Mini Book Review of “Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire With God, Not Food” by Lysa TerKeurst

Before I review the book, I feel I must first acknowledge that I am certainly no Lysa TerKeurst’s target audience. Made to Crave is written from a female perspective to females. TerKeurst frequently references the “Jesus Girls” she had in mind when she wrote this book. Ultimately, Made to Crave is about food addiction and the spiritual ramifications of an unhealthy relationship with food. TerKeurst’s premise is that we are all designed to crave, as revealed in Scripture, ““How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1 – 2). Unfortunately, many of us misplace our cravings and try to satisfy them with food. I believe TerKeurst’s approach is much needed in face of a dilemma that is so common. Though I am not the target audience, I highly recommend this book to any Christian who has placed food on the throne of God. It helps address the mental and spiritual sides to weight loss.

What Is Meant by the Phrase “Die to Self”?

The idea of Dying to Self may sound odd to to some, but for Christians, the concept can be found laced throughout Scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote the following to the Galatians:

24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:24

Paul writes that Christ followers have “crucified” the flesh. In other words, the moment we trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are choosing to crucify, or kill, our fleshly desires. To claim Christ and continue to pursue earthly passions is inconsistent with the Christian faith. Paul isn’t suggesting we must be perfect or that there is no room for error, in fact, he writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “… I die daily” (1 COR 15:31). The idea of “dying daily” means we must choose Christ over the world every, single day.

I believe it’s fair to say that if you are going to follow Christ, the old man (or woman) inside of you must die. To quote Paul from the King James, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Paul says our old man must die so we may be freed from the impact of sin in our lives.

Too often, we Christians claim Christ but then try to live on the fence. We live with one foot in the Kingdom and the other in the world – this is a recipe for disaster. When we repent from our sins, we are turning from our old worldly pursuits and pursuing Christ. It is impossible to serve two masters. We can not be a slave to sin and slave to Christ at the same time (Matthew 6:24)!

Christ expounded on this concept when He told his disciples to “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Taking up your cross isn’t meant to imply it is a burden to follow Christ, but it does imply we should be willing to die for Him. It is a call to die to self … to surrender. Gotquestions.com in an article on this subject asks the following questions:

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?

• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?

https://www.gotquestions.org/take-up-your-cross.html

Genuine commitment to Christ involves the willingness to let go of self, your desires, your pet sins; all must play second fiddle to Christ. A Christian who has died to self strives every day to put God’s will for their lives ahead of their own. Christ says whomever is willing to lose their life in this manner will ultimately save it (Luke 9:24).

I will close with this New Living Translation of Paul’s words in Philippians 3:7, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.”

Pursuing Christ has a way of teaching us we must die to self.

Mind, Spirit, and Body

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Thessalonians 5:23, NASB.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul prays his readers may be made entirely complete, in body and in spirit and in soul. I emphasize the last two because they seem to me the most ignored in our current day and age. Let’s face it; we understand all too well that our bodies are important. We live in a world that glorifies appearance. Spend a few minutes scrolling Instagram or watching TV and you’ll quickly understand what I mean. The health and wellness machine is all about appearance. The truth is, however, our appearance is the most superficial level of our existence; and when we overemphasize the superficial, we are neglecting what’s really important.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that we are not a body with a soul, but a soul with a body. In terms of Scripture, this is an accurate statement. the Bible teaches that when we die, we’ll be absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8) and that at some point in God’s plan, we’ll receive new imperishable bodies (1 Corinthians 15:43). In fact, our mortal bodies can’t even inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). This begs the question, Why do we focus all of our time and attention on the one aspect of our being that matters the least?

It seems to me, that when it comes to health and fitness, we better work on our mind, spirit, and soul, before we worry about our body.

I have a long history of weight loss and, unfortunately, weight gain. Over the past 34 years or so, I have lost a great deal of weight at least 4 times … probably 5 now that I think about it. I have spent a great deal of time counting calories, counting reps, and mastering various programs. I have agonized over various workout routines and driven myself nuts over the tedious little details. But what I’ve never done, is focus on my soul and spirit first.

The truth is, you can do everything right physically and maybe even lose weight; but still be a very unhealthy person. I’m not just talking about those skinny fat people we’ve all heard about, you know, their BMI and weight is under control and they’re considered beautiful by the world’s standards, yet their cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure is a mess. More importantly, I am referring to people who focus all their attention on the physical yet sacrifice the spiritual and the eternal aspects of their existence.

Genesis 1:26 says that all mankind is made in the image of God. He created us with physical attributes, yet He also created us with immaterial attributes; “soul, spirit, intellect, will, conscience, mind, and emotions”1. I’ve lost and gained weight so many times in my life because my emotions, mind, and will were suspect. I could get healthy physically, but never mentally or emotionally. That’s why I would so often turn to food when my life got flipped upside down. That’s why I embraced every emotion I experience with food! Sad – get ice cream, mad – order a pizza, happy – go out to a restaurant and celebrate! Whatever happened in my life, good or bad, caused me to turn to the sin of gluttony for satisfaction. This isn’t a physical problem … it’s a spiritual matter.

