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Lisa Barry: There are few things in life more discouraging to women than being overweight. As someone who was nicknamed "Bones" in junior high, I don't enjoy my current profile, which looks a little poochy in the midriff. The fact is, there are very few women who are completely happy with their weight or shape. So just what does this have to do with spirituality? You'll find out as Elisabeth takes a practical and sensitive approach to weight management. It's all coming up next on Gateway To Joy.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot. We've been talking all this week about some interesting spiritual facts. The first day was on spiritual entitlements-things that we think we deserve. The truth is, we don't really deserve much of anything, except the punishment of hell. But God is in the business of rescuing us.

Then we had a wonderful testimony about a transformed life from a Vietnamese woman who was in prison. Then we heard about discontent-a very common so-called problem in many women's lives. Then the question yesterday, "What is God trying to teach us?"

Today's talk comes from the mail that I have received on one particular, untouchable subject. It was with trepidation that I broached the subject of fat on this program last year. Yes, I know perfectly well that nobody is fat. They're chunky, perhaps. Chubby. A little heavy. Heavyset. And occasionally, overweight. Maybe a few pounds. Maybe a few more.

At any rate, we've been talking this week about a number of things, all of which might perhaps have been comprised under yesterday's topic, "What is God trying to teach us?" Some of those who heard me talk about weight wrote me grateful letters. I was surprised and pleased. I don't think I got one nasty letter objecting to my having spoken about this unpopular subject. Of course, I realize that it's a delicate subject for anybody to touch, because if you're not overweight, people would say, "Well, what in the world does she know about it and what business is it of hers, anyway?" If you are overweight, you really don't have a whole lot of room to talk, do you? So it's one of those untouchable subjects.

But there were folks who are humble and teachable who wrote to me. A lady from New Jersey thanked me for making her take another look at her habits. Now she has taken heart to resolve her "problem" by consulting-listen to this-the Wonderful Counselor, instead of the fridge. The Wonderful Counselor instead of the fridge.

She wrote, "Thank you for your messages today and yesterday on the topic of weight control. You are correct that it is taboo to speak about. I cannot recall any messages that I've ever heard preached on either of the two G's-gluttony and gossip. I guess, compared to drinking alcohol, dancing and gambling, overeating isn't considered such a vice in Christian circles. Thank you for the encouragement to take another look at our habits. May your listeners, including myself, take heart to resolve our problems by consulting the Wonderful Counselor instead of the fridge."

And she puts a P.S. "Lowering fat intake and increasing aerobic exercise-these are lifestyle changes-have helped me lose weight without too much pain." So take a lesson there from somebody who has been through it.

Here's another one. Can you believe this? "Thank you, thank you, thank you for your boldness to speak on the subject of weight control. Why am I writing you today? First, to ask for prayer in the area of weight control. My weight has been on my mind nearly every day for the last 20 years, and I don't believe I'm overstating the truth. When I heard you say that eating is pleasurable, I was relieved and filled with hope. The term 'sneaky snacking' describes me perfectly.

My horror story, my struggle with weight control, has been sinful and full of self. Unfortunately, there hasn't been much self-control. But I know what you have said on your two days of programming is true. Although I know these things in my heart, I am encouraged by hearing them from a trustworthy mentor and friend.

The second reason I am writing is to reiterate what I have said above, and that is how much I appreciate Gateway To Joy. Your willingness to speak on weight control is an example of why I love your program. Your program, newsletter and books have all helped me to renew my mind. May God richly bless you, Lars and Gateway To Joy."

Well, thank you so much. I'm tempted to give your name because it's such a sweet letter, but you might not thank me for that. And now I want to read-well, before I read that I want to mention that I had another letter from a woman who was 5'9", which is exactly what I am, and she weighed 298 pounds.

She wrote, "I have allowed myself to be mastered by food." Mastered by food-an honest confession is good for the soul. The Apostle Paul said, "I will not be mastered by anything" (1 Corinthians 6:12). There's a verse in 2 Peter, several verses in 2 Peter 2:18-21: "They mouth empty boastful words, and by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity."

I want you to listen especially to this last clause. "A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him." One woman wrote and said, "I have asked forgiveness and I will eat in obedience." "If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then to turn their backs on it."

A lady said to me one time, "What's the big deal? What has weight got to do with spirituality?" I would refer her to 1 Corinthians 6:12. "I will not be mastered by anything."

There was an article in the WALL STREET JOURNAL in September of 1997. It's titled "Land of the Fat." He says, "'Who says size counts?' proclaims the cover of the September 29 PEOPLE magazine. 'So what if they aren't size six?' says the subtitle. Healthy, wealthy and unabashed, they're proudly proving that big is beautiful, too. This is the way the U.S. is dealing with its obesity epidemic. Americans are the fattest people on earth. 300,000 of us die prematurely each year because we're too fat.

Yet instead of a public health crusade against fat, we see a celebration of it. Books with titles like BIG FAT LIES, LOSING IT, HOW THIN DO I HAVE TO BE?, and the only somewhat tongue-in-cheek, EAT FAT. THE BODY SHOP, a politically correct toiletry chain has posters depicting a doll that looks like a cross between a nude Barbie and a dirigible. The chain knows that a huge number of its customers are huge. Our stunning growth of girth is part of a culture of self-indulgence."

I want us to think about that statement. "Our stunning growth of girth is part of a culture of self-indulgence. Think of the millions that are starving, and America is overeating and spending more money on low-calorie meals than it does on ordinary food. We want everything. We want it now. We're not willing to pay for the adverse consequences.

A recently published finding from the Nurses' Health Study found that women who are 44 pounds overweight double their risk of breast cancer. The recent onslaught of books, magazines, articles and corporate campaigns celebrating fat perpetuates a myth that all too many of us eagerly embrace. As the culture becomes more accepting of obesity, Americans become fatter. This cycle feeds on itself. Fat parents often have fat children."

Many of you heard about that poor little 13-year-old girl who died weighing 680 pounds. I saw her mother on TV saying, "What was I supposed to do? The child was hungry."

"We must stop glossing over the activities that lead to obesity, such as the trend toward ever growing feed and drink servings and watching more and more television. It's time to go back to old-fashioned terms, like gluttony, sloth, and drop the cutesy euphemisms, like big eaters and couch potatoes." I'm still reading now from this WALL STREET JOURNAL. This is not Elisabeth Elliot speaking.

"We need to recognize that our stunning growth of girth is part of a culture of self-indulgence. Self-restraint is a virtue, after all. Neither low-fat Certs nor fad diets nor fad exercise devices nor pills can substitute for self-restraint. This is not a call for aestheticism or Puritanism, but rather for simple moderation. It's not exaggeration to call moderation a lost virtue. A mail order firm selling clothes to immense women actually calls itself, 'Nothing in Moderation.'"

To any who have been convicted by what I have just read, I refer you to the Lord Jesus, who will help you. Isaiah 50:7 says, "The Lord God will help me. Therefore, shall I not be confounded. Therefore, have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed." Overweight is a matter of obedience. God help you.

Lisa Barry: In an effort to help you take control of this area of life, I want to suggest you get a copy of this week of talks. It might provide just the input you need to get your mind focused in the right direction onto what is good and off of what is not. The title of this one-week series is SPIRITUAL ENTITLEMENTS, and the cost is $7.

You can send that, along with your request, to Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or call toll-free: 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Our Internet ministry address is gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.

Be with us on Monday when Elisabeth begins another great series. So until then, this is Lisa Barry, thanking you for listening. Have a great weekend.

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