calorie but highly nutritious diet that consisted mainly of fruits, grains, beans and vegetables, supplemented with small amounts of goat’s milk, goat meat, pork, chicken, fish and eggs. The Biosphere team seemed to thrive on this diet and their blood pressure and cholesterol fell. But, the rapid weight loss might have its dangers, because harmful chemicals absorbed from the atmosphere and safely stored in the fat were released into the bloodstream.

As they continued with the diet they found that the chemicals were gradually flushed from their system and it appeared that, providing the diet was kept to, these chemicals would be transient. However, yo-yo dieting would repeat the process over and over again and the body may not have the time to flush out the poisonous deposits before they were locked up again into new fat deposits.

This may seem technical and may worry those readers who fluctuate repeatedly on such diets but the spiritual application can also have serious consequences. There are those Christians who go on crash diets of spiritual absorption to reduce fleshy appetites and excessive weight in worldly modes. Bible reading, prayer, worship and self-denial all conspire to make them spiritually thin. So that they can run the race and lay aside every sin that besets them and adopt a strict regime to ensure their spiritual weight is stable.

And then – self-discipline flags and the weight comes rolling back on, and they feel fatter and more sluggish than before.  Bible reading is neglected, prayer is scant, worship almost a second thought and, as for running the race, they hardly ever raise their gait above a stroll! The result is, as they well know, because they’ve often been there before – overweight and not feeling very well – spiritually.

When they lost weight rapidly they failed to realise that poisonous chemicals like pride, self-contentment, boasting, safety in the flesh were building up inside. Had they kept to the diet they would have eventually rid or reduced themselves of such dangers. The Bible has well stated – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God,” (2 Timothy 2:15). Not steadfast one day and wobbling the next. Not lettuce one day and chocolate bar the next. Not church one week, miss a couple of Sundays, and back again at the end of the month – keep consistent.

Spiritual flushes are dangerous. Super spiritual one month, depressingly carnal the next, leads to a yo-yo life. I don’t think people realise the dangers they store up for themselves as they play diets with God. Such people keep their larger size clothes in the wardrobe just in case they put the weight back on again – that is cheating! The Bible says, “Make NO provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14) and that is very wise advice.

Necessary Penance?

Sir Thomas More was born in Milk Street, London on February 7, 1478, son of Sir John More, a prominent judge. He was educated at St Anthony’s School in London. As a youth he served as a page in the household of Archbishop Morton, who anticipated More would become a “marvellous man.” Thomas More went on to study at Oxford under Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn.

Around 1494 he returned to London to study law, was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1496, and became a barrister in 1501. Yet More did not automatically follow in his father’s footsteps. He was torn between a monastic calling and a life of civil service. While at Lincoln’s Inn, he determined to become a monk and subjected himself to the discipline of the Carthusians, living at a nearby monastery and taking part in the monastic life. The prayer, fasting, and penance habits stayed with him for the rest of his life. He wore a hair shirt next to his skin.

More’s desire for monasticism was finally overcome by his sense of duty to serve his country in the field of politics. He entered Parliament in 1504, and married for the first time in 1504 or 1505. He was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1535. On his death it was found he still wore a hair shirt full of lice next to his skin. It seems his early monastic calling pursued him all his life thereafter.

It seems to me that our repeated vows are very much like More’s hair shirt and which are certainly full of lice. A self-imposed penance, that mistakenly earns favour with God. To do without and to bear uncomfortable conditions is viewed, misguidedly, as an act to somehow appease God. At the beginning of each year we pledge to ourselves, with our eyes on God for approval, to undertake a remedial process of living. Those kinds of vows usually fade after a short time in the majority of cases, although the intention is firm the flesh is weak.

The fact that we make these promises shows we are not happy with our lifestyle. There is something wanting in our view of ourselves. Pressures from the world convince us we need to adjust lifestyle to fit the criteria of what is expected as a committed Christian, in other words we need to justify our priesthood and please God.  It is a subtle form of obeying and coming under the Ten Commandments, commandments that God has written in our heart by the Holy Spirit through faith but by grace.

We can never please God by our efforts but by our humility and total dependence on Him, for in Him we move and have our being. If it were possible to justify ourselves by works there would have been no need for Christ to be crucified. It might be wise to consider what kind of lice shirt we are wearing in our daily attempt at placating God. It can take many forms of duty.  Encoded in mankind is a desire to please God and to earn His favour, but in Christ we already have it.

It says we are  “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Living Before the World” [1 Peter 2:9-11].

Such a catalogue of renown should fill us with confidence to approach his throne undimmed by personal self-afflicted penance. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” [Heb 4:16]. Don’t drag your heels but march forward into the divine and awesome presence knowing he is not only monarch of eternity but father of our life.

Four Points

Resurrection proves that the thief cannot steal the promise.