Perhaps you’re there. If I’m being honest, there is still a part of me that is. That’s why the plan I’m embracing now involves the mind and spirit and not just the body. This may seem out of order to you, but when it comes to weight loss, I’ve learned that the body is the least important aspect of my being. I’m learning that meditation, prayer, Bible Study, and the formation of good, healthy habits should come first. The body will follow my mind and spirit’s lead. A healthy mind equals a healthy body and a sick mind equals a sick body.

Whatever plan you’re following, learn from my mistakes. Do not ignore your mind and spirit in favor of your body. Any success you achieve following such a plan will be an illusion.

Proverbs 4:23 instructs us “Above all else, guard our hearts, for everything you do flows from it” and truer words have never been spoken.

If you’re interested in learning more about the plan I’m on, leave me a comment. I can give you more information and introduce you to a health coach that can help you get your priorities straight. I can even help introduce you to the Savior who can heal your mind, body, and spirit.

Lessons from The Apostle Paul: Paul Was the Real Deal

Rembrandt as Paul
Rembrandt self portrait portraying himself as the Apostle Paul 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

“… Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV. 

The above passage from 2 Corinthians blows me away. Paul is writing to a church that had shunned his authority and instead turned to false teachers. Paul calls these teachers “super-apostles” and does so rather sarcastically. In chapter of eleven of 2 Corinthians he acknowledges that compared to these “super-apostles”, he isn’t a gifted speaker. He acknowledges that he humbled himself so that the Christians in Corinth could be elevated.

He then, rather reluctantly, tells them of a time he was “caught up into the third heaven” into the very presence of God and “heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:4). Paul could have grown conceited or arrogant because of this vision he received from God, but instead, he was humbled by a “thorn in the flesh” that God allowed him to suffer from. Why? Just to make sure Paul didn’t grow conceited.

Paul was humbled by a thorn in the flesh. He prayed and prayed for God to remove the thorn but God refused; choosing instead to teach Paul the lesson that “[His] grace is sufficient … and [His] power is made perfect in weakness.” I relate to the lesson Paul learned from this thorn because God is teaching me something similar. 

Not all of the Corinthians, however, appreciated Paul’s thorn. They saw Paul’s weakness and held it against him. They chose the  “super-apostles” who were just a little too perfect. Some members of the church preferred a “different gospel” (see chapter 11) preached by fake apostles because those apostles looked the part.

I wonder if the modern church does the same thing at times. We need to be wary of church leaders who are “too perfect.” If our teachers and preachers never struggle, it might be a red flag. Paul was the real deal. He had been called by Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. He had been called into the very presence of God to witness things most people will never see on this side of eternity … but the church chose fake, super apostles because they spoke well and looked the part. I can only imagine they were good looking, wore fancy clothes, and had perfect hair.

The Corinthians had been duped.

Too often, we are quick to metaphorically crucify church leaders who make mistakes. We  expect them be perfect even when God doesn’t. Paul’s thorn in the flesh made it apparent that any success he had in ministry was solely because of God Almighty … and that’s exactly how God wanted it. God used a flawed man with a checkered past to accomplish mighty things in order for God Himself to receive all the credit.

Be wary who you follow. If they are too “perfect”, there will be no room for God to move. We don’t need “super apostles.” We need humble leaders who constantly point to God as the source of their strength.

In the church, humility, transparency, and honesty should always be preferred over false perfection and self promotion. Paul compared the false teachers in Corinth to Satan who “masquerades as an angel of light” ( 2 Corinthians 11:14). It is imperative that we don’t allow ourselves to be fooled.

If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

Book Review of DNA of a Christian by Daren Wride

DNAHaving never heard of the author, Daren Wride, I loaded this book onto my kindle because it was offered for free on Amazon and it had a catchy title. If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect too much. As the title suggests, Wride offers what he feels are the essential traits of a believing Christian, as follows:

 

  1. Lover of God
  2. Lover of People
  3. Holy
  4. Truth Based
  5. Evangelistic
  6. Persevering
  7. God-Dependent
  8. Focused on Eternity

Wride admits that this list is not exhaustive, however, he tried to create it in a way that includes all other possibilities. As might be expected, some traits were more challenging than others, however, as a whole this book serves as a great reminder that our faith should change the way we live our lives. I actually used this book as a teaching tool in our church covering a different trait each week. It served well for that purpose.

