Archive | December, 2013

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part III

27 Dec

Last week in “Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part II”, we discussed the importance of recognizing that gluttony isn’t just about how much we eat, but also about what we eat. We explored why moderation (not eating more than you need) is important not just as it pertains to our caloric intake, but also as it pertains to where we get those calories. This week, we’ll be reflecting on the more philosophical side as we discuss the role that the heart plays in the sin of gluttony – and why our thoughts about our food matter as much as the food, itself.

If you’re anything like me, you probably really enjoy a good buffet. With generous portions of everything from salads and desserts to ethnic delicacies, the options tantalize our taste buds. As a kid, I’d eagerly load up my plate with just a little bit of everything – often far more than I could actually eat. My eyes were, as my mother put it, “bigger than my stomach.” It is here, in the buffet line as we wait for our shot at the BBQ chicken wings and pasta salad, that we encounter the crux of gluttony: greed.

In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus tells His followers to, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions. And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Jesus goes on to explain that greed isn’t just about our wanting more. In fact, ultimately, it isn’t about our wanting “cool stuff” or seeking our neighbors’ approval or fitting in at all. Greed is about our failure to trust God to provide us with the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that we seek through owning (or eating) too much. (Luke 12:22-34) The things we value (or overvalue), show the world Who or what owns our heart. And while we may tend to think of treasure in the sense of material goods like money, fashionable clothing, or fast cars, those aren’t the only things which can capture our minds and control our actions.

In Colossians 3:5, the Apostle Paul warns believers to, “consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Indeed, we are to view Christ as our all-in-all (v.11). When we do, we avoid the sin of gluttony and show honor to the One who gave us food both for our sustenance and our enjoyment!

The Beaded Reindeer

25 Dec

Read: Matthew 7:7-27

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

James 1:5

It was a warm, mid-August afternoon and I had spent the better portion of my day standing at the checkout counter unpacking Christmas merchandise.  I’m not certain whose idea it was to start Christmas this early, but several other stores had begun putting their product on display in July, so I suppose we were just keeping up with the flow.

While I was able to clearly identify most of the product I was labeling, there was one item which baffled me.  Long, twisted gold wires with bright red, green, and gold beads created quite an elaborate and sparkly, but indefinable figure.  Upon closer examination, I was able to determine that it was some sort of standup decoration, but even once I’d sorted out which side was “up” (this task was not as easy as one might have hoped), I wasn’t wholly certain what it was.

The curly cues at the back of what I assumed was the head might, perhaps, be antlers, but that seemed unlikely given the doggish shape of the head (complete with a gold beaded nose that made it really hard to tell whether it was a dog or maybe a seal). Then, there were the feet.  Long and fat, they flopped forward for half the body length of the strange creature, making it look like some sort of deformed rabbit.

I turned the creature over in my hands several times.  “What exactly is this supposed to be?”

My manager gazed at it closely for a moment or two and then announced “It’s a deer.  See the antlers.”

I frowned, wondering how she could identify the “thing” with such certainty.

It was at this point that she explained that the catalogue from which she had ordered had not contained any pictures of the product, just descriptions – including one for a “Beaded Reindeer.”

Unfortunately, many times in this world we find ourselves in the same predicament as my manager, being promised one thing and receiving something entirely different instead.  Sometimes these discrepancies are small and inconsequential, but at other times, they can make the difference between life and death.  Fortunately, God doesn’t cut corners on the details.  We can rest assured that He will provide exactly what He has promised… every time!

Challenge:  While we only see pieces of the puzzle, God sees the whole picture.  This vantage point makes Him uniquely qualified to make unconditional commitments to His children… and we can be certain that He will do exactly what He has promised!  The next time you feel tempted to worry, spend a moment in prayer.  Then, commit to trust Him, regardless of your circumstances!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part II

20 Dec

Last week in “Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony”, we discussed importance of moderation in what we eat. We explored the value of monitoring our caloric intake to ensure that our bodies are actually using what we put into them. We also considered how that intake varies for different people at different times in their lives. But is balancing your calories enough to help you steer clear of the sin of gluttony?

If you played along and tracked what you ate this last week, you probably noticed a few patterns in the what, when, and how much you eat. You may have noticed that you have a weakness for doughnuts, coffee, or a really good steak. Perhaps you even noticed that you do demonstrate moderation in what you eat and don’t eat more (in a caloric sense) than you actually need to maintain a healthy body.

If, however, you were tracking the nutritional value of what you ate and not just the calorie count, you likely noticed that there is far more involved in a balanced diet than simply subtracting the calories you expend from the calories you take in. If you’re a bit like me, you eat more sugar than is strictly healthy (at least according to the current views of the American Heart Association) and could use just a bit more protein and fiber.

