Bitterness: The Heart’s Poison

by Jennifer Lane

 “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground.”  Hosea 10:12 NIV

A trip to the jungles of Peru a few years ago broadened my perspective of God’s creation in unexpected ways. Leaving civilization behind, I entered into the majestic unknown of the jungle and all its beauty and power. The beauty all around me was not just something for the eye to behold, it was an experience that engaged all five of my senses simultaneously. Gazing upon the exotic birds, animals, and vegetation, I was struck anew as I thought about God as the Creator: how He took delight and care in designing every detail of the flora and fauna. How much more must He have delighted in creating me and you!

I also gained new awareness of God’s power as Creator. The towering trees, vast foliage, and cacophony of creature sounds quickly engulfed me, making it very clear who was in charge here (and it wasn’t me). I was completely reliant on my guide to discern for me where it was safe to step, which deadly creatures to avoid, and which plants were poisonous.

I learned quickly that I could not spot potential dangers just based on appearance. Many of the “dangerous” species were beautiful to behold. One such creature is the poison dart frog. Though only 2 inches in size, this brightly adorned frog is an eye-catching beauty, yet some of these frogs carry enough deadly poison to kill ten men.

It struck me that this was also true for mankind. External beauty is no reflection of what lies within. I’m sure we can all think of someone in our lives whose beauty may be striking but their words are like poisonous venom. This is a reflection of our inner selves. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45 NIV).

Allowing bitterness to grow in our hearts will transform us from the inside out.

How do we prevent bitterness from growing?

Take an inventory. “Get rid of all bitterness…be kind and compassionate…forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV). Ask God to reveal any bitterness that may exist in your heart. Ask for His forgiveness and help to root out what is eating away at your soul.

Take preventative measures. “See to it … that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV). Once bitterness has been removed, see to it that it does not take root again. That may involve putting safeguards in place. Just like we put a fence around our garden to keep unwanted predators out, what things can you put in place to guard your heart from the enemy?

Sow new seeds.  Our lives must be “rooted and built up in Him” (Colossians 2:6-7). Once sinful roots have been removed and a sturdy fence is in place, it’s time to sow seeds of righteousness. Ask God to help you replace that bitterness with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. These new seeds help ensure that our root structure is firmly established and built up in the things of God, not the things of this world.

Then when the heat of the next trial comes, your leaves will always be green (Jeremiah 17:8 NIV), because your roots run deep into the streams of life.

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Bitterness: The Heart’s Poison – insight from Jennifer Smith Lane on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

jennifer smith laneAbout the author: Jennifer Smith Lane is the president and co-founder of the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance, whose mission is to provide education programs to prevent eating disorders. In addition to her non-profit work, she leads an eating and body image ministry walking alongside women on their recovery journey and empowering them to find freedom in Christ. Jennifer, her husband, and three children live in Michigan.

Jennifer’s new book, Transformed: Eating and Body Image Renewal God’s Way, helps women identify the underlying spiritual issues that keep them stuck in eating and body image issues. It is an inductive Bible study that teaches tools to turn to God for rescue through the spiritual disciplines.

Join the conversation: How has bitterness affected you in the past?

 

From Mess to Masterpiece

by Jennifer Smith Lane

We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.                                                       Ephesians 2:10 NLT

Have you ever introduced yourself as a masterpiece of fine art? I’m guessing probably not yet. Paul calls us “God’s masterpiece.” Do you know what that means? When God created you, He created a work of art that is one of a kind, custom designed, and tailor-made by the Master’s hand! Often when we look at ourselves, we don’t see a masterpiece at all. Instead, our view is distorted by lenses that magnify every little flaw, blemish, and imperfection like a flashing neon sign.

Consider this scenario. Imagine yourself standing with an artist before his masterpiece, would you point out all the things you don’t like about it, maybe what he could have done differently to make it better, or even brazenly take a brush to alter his work? Probably not.

Don’t we do the same thing when we scoff at ourselves in front of our Maker?