Jesus promised to live again, he did and therefore, because He conquered death, when weakness, discouragement, or despair seem to dominate, we can have confidence. Unfortunately we fail to discern the difference between the ghouls of hell and the frailty of the flesh. Thus those fiends often taunt us by promises that never seem to be fulfilled, hence laughing at our limited abilities and supposed divine blessings. Given time such mocking can effectively remove us from useful ministry. These mental break-ins come from the thief who wants to destroy.

The disciples thought that about Jesus’ death because they were engaged in a wrestling match with powers of hell. We may be like that because of opposition and the failure to receive the fulfilment to the promises bequeathed. Proverbs says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” [13:12]. The slithering snake-like intrusions of the dark thief breaks into our mind to convince us his thoughts are ours. This is because we have probably intellectualised supernaturalism because of the fear of superstition! Therefore identifying the thief is ultimately pivotal [2 Cor. 2:11].

The devil will try to do three things; steal peace thus draining our joy and undercutting our confidence; kill hope by suffocating our expectations thus aborting faith in God’s promises. Finally destroy anything productive so rendering inoperative the might and majesty of God’s call and purpose for us. The cross and resurrection of Christ is the answer.

The resurrection breaks the negative attitude of containment.

There is nothing more containing than a grave. The devil is very subtle; he encourages us to be contained in a false sense of security, safe from further challenges. Thus, a contained Christian is an ineffectual and a none growing one and a contained church likewise. But Paul answers our dilemma:  “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal . . . “ [Phil 3:13-14]. The devil wants us to stay where we are. Satan likes bored contained Christians. He resists those who attempt to move beyond the invisible walls he erects. But, a resurrection mentality brings a break-out mentality.

Resurrection proves that if one good thing is withdrawn then a better one will replace it.

Jesus was gone, for he was raised! “If God removes a silver blessing he’ll give you a golden one!” All His takings are preliminaries to His greater giving “For he does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” The fact He has gone shows he was the complete conqueror over death – for death is a tearing apart of the connection between body, soul and spirit. If he had not risen it would have been a two-thirds victory. This conquest showed the restoration of this torn connection, for Jesus would have returned to heaven without a body, for he did not have one before he came.

The faith of the first disciples collapsed at Calvary and only resurrected with Christ’s physical resurrection. Without his bodily resurrection no thinking man would ever have believed upon the crucified one. His resurrection was concerned with the organic interweaving of a completely new life-principle, divine, personal and all-penetrating, He not only prepares and shows the way but He is the way!

Resurrection proves there is a new reality

The reality is that Christ can do whatever He so wishes. Miracles are part of His divine nature. What he started on earth he continues in His absence through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Because we have been touched by the materialistic nature of the world we often fail to perceive that which we know in the post resurrection age: it is imbued by the Spirit. We should, nay we must, move as the sons of God, we are no less than that; our heritage is secured in divine manifestation. “Nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection . . .” [Luke 20:36-38]. We live and move in a new reality, we are the sons of God. It is not what we feel or look like, but by faith we ARE the sons of God. One day we will be resurrected and wholly like the Lord; until then the reality is now. We now move amongst the hostile world that attempts to inhibit our faith in the miraculous. However we inhabit eternity by faith and therefore look upward to see heaven upon earth. Thy will, will be done.

Easter Sunday – Oh Happy Day

“Saying, the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” [Luke 24:7]

God has His third day on any day.

  1. It is the day of resurrection and a day promised.
  2. It is the day when beginnings take place.
  3. No one had been raised from the dead before to die not again.
  4. It is the day when victory is ensured.
  5. The ultimate is death: the divine ultimate is life out of death.
  6. It is the day when defeat turns to conquest.
  7. It is the day when dark becomes light.
  8. The fading light turned into gross darkness is banished by the all-pervading risen Lord.
  9. It is the day when sorrow becomes joy.
  10. Broken hearts reassembled by divine power and grace.
  11. It is the day when man’s schemes come to nought.
  12. All the vain machinations of man’s mind thwarted by wisdom so high.
  13. It is the day when the devil and all his minions are trapped.
  14. It is the day when dreams become reality.
  15. It is the day when the kingdom comes in force.
  16. It is the day when the prophetic is fulfilled.
  17. It is the day when God makes our shattered world anew.
  18. It is the day when our scuppered tomorrows are raised intact.
  19. It is the day when followers become disciples.
  20. It is the day when tears give way to laughter.
  21. It is the day when justice reigns over inequality.
  22. It is the day that puts a candle in the tomb.
  23. It is the day that confounds the critics. In three days destroy this temple and I will build it again.
  24. It is the day when Pentecost became possible.
  25. It is the day when captivity became captive.

I Peter 1:3 “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

I Corinthians 15:45 “And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit.”

Ephesians 4:8 “Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”