And this leads us to our second point about gluttony: the concept of moderation applies not just to the overall energy we take in, but also to the way we take in that energy. Does this mean that if we don’t want to be gluttons, we need to avoid doughnuts? Hardly! It doesn’t even mean that we can’t splurge a bit and have two. What it does mean is that we need to ensure that our bodies aren’t getting too much of one thing and too little of others. If maintaining a healthy weight means that we can only take in so many calories each day, but we take in most of those in the forms of sugars or carbs, we end up short-changing ourselves on other things like protein and fiber. Balance and moderation, therefore, require us to pay attention to not just how much we eat, but to what we eat.

Gluttony, however, isn’t just about how much we eat or even what we eat – it’s also about why we eat. Like most sins, dishonoring our bodies through excessive eating or eating the wrong types of things begins not with the head, but with the heart. Next week, we’ll take a look at the role that our thoughts about food play in whether we do or don’t become gluttons. Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comment box below!

 

My Sparkling Personality

18 Dec

Read: Exodus 34:29-35

“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Hebrews 3:14-15a

“What is it about Christmas decorations,” I asked, shaking a sugar covered wreath that I had found lying on a shelf, “that requires them to consist of all these little sparkles and things that are destined to fall off all over your carpet every time you touch them?”

“Guess it’s just more festive that way,” my coworker suggested, grinning and shrugging her shoulders.  “It does seem to get everywhere, doesn’t it?”

After a day of merchandising the product, I could easily affirm her statement.  It seemed that the more time I spent with the decorations, the more I had begun to look like one, myself.  The glitter coated my clothes, my face, my hair, and was even inconveniently stuck between my toes.  I attributed my magical glow to “my sparkling personality” and let it go at that, but I couldn’t help feeling that everyone who passed was taking note of my strikingly festive appearance.  Everyone knew where I had been and what I had been doing!

Scripture tells us that, spending time with Christ should have much the same effect as spending time with Christmas decorations – the more we are with Him, the more we will look like Him.  As His Spirit fills us, we will begin to conform more and more to His image and will – leading others to take note of who we are and in whose presence we have been!

Challenge: Are you spending time with God through prayer and the study of His Word?  If not, commit to making time in His presence a regular part of your life.  The more you are with Him, the more like Him you will become!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part I

13 Dec

While the Bible doesn’t share many universal dietary commands, there are two which do deserve our notice. Proverbs 23:20,21 advises, “Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe one with rags.” Proverbs 24:7 goes on to emphasize that, “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father.” The advice? Just because a little is good doesn’t mean that a lot is better. Anything we do (including eating and drinking) can cause damage if it isn’t done in moderation.

So what exactly is moderation? Simply put, it’s not taking more than you need. This doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy what we eat or drink (the professional chefs amongst us need not worry), but it does mean that we aren’t stuffing our bodies full of calories that we aren’t going to burn.

At the same time, it doesn’t mean that we starve ourselves either. While there are some aesthetics who believe that a constant sense of hunger can be used to remind us of those who live without enough, this belief goes well beyond the concept of moderation that we find presented in Scripture.

Instead, one might argue that moderation is about balance: ensuring that the calories we take in are roughly equal to the calories we expend. If this is the case, “moderation” is going to look different for everyone and, in fact, it may even look different for the same person at different times. While dieticians warn about varying an individual’s calorie intake too dramatically over a short period of time, it’s reasonable to presume that I’m going to need a bit more energy to hike Mt. Everest than is required for a lazy day curled up with a good book. Keeping this in mind can help make a difference between maintaining a healthy body that allows me to actively engage others with the Good News of God’s Love or finding myself steeped in a constant battle with preventable[1] disabilities.

So how do I know whether I’m eating moderately? One of the best ways to start is to keep a food journal like the one provided through http://www.myfitnesspal.com/. I like this particular program, since it helps you track more than just what you eat, but also what’s in what you eat from sugars and fats to protein and calcium. It also allows you to set the program based upon your general activity level and log any exercise efforts outside of the norm, so you’ll get a rough picture of whether your weekly caloric input matches or exceeds your body’s needs. Log everything you eat from the time you get up until the time you go to bed, but don’t try to make any changes just yet. The goal here is to observe.

By the time you reach the end of the week, you’ll likely have picked up on some patterns healthy or otherwise. We’ll share some good advice for addressing those patterns in a Biblical fashion next week. Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!


[1] It’s important to recognize that the key word here is “preventable”. While Christians ought to do what they can to maintain the gift God has given them in the form of their physical health, not all efforts to do so will find success. Genetics, hormone production, and other factors often play a role in our ability to prevent disease and burn fat. The question being addressed here is not one of how much an individual Christian weighs, but of whether they are living a life obedient to God’s command for moderation.

The Headless Santa

11 Dec

Read: Acts 9:1-22

 

“And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.”