The prophet Isaiah says, “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing?’” (Isaiah 29:16 NIV) Ouch! I don’t know about you, but I never thought of my sharp critiques of myself as harsh criticism of my Creator.

Even though you may not appreciate yourself as purposefully made and feel like you should just be tossed in the trash, it doesn’t make you, God’s creation, any less valuable! 2 Corinthians 3:5 says, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (NASB). A masterpiece is still a masterpiece no matter where it is…even if it’s in the trash bin.

The truth about who you are is beautifully described by God in Psalm 139:

He knows when I sit and when I rise (2)

He is familiar with all my ways (3)

He is with me guiding me and holding me fast (10)

He created my inmost being (13)

He knit me together in my mother’s womb (13)

His works are fearfully and wonderfully made (14)

He saw my unformed body when I was made in the secret place (15-16)

He searches me and knows my heart (23)

He leads me in the way everlasting (24)

God knows you. He knows your thoughts and actions. He created you, designed you, and you’re breathtaking. He knew you from the beginning, inside and out. In fact, God loves you so much, He sent His Son to die on the cross for you!

Take a minute and soak in the truth, that even if you do nothing to change yourself, you are enough just the way you are. If you ever begin to doubt how much God loves you or how pleased He is with you as His creation, take off those old lenses and remind yourself of how God sees you through the lens of Psalm 139.

TWEETABLE
From Mess to Masterpiece – encouragement from Jennifer Smith Lane on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

jennifer smith laneAbout the author: Jennifer Smith Lane is the president and co-founder of the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance, whose mission is to provide education programs to prevent eating disorders. In addition to her non-profit work, she leads an eating and body image ministry walking alongside women on their recovery journey and empowering them to find freedom in Christ. Jennifer, her husband, and three children live in Michigan.

Jennifer’s new book, Transformed: Eating and Body Image Renewal God’s Way, helps women identify the underlying spiritual issues that keep them stuck in eating and body image issues. It is an inductive Bible study that teaches tools to turn to God for rescue through the spiritual disciplines.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with your worth?

Pursuit of Perfection

by Jennifer Smith Lane

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.                                                                       2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

As a recovering perfectionist, I asked myself, why do I get so caught up in being perfect? While I know full well that perfection is impossible, there is still something deep inside me fueling my desire to achieve it. I began to wonder where this notion came from.

Surely it is a godly pursuit, right? I recalled one of Jesus commands from the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NIV) and reassured myself that while perfection was a tall order, I was on the right track in pursuing it.

However, further study of this verse brought new understanding.

First, I looked up the dictionary definition of perfect. Webster’s defined it as “free from any flaw, fault or defect in condition or quality and complete.” Then I looked up the Greek word for perfect, which literally means the condition something is in: its completeness or maturity. A cross reference to that verse is Leviticus 19:2, which commands Israel to “be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (NIV). I realized that the idea of perfect is more about holiness than  being flawless or acceptable.

This changes everything.

I had perfection as the goal, and I was failing miserably. But perfection isn’t the goal, God is. The pursuit is about holiness and growing in maturity in my walk with God, not about whether I did everything perfectly. You see, God doesn’t call us to pursue perfection, He calls us to pursue Him.

While pursuing perfection is one thing, striving for it is another. When we take the pursuit of perfection and place it on the throne of our heart rather than God, we stray off course and perfectionism becomes our ideology. Webster’s defines perfectionism as “a refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. A doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable.” Obviously not Scriptural! If we adhere to the way the world defines perfection, pursing it becomes the object of our worship, not God.

Life isn’t perfect, and it never will be. It’s messy. It’s chaotic. It’s unpredictable. Living focused on an unattainable goal is not a recipe for success. Instead, it highlights our weaknesses, intensifies our failures, and leaves us unfulfilled. But Jesus said, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). Did you catch that? Christ’s power works best in our imperfections.

Friend, what are you pursuing? Ask God to shine His light to expose your desire for perfection, so that you can correctly see your imperfection for what it is: an opportunity for Christ to shine through you. It will transform your pursuit of perfection into a pursuit of Him.

