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One of the unique opportunities of living cross-culturally is to observe culture from an outside perspective. Being in one's own culture is like being a fish in water- you don't notice the water or question it; it's simply your world.

When North Americans visit developing countries for the first time-whether on vacation or a missions trip, they are often struck by the poverty they see. People living in shacks, outdoor toilets and kitchens, and dirt floors are jarring for someone who has always enjoyed the comforts of North American life. Without fail, they will say, "These people have nothing, but they're still happy." I remember having similar thoughts when I went on my first international missions trip.

A missionary friend of mine brought some reality to this perspective 19 years ago, when I first came to Belize. I was waxing poetic about how content the people were with the simple village life when she challenged me to walk the village at night. Sure enough, shining through the slats of wooden shacks were large flat screen TVs, much bigger than I had in my house in the US. She reminded me that greed is part and parcel to the human condition, something that every culture (and every person) has to contend with.

Luke 12:15

Then (Jesus) said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;

life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Celebrating modern-day Christmas has become such a commercial enterprise. One that focuses on material gifts. But even in families where gift giving is not a financial option, greed can rear its ugly head. If you've ever been part of a community Christmas giving event, you've probably encountered people who sign up for gifts who don't need the help, or people who receive gifts from multiple agencies, or people who complain about the quality or quantity of the gifts, food, donations they receive. This can be disheartening and so aggravating (at least for me it is!).

When I'm frustrated by the lack of gratefulness or the shameless greed I see, I take a look at myself. What's on my Christmas wish list? Am I content with what I have or am I always looking for an upgrade? Do I spend more time and energy adding to my closet or meeting the tangible needs of others? It's easy to get caught-up in shiny baubles and fancy new tech, but if our hearts are turned to those things instead of the Savior, we are missing the point of the season.

Matthew 6:32

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,

and all these things will be given to you as well.

God promises to meet our every need; not our every greed. If we will make His kingdom our priority and our business, He will work it out for our good.

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Updated: Nov 11, 2022

Spiritual Eating Disorders Series (Part 3)

Of all the unhealthy eating cycles, this one hits closest to home for me, both in the natural and as an analogy. I am someone who can easily lose track of the amount of food I eat. I enjoy food. It perks me up when I'm sleepy, feels good when I'm grumpy or bored. Food is meant to do these things. The problem occurs when I choose foods that are devoid of nutritional value and cause me to feel even emptier than if I hadn't eaten. This leads to bingeing even more on worthless junk.

Certain foods create more hunger. They are addictive and cause you to want more than you need. You reach for a snack and instead of satisfying you, you feel even more starving than ever. So how does this apply spiritually? Let's look at what we feed ourselves emotionally and spiritually. Where do we turn when we are sad, disappointed or bored? Do we flip through social media? Do we open the fridge? Do we escape into worlds of fantasy? Those escapes are effective in the moment, but devoid of substance. Like sugar, they give us a quick high, but then leave us more bereft than before. The help they offer is superficial and short-lived.

John 4:13-14

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The Bible says that what the world offers does not satisfy. Only God can. So if we are spiritually hungry, we need to reach for His sustenance, not the artificial substitutes that are easy to come by. When we feast on His word and His presence, we are filled to overflowing. We are satisfied in ways that no other substance can offer.

Lord, I confess that when I am low, it's so easy to reach for the junk. I turn to distraction, I turn to empty indulgences and sin, instead of reaching for You. Forgive me for the idolatry I practice when I stuff my face with what the world has to offer. Help me to place You on the throne of my heart anew. Fill me, Holy Spirit, as only You can. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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Spiritual Eating Disorder Series (Part 2)

Last week my blog talked about how, with anorexia, people control of their appearance by controlling their caloric intake and level of exercise. As a spiritual analogy, that might look like not taking in enough spiritual food to sustain the works we do for God. We look good on the outside, doing all the church-y things, but we are spiritually weak. This week's analogy differs from anorexia, in that the affected person is taking in loads of food, instead of starving themselves, but they somehow remain underfed.

Bulimia is known as the binge and purge disorder. It's when someone takes in an inordinate amount of food (bingeing) and then gets rid of those excess calories by throwing up, using laxatives etc. The point here is that the food they intake makes them feel emotionally good, but they prevent it from growing them physically.

Have you ever encountered someone whose sole entertainment is listening to preaching and Christian music, yet they don't exhibit the fruit of the spirit in their lives? Maybe they spend hours each day reading their Bible, but they are petty, judgmental, greedy and unkind. This, to me, is spiritual bulimia. They are taking in the spiritual food that should strengthen and grow them, yet somehow they are staying spiritually weak and immature.

In Matthew 13, Jesus talks about this very phenomenon in the Parable of the Good Soil.

Matthew 13: 5-6

Some (seed) fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

As Christians, it isn't enough to immerse ourselves in Christian culture that feels good. We can ride the highs of emotionally stimulating music and motivational preaching, but never let the word do its refining work in us. In one ear, out the other is no different than the binge and purge cycle of bulimia. It's even worse if we regurgitate the word for others without allowing it to nourish us first.

Lord, forgive me if I have taken in more food that I can healthily digest. Forgive me for aborting the process that would make spiritual food sustain me, voraciously grabbing for the next word, the next spiritual high. Teach me how to feast on your word mindfully. Show me how to allow your Holy Spirit to bear fruit in my life, commensurate with the amount of spiritual food I am taking in and should be producing myself. I want to grow according to your plan for me. Amen.

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