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The Power of the Cross: 64th Edition, January 27, 2019

Mike Cleveland
 

Hello friend,

Welcome to the new subscribers just joining our newsletter. We publish once per week on Sunday. The newsletter alternates a gospel teaching on one week with testimonies from Setting Captives Free students on the following week. We hope you will find the newsletter helpful and encouraging. 

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We have been hard at work developing new courses and study guides. I’m attaching one for our weight loss course, and there will be one for our Purity Boot Camp shortly. See attached flyer...

Here are two powerful testimonies, one from the weight loss course and one from the depression course:

Joce's Weight Loss Testimony: Loved Back to Wholeness


Throughout my life, I cycled through food diets, books, and programs caught up in their glittering promises of weight loss as I wanted so desperately to look like people with a healthy weight. I was an overweight toddler, an over-fat girl and teenager, and an intermittently obese adult. I saw food as my number one enemy which treated me cruelly. I viewed overeating as the world sees it - a behavior to be modified, but never as a self-gratifying sin which needed to be put to death. I had made an incorrect assessment of the cause of my struggle and applied the wrong solution!  Thus, every time I tried to lose weight, I had the same disappointing results. I was successful for a time but eventually, I went back to food for comfort. Any lost weight would then return plus some.


When growing up, food came with mixed messages. It was used to comfort, ‘stuff down’ and medicate feelings but also controlled with legalistic rules such as only drinking water at certain times. Some foods were labeled ‘good’ and others were ‘bad’ and the rules were ever changing based on popular opinion. My size and weight were constantly monitored and judged. I faced name-calling and bullying at school so I retreated from many activities in an effort to shield and protect myself from further suffering. I secretly resorted to bulimia for a time, but when my hair started to fall out and a routine blood test came back as abnormal, I stopped. But I continued to live in defeat and shame, and my identity focused on my-'self' and my failings.

Weight struggles continued throughout my years as a Christian until God brought me to Setting Captives Free. Through the undeserved kindness of God, I was drawn to surrender this area of my life to Him through seeing the immeasurable glory of His only Son being struck down and hung up on a cross to die for us and being judged and punished for our sin in our place. For the first time, I saw myself as God sees us - always cherished and forgiven because of our perfect right standing in Christ when we first believed. My fearful heart was transformed overnight with the stunning truth of justification (Romans 3:21-26). Being good enough before God was not dependent on my ability to keep His Law, but Jesus’ perfect obedience!

Romans 5:1 Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ,


When studying through the 30 lesson Weight Loss course, heart wounds from earlier in life came to the surface and through God's mercy and love, I was able to see that I had been using food and my weight as a self-imposed armor. God helped me to let go of the pain and fear from my past, to lay it at the cross and to trust His Word that “I am your shield and your exceeding great reward.” (Genesis 15:1) for we are covered by the blood of Jesus and clothed with His righteousness. God's grace enabled me to forgive the sins committed against me and to receive forgiveness for my own sin. Jesus bore my dis-'figure'-ment from all this sin at the cross with selfless love. He became disfigured and totally unrecognizable as a human being so that we can be healed and restored:


Isaiah 52:14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him - his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness"


It has been a wonder to me to see the food strongholds in my life being broken one after another since I learned to eat only when I am truly hungry and then to eat until I am fully satisfied. Food fixations, aversions, cravings, and rules no longer hold any power over me. I am now enjoying satisfying meals of food that I enjoy, and yet continuing to lose excess weight with ease. I no longer feel deprived.


But more importantly, I am savoring Christ crucified and abiding with Him. I am experiencing the sweetness of Jesus and His Word and enjoying His peace and steadfastness through trials. Condemnation and the background guilt of gluttony were washed away as the power of this sin was crushed in my life. I am enjoying seeing the pattern of physical hunger and being satisfied by food beautifully mirrored when I come in faith with spiritual hunger to receive God's grace at the foot of the cross. 


The biggest joy has been in deepening my understanding of Christian suffering, dying to myself as I wait for physical hunger alerts. In my weakness I am given "the opportunity to prove divine strength", remembering that Jesus suffered for us because of His total commitment to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.


Praise God, I now enjoy freedom from the sin of gluttony and its negative effects on my life. My disordered hunger for physical food has been healed by a delightful spiritual hunger for Jesus. I am being loved back into emotional and physical wholeness by seeing the glorious accomplishments of the finished work of Jesus on the cross. May His Name be praised!


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And from the depression course:


Ntlibi writes, “Thanks to the SCF ministry for putting this course together. It is has transformed my perspective about depression and lifted me out of the pit I was stuck in. And the truths I have learned here can apply to many other areas of my life. I am grateful for this course.


When I started doing the course, it had been a couple of months that I had been diagnosed with depression. While the diagnoses was recent, I realized, as I was doing the course that I had been battling with depression for years without knowing it. The depression had negatively affected my relationship with God, my relationships with other people and my performance at work. 

After the diagnoses, I went through counselling sessions with a professional counselor and started taking supplements to help with easing the depression symptoms. I was adamant though that I would not take anti-depressants. The sessions went well, but I was still battling to control my thoughts and was flat emotionally.

That's when I came to Setting captives free. It's a long story of how I got to SCF. That said I was glad I signed up for the Deliverance from depression course. I had the full support of my wife and other accountability partners. Both my wife and brothers have encouraged me as I did the course, reading my lessons and responding to my answers. I am deeply grateful to all of them, especially my wife.

At first, the journey was tough. I started the course when things were hectic at work and I had a split focus. But as the lessons went on and I read the testimonies of others, I began to see a light at the end of my struggles. I am grateful that I persevered cause now I am beginning to see the fruit as I apply the lessons in my life. 

I am now at a much better space in my thoughts and emotions. I am learning to lead my emotions rather than be led by them, and am seeing positive results. I have come to a place where I am grateful for the message of the cross. I have come to a place where I am grateful that condemnation is not my portion. I am grateful that I can serve others with a heart full of gratitude. 

Thank you Lord Jesus for delivering me from the grip of depression. Thank for bringing light and hope to my darkness."



Sincerely,

Mike Cleveland
Volunteer for Setting Captives Free