Acts 9:20–22

 

Decorating a store for Christmas has always been one of my favorite tasks.  There is something wonderful about arranging displays of garland and ornaments, “fluffing” artificial trees, and adorning everything with multi-colored blinking lights.  I feel inspired, even worshipful as I place each nativity on the shelf.  Every now and then, however, someone comes up with a unique decoration idea that may not convey the spirit of the holiday as well as one might hope.

“Are you actually hanging a Christmas tree upside down from the ceiling?”  I asked.  I knew my tone was a bit incredulous, but it isn’t every day that one’s manager is seen trying to strap inverted objects to the roof of a greenhouse.

“Yes,” she replied, as though hardly thinking such an answer was necessary.

I watched with interest for a moment then asked the only question I could think of, the only one that made any sense given the situation, “Why?”  

“‘Cuz I feel like it,” she replied, retrieving the roll of wire which was balanced atop her ladder and beginning to secure the bottom part (and only the bottom part) of a Santa Claus to the tree.

“You know, it’s the wrong holiday for headless things,” I observed.

“I know,” she replied, grinning mischievously. 

For the next hour, my manager worked quietly, eventually wiring on Santa’s head, though it still hung rather precariously from his body.  “You know, that wire won’t hold and Santa’s head is going to fall off in front of some little kid and scar him for life,” I warned.  “He’ll live in mortal terror of Santa Claus!” 

While Santa never did lose his head, I wasn’t amiss in my belief that past experiences, especially traumatic ones, can often affect the way we respond to people or situations in the present.  Scripture, however, teaches that previous experience is not always the best guide.  While we should not be naïve, expecting to see change everywhere, we also shouldn’t be so set in our beliefs that we anticipate the same results in every situation.  God still performs miracles, just as He did with Saul!

 

Challenge: Are you allowing your experiences with certain people or situations to dictate the way you react to similar circumstances in the present?  If you are, commit to weighing each situation honestly and allowing room for God to work.

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

Typhoon Haiyan: A Plea for Help

6 Dec

The plane bumped again. The turbulence was getting worse and so was the pain in my legs. We’d had a brief respite in Tokyo, but after spending over half a day traversing the Pacific Ocean, it hadn’t been enough. I was eager to deplane and the weather was getting in the way. Closing my eyes, I prayed for relief.

Typhoon Ofel, a relatively small storm, was making its way through Manila and our pilots were doing their best to skirt around the edges. I admit that I experienced a certain thrill at the word “typhoon”. Living in the landlocked intermountain west, I’d rarely experienced any natural phenomena more severe than an occasional tremor caused by the geologic activity in Yellowstone National Park. Even tornadoes are rare. The thought of a genuine storm was invigorating.

It was raining when we landed and I breathed a sigh of relief as the pilot announced, “Welcome to Manila!” The passengers (most of them Filipino) applauded. I did too, simply happy to be on the ground. Eagerly, I grabbed my bag and several minutes later made my way through the maze towards customs. Outside, the rain continued to fall in sheets as palms waved in the breeze. We were at the edge of the storm and in no real danger.

The next few days were wet. The pool outside the visitor’s center where I was staying overflowed and I watched with interest as the chlorinated haven took on a distinctly fishy smell. The streets were flooded too, though mostly at the corners and caused little difficulty for our drivers. I commemorated the event with a photograph of myself dancing in the rain. Two days later, we heard the news that 24 had died in the storm. I didn’t feel like dancing anymore.

Disasters are not infrequent in our world… yet something changes inside of you when you feel a connection to those affected. There is something transformative about having been to a place – having held a hand or seen a smile, listened to a story or tasted a carefully prepared meal. You begin to feel a connection not to people as part of the human race, but as individuals. You begin to process news about their misfortune with deeper love and greater understanding.

Fortunately, having actually visited a place is not the only way to experience a meaningful connection. Our willingness to hear the stories of the individuals affected by a disaster can help us develop a comprehension that statistics alone can never give. Numbers may show us immensity, but people show us intensity. As we listen to a father weep for his lost son or hear the story of a woman searching for her missing parents, we begin to connect in a very intimate way. Faceless people groups don’t have stories; individuals do. Though the circumstances of their losses differ from our own, the tales of grief are not so foreign. Each of us has also wept for those we love or experienced the depth of great personal loss. In this, we can feel their pain.

While not all of us will ever have the opportunity to travel to the places affected by disasters, each of us can make a difference. 7,250 islands make up the Philippine archipelago. Of these, over 700 are inhabited, home to nearly 98 million people and 181 different language groups. Nearly all were affected in some way by Typhoon Hiayan and many now need our help. The question is: will we respond to that need? Will we see not a faceless nation, but grieving individuals? Will we be the ones to make a difference?

Click here to read stories of Typhoon Haiyan’s victims and make a difference in their lives.

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