Getting to the Bottom of It

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

 
The rash developed last month. It flared on the inside of both my wrists and itched like hives.

I smeared hydrocortisone cream on it several times a day, but it blistered, seeped, scabbed over—and spread. Assuming it was eczema, I bought a tube of eczema relief cream—not the cheap stuff, either. It didn’t help.

Could it be an allergic reaction?

I’d had a persistent rash last year, too, that disappeared when I stopped eating foods containing gluten, a substance in wheat, barley, and rye.

I’d recently been eating a lot of bread, pasta, sweets—not a good thing. I discovered 20 years ago the ill effects of those foods on my body—the fatigue, the weight gain, the inbreadability to lose it, the brain fog. All those foods contain gluten. When I eliminated them from my diet, I felt better.

But like the author of Proverbs wrote, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).

Over the years, I yoyoed between eating refined carbs and avoiding them. I felt good when I didn’t eat them, but then I’d convince myself just a little taste wouldn’t hurt. And the little taste became a bigger taste—until I went hog wild eating bread and pasta and overwhelming my body with what’s essentially bad for it. Which is what I did last month.

I researched online, typing “rash on the inside of wrists” in my browser. I really didn’t expect the long list of web pages relating to gluten-causing rashes.

So, once again, I eliminated gluten from my diet and began scrutinizing labels to make sure there was no cross-contamination at the manufacturing plant.

In a week the rash calmed down and faded.

You’d think I’d know better.

Isn’t sin the same way?

We know, in our heart of hearts, it’s bad for us. But we dabble in it because we’ve convinced ourselves “just a little won’t hurt” or “it won’t affect me.”

But we’re dead wrong.

There’s no difference between sinning a little and sinning a lot. Sin is sin, and its effects are the same: it separates us from a loving, holy God; it corrupts and contaminates that which was good and pure; it entangles us (Paul often uses the analogy of slavery when he refers to sin); it brings sorrow; and it affects not only the sinner, but also those who are innocent.

There is no salve we can put on to make it go away; no medicine we can take will cure it.2000px-ProhibitionSign2

To get rid of the rash, I first had to admit gluten was causing it. Then I had to eliminate all gluten from my diet. I must be vigilant to make sure it doesn’t sneak in by the back door of a seemingly innocent food.

So it is with sin. We must admit we’ve sinned (Romans 3:23), confess it to God (1 John 1:9), and, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, recognize it when it tries to sneak back in (John 16:13).

My rash has almost disappeared. I have more energy, I’m thinking more clearly, and I’m sleeping better.

Remind me, Lord, when temptation comes, that nothing sin can give me is worth what it takes from me. Provide me with the way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on James 1:13–18

Don’t Pray for Patience!

The fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience. – Galatians 5:22 NIV

I was never known for my patience. Waiting time meant fidgeting time, and I wasn’t one to fidget long before looking for a way to decrease the wait time (translate: run ahead of God).

When the man of my dreams came along—THE one—I didn’t even wait for him to propose. I planned the wedding then told him about it. Good thing he was on the same page as I was.

My late mther-in-law once gave me a refrigerator magnet that read, “God, grant me patience, and I want it NOW!”

Sometime after our first child was born, I realized my impatience (and other not-so-nice traits) was making me—and everyone around me—miserable. So in desperation, I asked God to help me.

While I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a believer—when I didn’t sense the presence of God in my life—this was a turning point—of me turning my life over to God, of me relinquishing control.

Actually, it was an exchange—my miserable life for His glorious one. A.W. Tozer called this “the implantation of the Divine.” I like that term. God implanted His life in me—new life, a better life, abundant life, eternal life (see John 3:1–21). The moment I received the gift of this life, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in me (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Bear with me here. I don’t mean to preach. But after all these years, I’m finally beginning to wrap my head around what all this means.

When I said “yes” to God, He began a work in me (see Philippians 1:6 and 2 Corinthians 5:17), developing the fruit of the Spirit. Of course, I wanted to be a mature Christian right away—remember the refrigerator magnet?

But fruit isn’t fully mature, ready to harvest, immediately. It first appears as a tiny bud that grows into a fruit that ripens over time. It withstands all kinds of weather conditions, which make it stronger, better.

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So it is with the fruit of the Spirit. “Fruit,” remember, is singular, not plural. Think of an orange: one fruit, many segments.

And one of those segments is patience.

As a young Christian, I was told, “Don’t pray for patience.” Why? Because when you pray for patience, you get plenty of opportunities to practice it.

Patience, as with all the other fruit of the Spirit, takes a lifetime to develop fully. Who wants a lifetime of hard times, difficult situations, impossible circumstances? Yet those times will come, whether we ask for them or not. God will not leave us baby Christians.

James writes, “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2–4 TLB).

These days, I’m much better at waiting—although I still won’t pray for patience. If God wants to send me something that will strengthen it, I know He’ll give me the grace to endure it.

Now if God can change a squirming, fidgeting, impatient person like me, imagine what miracles He can work in your life!

Thank you, Lord, for Your life in me. Thank you for taking the ugly parts of me and making them beautiful. Amen.

 Extra tea: Read and meditate on James 1:2–4

NOTE: Concerning salvation and new life in Christ, I like Dr. Steve McVey’s perspective:

In his book, 52 Lies Heard in Church Every Sunday, Dr. Steve McVey writes, “Salvation is not a matter of you giving your life to Christ. In fact, it has nothing whatsoever to do with what you have given God. Grace revolves around what He has given us, not what we give to Him! You receive eternal life not because you gave Christ your life. You receive eternal life because He gave you His Life!”

Do I hear “Amen!”?

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