TWEETABLE
Pursuit of Perfection – insight from Jennifer Smith Lane on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

jennifer smith laneAbout the author: Jennifer Smith Lane is the president and co-founder of the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance, whose mission is to provide education programs to prevent eating disorders. In addition to her non-profit work, she leads an eating and body image ministry walking alongside women on their recovery journey and empowering them to find freedom in Christ. Jennifer, her husband, and three children live in Michigan.

Jennifer’s new book, Transformed: Eating and Body Image Renewal God’s Way, helps women identify the underlying spiritual issues that keep them stuck in eating and body image issues. It is an inductive Bible study that teaches tools to turn to God for rescue through the spiritual disciplines.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with the need for perfectionism?

Testimonies Transform

by Jennifer Smith Lane

 “Leaving her water jar, the [Samaritan] woman went back to town and said to the people, ‘Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’” John 4:28 NIV

Like the Samaritan woman who sought love and rescue from life’s problems in the arms of men, a dark season of life led me into the counterfeit arms of an eating disorder, hoping it would save me, fix my problems, make me feel loved and accepted.

But it was the worst kind of cheater…instead of rescuing me, it enslaved me. I desperately tried to hide it, but my failing health exposed my secret. My pride could hardly bear the looks of surprise, disappointment, and disapproval I received. I lost friends over it. I lost my spark for life in it. I lost myself in the midst of it. My shame encompassed me.

It became hard to discern truth from the lies. I felt hopeless and alone. I longed for someone to come along and rescue me from the darkness that engulfed me.

No one ever did.

Then one day in my desperation, I cried out to the Lord and He heard my cry. His light exposed the darkness and freed me from my shame, my strongholds, and my sin Just like He did for the Samaritan woman. I walked away from that moment with dignity as she did, because I was transformed from being known as a sinner to a sinner saved by grace.

Why am I telling you my story? Not because I’m proud of it, but because it’s important that we testify just like the Samaritan woman did in the story.

After her encounter with Jesus, the Samaritan woman went back into the village where she was scorned and told the townspeople what happened to her that day. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of her testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did’” (John 4:39 NIV).

Her story was so compelling that the townspeople went out to meet Jesus. After a while, they said, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:42 NIV). Jesus used her hard story of a sinner, an outcast, saved by grace to draw others to know or desire to know Him.

Your testimony is important too. Maybe you’re thinking: you wouldn’t say that if you knew my story. Or: I couldn’t, what will others think of me if they knew? Or: I’m in the midst of my trial now, so I’ll wait until it’s better. Maybe you have resigned yourself to: I couldn’t do that; I’ll mess up the whole thing.

Lies. All lies.

Don’t let the enemy persuade you to keep silent. Sharing your story of weakness, becoming vulnerable to those who may well be struggling with the same issues, and how Jesus is bringing you out of it will invite others into personal contact with Jesus. Then then Jesus will do the rest.

Mark 13:11 says, “Do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” The Samaritan woman was in the thick of it and everybody knew her backstory. But when she proclaimed the Messiah, she allowed God to use her story to transform her whole town.

Imagine what could happen if you allow God to use yours?

TWEETABLE
Testimonies Transform – insight from Jennifer Smith Lane on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

jennifer smith laneAbout the Author: Jennifer Smith Lane is the president and co-founder of the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance whose mission is to provide education programs to prevent eating disorders. In addition to her non-profit work, she leads an eating and body image ministry walking alongside women on their recovery journey and empowering them to find freedom in Christ. Jennifer and her husband live in Michigan where she enjoys most her role of mom to her three children.

Jennifer’s new book, Transformed: Eating and Body Image Renewal God’s Way, helps women identify the underlying spiritual issues that keep them stuck in eating and body image issues, studies what Scripture has to say about them through inductive Bible study techniques and teaches tools to turn to God for rescue through the spiritual disciplines.

Join the conversation: Have you ever hesitated to share your story? What held you back? Could your journey with Jesus help others on theirs?