Book Review of “No God But One” by Nabeel Qureshi

nogodbutoneFrom the moment I read Nabeel Qureshi’s first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, I wanted to read more from him. His first book details his conversion from Islam to Christianity and essentially serves as his testimony. In this book, Qureshi offers the reasoning behind his conversion. In essence, he subjects the claims of Islam to the same scrutiny skeptics demand of Christianity and the Bible, however, he does so in a fair and heartfelt manner. In doing so, he details the debates he used to engage in with his Christian friends and compares the claims of Islam with the claims of Christianity. In scrutinizing his Islam, Qureshi eventually arrives at a place of spiritual bankruptcy and discovers that Christianity holds up well to scrutiny. This discovery is what leads him to sacrifice all he’s ever known for the conversion that is detailed in his first book.

When I learned of Qureshi’s passing last year, I immediately resolved to read this book. I am glad I did so. He writes with the authority of one who has lived both faiths and loves people from each religion. His writing is honest and his testimony is incredible. His voice is unique and is sure to inspire. I highly recommend his work to anyone who wants to learn more about Islam, especially as it compares to Christianity.

Book Review of “Christian Horror” by Mike Duran

DuranThis book serves as an apologetic for the “Christian-Horror” genre. On its surface, the term Christian-Horror may seem like an oxymoron, however, Duran makes compelling arguments for Christians to embrace the genre. The most logical argument for me is that Christians must first acknowledge the evil in the world to then present the Light. Duran spends a great deal of time examining the history of the horror genre and its close relation to Christianity. From Bram Stoker’s Dracula to William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, Duran argues that many classic horror stories are deeply spiritual and ultimately redeeming in nature. Duran also points out that the Bible has much in common with these stories of redemption as it refuses to shy away from presenting evil in a way that ultimately glorifies God.

I appreciated that Duran was careful to differentiate this type of redemptive horror from the more senseless or grotesque examples of the genre. “Hack and slash” movies that needlessly glorify violence or entertainment that serves to romanticize evil ultimately have no redemptive qualities. Duran also points out the difference between Christian Horror and Naturalistic/Atheist Horror such as H.P. Lovecraft, “Christian horror is based on the God Who Is There while naturalistic horror is based on the God Who Isn’t” (p.82). Basically, there is enough variety within the “horror” genre that Christians need to be discerning as they engage it. Christians should be reminded that there are some examples of the genre that could be damaging to their spiritual walk.

This book is carefully written. Duran does an excellent job of evaluating the weight of Scripture on the subject. It is obvious he knows both Scripture and the horror genre. My only real complaint with his treatment of the subject is that Duran seems to rail a bit against evangelicals. Duran seems critical of evangelicals who have withdrawn from the horror genre in favor of whitewashed “Christian” media. I must admit there are some “whitewashed” stories I enjoy a great deal. Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Courageous are among my favorite movies! Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I believe Dracula and Facing the Giants can both be enjoyed and are not mutually exclusive. However, literature and film are ultimately about entertainment. If a Christian chooses one over the other, it is exactly that, a choice. I see no reason to be critical of the Christian who avoids horror stories as a rule. I also see no reason to be critical of a Christian who enjoys a redemptive horror story provided they are engaging their discernment and are actually watching or reading a ‘redemptive’ story. A Christian who spends their Friday nights enjoying Faces of Death probably needs to be criticized!

Overall, I enjoyed this thought-provoking work. Duran has also written several books that I assume fall into the Christian/Redemptive Horror genre and I plan on trying one of them out soon. I recommend this read to any Christian who enjoys a good scary story and is looking for ways to be discerning as they choose their books or movies.

Review of Jack Barsky’s “Deep Under Cover: My Secret Life & Tangled Allegiances As A KGB Spy in America”

BarskyI was fascinated by this book from the first moment I saw it. It was on a Christian shelf at Barnes & Noble, however, at first glance I couldn’t figure out why. It is the story of Jack Barsky; a deep, undercover KGB spy who was deployed to the United States during the Cold War as part of the Russians’s “illegals” program. I love Cold War stuff and thought I had lucked into a book that had been placed on the wrong shelf at the book store. I snatched it up.

Barsky grew up in post World War II East Germany under the thumb of the Soviet Union. He lived in an atheist, communist state and his personal ideoligies reflected his surroundings. It is no exaggeration to say that Barsky was a genius. He was recognized as an academic and became a brilliant professor of Chemistry and Math before he was recruited by the KGB. Once in the United States, Barsky actually graduated as a valedictorian with a degree in information technology.

In this book, Barsky details his life as a spy and the way his lifestyle ran roughshod over his personal life. But along the way he undergoes a remarkable transformation. From KGB spy to American. From communist to capitalist. From atheist to Christian. To borrow the book’s afterward, Barsky went from a devotee of the gospel of Marx and Lenin to a devotee to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is an incredible story and proves the notion that truth truly is more fascinating than fiction. I highly recommend this book.