Slaves of Fear

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One fundamental aspect to the Gospel is freedom. Jesus came to set free the oppressed and captive. That includes both the physical and spiritual. His onslaught on injustice was clear and still rings true today.

One aspect of that spiritual freedom is that of freedom from enslavement to fear.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” – Romans 8:15

Fear is a nasty slave master. It always takes and gives nothing but hopelessness and worry in return. Candace Johnson takes it a step further and says “Fear will always take more than we want to give.”

Fear makes us waste one of our most precious commodities: time. It does this by causing us to worry and fret over things we have no control over. Fear attempts to erode our faith by seeding doubt and unbelief. Fear also attacks our mind with confusion and unrest, which undermines peace. Fear challenges our authority in Christ as it causes us to care more about the opinions of others than the opinions of God.

Fear is bad and can be deadly. Which is why Jesus has set us free from its enslavement. It can really mess us up.

There’s another angle to this freedom from fear that you may not have considered. Fear can enslave us personally by messing with our own lives OR fear can also enslave us by using us as a tool to enslave others. Which means, we’re still enslaved.

Whenever we use fear to attempt to convince people to repent or we use fear to try to get people to live a certain way, we are enslaving them. Note there’s a huge difference between telling the truth and fear mongering.

Fear is often the tactic used in parenting, getting people to vote a certain way, or getting people to obey God. And the ones who use fear as a manipulative or controlling tool are they themselves enslaved to fear as well. They may not be afraid, but by using fear they show themselves to be subservient to it.

Jesus’ calling out of fear includes both us not being afraid of things as well as us not using fear as a tool on others. If we’re a believer, we’re called to bring life and hope and peace, not fear. Jesus clearly told us not to worry. And all throughout Scripture, we are told “do not fear”.

Let us not be agents of fear. But let us be agents of hope; of freedom.

We’ve been set free to bring freedom. Let’s do just that. Cause ain’t nobody got time for fear.

What A Mess!

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The above photo was taken last fall in my backyard. We have several bushes back there that had really grown over the last three years. I had not taken the time to prune them, so this past summer, the vines decided to hitch a ride on the overgrown bushes and began attacking the power lines. I needed to get that situation under control, so that we could continue to live in the 21st century, so I did some pruning.

I now have a big mess on my hands, and it’s all because I didn’t prune.

As I was hacking away at these bushes, the Lord reminded me of His words in John 15:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:1-2

Pruning is necessary. It’s painful, but it’s necessary in order that we might bear more fruit.

My backyard is an example of why our lives need pruning.

When we’re left to ourselves, we make quite the mess. We’re all over the place. But with His direction and guidance via the trimming that He does, we are made healthy and more productive.

This pruning He does can be false ideologies, sin, relationships, etc. He will cut away anything that hinders His purpose for our lives.

When we find ourselves in the midst of a pruning season, it’s not easy to be happy about it. However, we should take solace in the fact that our Father knows what He’s doing and He knows how to best position us for proper, long-term growth.

We must surrender to the pruning shears of the Father. Because only there will our messes be made into lasting fruit.

No Sugar For A Month: How It Went

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Over the weekend I finished up my month of Kissing Sugar Goodbye. I actually went the whole month and avoided sugar. This was a big deal for me, especially as I had tried to go sans-sugar before and I didn’t get past day 14.

I was more serious this time and even eliminated sugar substitutes such as stevia or maple syrup, which I believe helped keep the cravings at bay. I was hardcore about it and it paid off.

Prior to this month, my sugar consumption had already been limited due to following a Paleo/primal/low-carb diet. However, I still supplemented my diet with protein shakes (that were sweetened with a mixture of stevia and cane sugar), as well as mints and dark chocolate after a meal. I would also enjoy a splurge meal once a week that normally involved consuming lots of sweets (and often turned into splurge days).

I walked away from all of that for a month, and I must say I like the feeling of being free of it.

Throughout my life I’ve had quite the sweet tooth. For some people it’s bread. For some people it’s alcohol. For me, it was sugar. Whenever I would get the urge for something sweet, it wasn’t possible for me to just eat one or two pieces and be done. I had to eat the whole bag.

So I took 30 days to see if I could abstain from it all together.

Here are some of the things I did in order to help me achieve my goal:

  1. After a meal

    I liked to have a piece of chocolate or mint after a meal. You know that after eating taste that just sits in your mouth? Ugh. Bothers me to no end. So since sugar or sugar substitutes weren’t an option, I had to get creative.

    Some days:

    I got a travel size bottle of mouth wash and rinsed after a meal. That took care of the taste.

    I added lime powder to my water, which tastes sweet, especially the longer I went away from sugar. That helped with the taste as well.

    I grabbed a cup of coffee after a meal. Again, taste went bye bye.

  2. Cravings

    I think the normal sugar cravings lasted for a week or so. But definitely after about 10 days, I didn’t crave sugar any more. During the time when the cravings were still around, I would conquer them by doing a few things:

    I added lime powder to my water and chugged it.

    I had a few raisins to give me just the right amount of desired sweetness.

    I also ate some cheese. I saw this tip some where online and it actually helped.

  3. Protein shakes

    As I mentioned before, I regularly consume protein shakes to accommodate my working out. Since these shakes are sweetened, I needed to come up with my own concoction.

    I bought some unflavored, unsweetened whey protein. I threw in a half of a banana, couple of teaspoons of cocoa powder, a few drops of vanilla, some xanthan gum and voila a great, natural alternative to the pre-packaged stuff.

  4. Food labels

    I read the labels on everything, as much as possible. There is sugar in almost everything, or so it seems.

    I ended up making pizza sauce at home, as well as my own ketchup and almond butter (pizza sauce, ketchup and peanut/almond butter all have added sugars). And if I didn’t have time or the ability to make my own, I just avoided the item. It wasn’t necessarily the funnest experience (ie. salad with no dressing), but I believe it was and is worth it.

All in all, I plan on staying away from sugar as much as possible. I no longer crave it and I like that feeling. I also like the fact that I was much more emotionally stable throughout the month (I believe sugar to affect me mentally/emotionally as I mentioned previously).

If you’ve never eliminated sugar, I’d encourage you to go for a period of time without it and see how you feel. I bet you’ll be glad you did.

In the vein of full disclosure: I did have Pizza Hut pizza one time during this month. It was a meal purchased for me and I was hangry. I assume there was a bit of sugar in the sauce, it did affect me, however it did not knock me off my horse. I stayed the course.