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Resolve. Even though you’ll fall.

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We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up.

C. S. Lewis, Letters, 1/20/42

Why We Don’t Resolve

Only one of five was. Some of the five shrugged. One shook her head and grimaced.

Why don’t we start the New Year with a resolution or two? Reasons tend to fall in one of two groups: either for sloth of soul or for fear of failure. I’ll explain.

1. Some of us opt out of New Year’s Resolutions because they’re so much work. We like comfort and a fast fix. Saying no to nighttime snacks and prepping salads for tomorrow’s lunch instead – these take diligence and effort and self-control.

And we don’t want to dig in for what might be a duel to the death. We’ve got work to do and kids to feed. Maybe next year. We’re not ready for that fight. Not yet.

2. Some of us resist resolutions because we know we’ll fall. Whether in two months or two days or two hours, it’ll happen. We’ll succumb. I’ll eat that bowl of ice cream at 10 pm and interrupt my friend, again. It’s only a matter of time.

But could it be that we fear stumbling on the right road more than we fear drifting along the wrong road?

Because we’re afraid of getting dirty, we let the perfect become the enemy of the good. We’re afraid to run and fall in the mud.

Which is why you might actually consider making these three resolves.

1. RESOLVE: To know God’s power in the fight.

C.S. Lewis knew of whence we speak, of what we fear, at the start of this new year.

I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc. don’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us: it is the very sign of his presence. (Letters, January 20, 1942)

So up and at ’em. Get in the fray. God is present with us in our muck.

Though a righteous man falls seven times, he gets up again (Proverbs 24:16a). Muddy and sweaty, maybe trembling or scraped, the righteous get back up.

But cowards watch unscathed from the couch. And cuddled up, clean and dry, they probably don’t much notice God’s power. They don’t feel his forgiveness and grace, helping them up.

We don’t know the strength of the wind until we try to walk against it and we don’t know the force of the evil within us until we try to fight it.

But, we also don’t know the power of God to strengthen us until we resolve, face off, do battle against the besetting sins and bad habits that would have us bound.

My power is made perfect in weakness, our Lord said.

2. RESOLVE: To avoid greater cost later.

It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish. -Sam Gamgee

Waiting can be costly. Strike while the iron’s hot. Resolve now. Agony comes when we wait too long, from thinking I wish I would have.

Rory Vaden is a motivational speaker. It’s hard to argue his premise that success of any sort requires self-discipline. He quips,

Procrastination and indulgence are nothing more than creditors that charge you interest.

He’s right. We eat too much and we feel sick and gain weight. That’s costly. We spew angry words and lose friends. Very costly. We don’t proof our messages and take triple the time undoing the confusion. Big interest. Procrastination and indulgence are costly.

Left unchecked, they cost us our souls. Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion (Hebrews 3:15).

Get started. Resolve today.

3. RESOLVE: To exalt Christ in the good fight and when you fall.

The Apostle Paul was a resolver. He resolved, he made it his ambition, to preach where Christ had not been named (Romans 15:10), to know nothing but Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), to minister in Rome (Acts 19:21) to name a few.

You might not know this, but Paul also encouraged us to make resolutions. To make faith-filled resolves for good.

My proof text for urging you to make good resolves is 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12,

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s train of thought here is important for us to understand in order to make good resolutions. Not all resolutions are good resolutions. Because without faith it’s impossible to please God and whatever does not come from faith is sin. Resolves that are made, and-even worse-kept, without faith cannot be good and only tend to pride.

Yes, definitely- count the cost (Luke 14:28). Don’t be like the guy who started the tower and got laughed out of town because he didn’t have the resources to finish. If you are in Christ, you do have the resources. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work for you (Eph. 2:19-20).

But then, make good resolves by faith, relying on God’s power to help us will and act. And refuse to see failure as a sign that you’re on the wrong path.

The fact that you get mud on the windshield and temporarily lose sight of your goal and swerve, doesn’t mean that you’re on the wrong race track.

If you were, the enemy wouldn’t bother you. What the mud really means, John Piper explains (Future Grace, p. 55),

[I]s that you should turn on the windshield wipers and use your windshield washer.

Be encouraged. The mud means you’re right on track. Spiritual growth ahead.

Resolve Now. Quit Limping.

The opposite of resolved is not a happy-go-lucky drift to holiness. We only drift one direction and it’s not toward heaven. Not to resolve is to be undecided and irresolute.

Not to resolve is to limp between two opinions and to think, I really should stop ____ (eating, scrolling, interrupting)but not yet. 

So when should we resolve?

Whenever we see something we should be doing that we’re not doing we should resolve to do it and whenever we see something we’re doing that we shouldn’t be doing, we should resolve not to. To walk worthy, to see God’s power, to exalt Jesus. We should resolve. January first or December 31st and any day in between.

How long will you go on limping between two opinions? If the Lord is God follow him, if Baal is God follow him, Elijah challenged the Israelites.

It’s the same today. If God is strong and your resolve is born of faith and for good, don’t be irresolute. Resolve. Don’t go on limping.

Oh, sure, we’ll fail and stumble and get a little muddy. But we will rise.

And the towels will be out and our clean clothes waiting.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
Jude 24-25
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Calling All Foodies: On Delicacy, Gluttony and How Grace Strengthens Me

“The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind.” -G.K. Chesterton

The (custom-mixed) almond-coconut flour, (limited) coconut sugar, (Wheat Belly) fudge brownies were baked to perfection. Triumphant, I pulled them from the oven. Then I ascended my low refined carb & sugar box.

When I stepped down five minutes later we were a lather. All except Jamie. Because Jamie was Paleo- she ate no dairy, grains or legumes. Not that she presented it that way, but it just seemed like Jamie’s diet was was more pure and holy. So Jamie was unscathed.

But the others were confused. I- in full out health food frenzy- had confused them.

Linda was apologetic as she doled out Teddy Grahams to her toddler. Cathy was crestfallen, entirely overwhelmed by our diet discourse. Integrating almond flour, stevia, and coconut oil into her family’s diet was way too much for her to manage. And I, well, I felt rightly guilty.

I’m sorry, you guys. I am totally not judging you for your food choices.

And we all sat down a friendly spread of almond-butter, and turkey and cheese sandwiches on gluten-free Udi’s and Sarah Lee white.

[For a few of you, food choices are a matter of life or death. For some of you, your choice to go gluten-free or forgo dairy dramatically impacts your health. But for most of us, our diet choices are a mostly a matter of preference. This post is directed toward those of us in that last group.]

A Gluttony Of Delicacy (And isn’t life more than food?)

Food becomes idol when it preoccupies. When I worry about how much, or when, or what I’m going to eat. So gluttony isn’t only excess in eating or drinking. It’s greedy or excessive indulgence, too.  In his winsome way, C.S. Lewis described the subtle gluttony.

In The Screwtape Letters, senior devil Screwtape advises junior devil Wormwood on tactics to divert humans from heaven. Keep gluttony in your arsenal, he urges. Bolding is mine. The quote comes from chapter 17.

My Dear Wormwood,

The contemptuous way in which you spoke of gluttony as a means of catching souls, in your last letter, only shows your ignorance. One of the great achievements of the last hundred years has been to deaden the human conscience on that subject, so that by now you will hardly find a sermon preached or a conscience troubled about it in the whole length and breadth of the Western World. This has largely been effected by concentrating all our efforts on gluttony of Delicacy, not gluttony of Excess.

Your patient’s mother… is a good example. She would be astonished – one day, I hope, will be – to learn that her whole life is enslaved to this kind of sensuality, which is quite concealed from her by the fact that the quantities involved are small. But what do quantities matter, provided we can use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness, and self-concern?

Glubose has this old woman well in hand. She is a positive terror to hostesses… always turning from what has been offered her to say with a demure little sigh and a smile “Oh, please, please … all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast.” You see? Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognizes as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others. At the very moment of indulging her appetite she believes that she is practising temperance …;

The real value of the quiet, unobtrusive work which Glubose has been doing for years on this old woman can be gauged by the way in which her belly now dominates her whole life. The woman is in what may be called the “All I want” state of mind.  All she wants is a cup of tea properly made, or an egg properly boiled… But her “properly” conceals an insatiable demand for the exactMeanwhile, the daily disappointment produces daily ill temper: cooks give notice and friendships are cooled

Your affectionate uncle,
SCREWTAPE

Heavenly arrows, these words. Friendships are cooled…as palates produce impatience, self-concern. Beware when diets divide; when tender tastebuds trump tender hearts. When one’s uprightness or defilement are based on what goes into one’s mouth, beware.

You just might find a foodie idol hiding under the table.

Strengthened By Grace, Not Food

Uncle Screwtape would revel in our Paleo, South Beach, Mediterranean smorgasbord. And in our delicate palates, in our insatiable demands for the exact: Sartori SarVecchio not Kraft Parmesan. Strong, but not too strong, my own personal K cup.

There are today many religious and secular food routines …of food supplements and vitamins and antioxidants and organic diets, and fat-free, sugar-free, caffeine-free, chemical-free foods. And sometimes, not all the time, these things become obsessive. They take on a life-consuming importance. Slowly and subtly the promises they make for our well-being become the promises we hope in and the promises we live by.

But over against this misuse of foods, God says (in verse 9), “It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods.” So beware of “alien teachings” that elevate diet and nutrition and food to a place where they are the real strength-givers and health-givers and hope-givers in your life. Instead learn to have your heart strengthened by grace – day after day, morning noon and night. …

John Piper, “Be Strengthened By Grace” sermon transcript

Cathy, formerly crestfallen Cathy, was last to leave our little luncheon. When we got out to Cathy’s car, her eyes were twinkling.  Then she asked,

Want some bread?  But, I got a whole box of day-old Brownberry this morning. 

I nodded and scooped up two full-carb loaves.

And my heart got stronger.

“Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.”

Hebrews 13:9