Tag Archives: Christianity and Physical Fitness

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!

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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!

 

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.

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: What Scripture Says About Food Part III

22 Nov

Last week in Part II of our series, we took a look at the New Testament perspective on the Old Testament dietary laws. Unfortunately, Peter’s vision in Acts 11 didn’t entirely clear up the issue of what a Christian should or shouldn’t eat. The Church remained conflicted about which dietary rules did or didn’t apply and even found some new ways to argue about those rules.

The Apostle Paul spent more than his fair share of time trying to clear up these arguments and we find him addressing them in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-11 (among others). While it was clear that Jewish believers and Gentile believers weren’t likely to come to any agreement on the matter (the Gentiles were even divided among themselves regarding meat sacrificed to idols), there were a few ground rules which could be put in place. Pay attention, because these rules still apply to Christians today! Among them are:

  • Don’t judge. (Romans 14:3-8) Not every issue is as clear cut as we like to think. While we may be deeply convicted that we aren’t doing honor to our bodies (God’s temple) or to God’s Name by eating or drinking certain things, other believers may not share our conviction. What may be “obvious” to us isn’t always “obvious” to everyone else. When this is the case, Christians ought to approach each other’s dietary choices with an attitude of grace.
  • Don’t ignore your conscience or encourage anyone else to ignore theirs. (Romans 14:14,23) If you think it’s a sin to eat a certain food or to drink a certain beverage, it is… for you. God often convicts individual believers about what they shouldn’t do in their situation. This means that we have an obligation to support each other in these beliefs. We may discuss the relative merits of certain diets or even spend time examining the Biblical text for support, but in the end, we ought never to do something which violates our conscience or encourages our brothers and sisters to violate theirs.
  • Don’t destroy members of the Body. (Romans 14:20,21; 1 Corinthians 8:9-12) While we aren’t responsible for the choices of other believers, we do need to be sensitive to the ways that our actions may tempt or influence them. Not everyone has a will of iron and plopping down your box of doughnuts right in front of a diabetic may result in an unrestrained binge which does serious physical damage to their body. This doesn’t mean that you should never eat another doughnut or that you shouldn’t eat doughnuts in public, just that you need to use discretion when determining what, where, and when you eat. (Hint: this means that you need to take the time to get to know other believers and understand their strengths and weaknesses.)
  •  Don’t make an issue out of food. (1 Corinthians 8:8) In the big scheme of things, what God does or doesn’t want us to eat is not as important as who He wants us to be: people who demonstrate His love. There is a time and place for discussing the Biblical view of food… but it isn’t when tempers are likely to flare. If you don’t see eye-to-eye with another believer concerning what you should eat, don’t debate them. Let it go. God is working in both of your hearts and the Holy Spirit will bring you to the conclusions He needs to bring you to in His time. Don’t separate other believers from the fellowship of the body over the issue of food or drink.
  • Glorify God always. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) Paul was careful about what he said and did when he sat at someone else’s table. He recognized that sometimes, conveying the message of the Gospel meant saying “yes” to what was offered and that other times it meant saying “no”. He also recognized that the food which received a “yes” at one table might receive a “no” at another. What he ate wasn’t about what he ate it was about the people with whom he was eating. Our decisions to eat, moderate, or abstain should follow the same rule.

Next week, we’ll begin to examine two very clear Scriptural commandments regarding what we take into our body and how they apply to what we will or won’t eat. In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment box below!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: When Rest Becomes Laziness

1 Nov

While a little rest is a good thing, too much of it can cause harm both physically and mentally.  Our ability to perform basic tasks can be hindered by the lack of exercise and our minds become less capable of working complex problems as we allow them to think upon “nothing”.

The Scripture is full of warnings about the dangers of resting when we should be laboring (Proverbs 10:26, 12:27, 15:19, and 19:15), yet finding the line between rest and work can be difficult.  Not every one of us is physically capable of performing hard labor or applying our minds to tedious calculations.  Acts which would appear to be laziness if performed by a star athlete may be the height of exertion for someone afflicted by a chronic illness.  So how do we know if we are disguising laziness as “rest”?  Here are three questions worth asking:

  1. Am I resting at the expense of tasks which need to be accomplished?  Taking responsibility is important and a failure to fulfill our obligations can be a sign that we’re growing lazy.  But this isn’t always the case.  It’s just as easy to fail by overscheduling our already packed lives – so it’s up to each of us to know the difference!
  2. Am I physically capable of accomplishing the tasks I’ve committed to?  If we’re capable of fulfilling our obligations, but aren’t, it’s a good guess that we’re growing lazy.  But keep in mind that what our bodies can do varies as we age or progress through cycles of sickness and health.  Just because we were capable of a certain level of physical exertion a week ago, doesn’t mean we’ll be capable today.  Again, it’s our responsibility to determine whether our pace is slackening due to sloth or because of legitimate physical necessity.
  3. Am I mentally capable of performing the tasks before me?  Sometimes, we bite off more than we can chew.  It may be an AP class that requires more study than we have time for or a household renovation which demands math skills we never learned.  Despite this, we need to be careful that we don’t turn mental weakness into an excuse for never trying anything difficult or different.  If we do, laziness lies in wait.

If you’ve noticed that this list is a bit subjective, then you aren’t alone.  One of the things which makes Christianity unique is its ability to recognize that while there are some universal absolutes (like that God is holy, all men are sinners, and salvation comes through Christ alone), the outcome of those absolutes will look a little different for everyone.  It’s up to individuals, moved by the Holy Spirit, to determine whether they are or aren’t living the lives to which they’ve been called.  What’s so great about this?  In the end, the only one that any of us can compare ourselves to is ourselves and to Christ!

This week, spend some time in prayer and introspection.  Ask God to reveal whether you could use more rest or less.  Then, commit to acting upon His revelation.  Only when we do, will we become the light He created us to be!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Hobbies, Rest, and Evangelism

25 Oct

Last week, we discussed the link between “Hobbies and Rest”.  This week, we’re going to look at the connection between hobbies, rest and evangelism – and how the things we do to relax can play an important role in God’s work!

Before we begin, it’s important to note that not every interest or hobby we have is going to show a direct link to sharing God’s message.  And that’s okay.  Each activity we participate in gives us a unique connection to other human beings… and it’s that connection (not the content of the hobby, itself) which yields the opportunity for us to share God’s love.

A perfect example can be found in a friend of mine who used to play his guitar in a bagel shop every Saturday.  He liked to play and the coffee shop enjoyed the free entertainment, so it was a good fit.  It wasn’t a great feat of evangelism by any means and doubtless many Christians would have seen his hobby as a waste of time.  Yet at the end of nearly every session, someone would come up to him and ask why he offered the free entertainment.  His answer always tied into someone (Christ) who had once offered something free to him.  He got to relax and enjoy himself and, in the process, God was glorified.

A number of years ago, I took up the even more obscure hobby of philately (stamp collecting).  The hobby was largely a solo one and my only real contact with the “outside world” was the company through which I placed my orders.  Each time I submitted my payment and a fresh order, I’d slip a gospel tract into the envelope.  Since it was a small company, I’m sure nearly everyone had seen my unique form of payment.  When a serious mistake was made concerning my account, I had the opportunity to live what they already knew I believed as I worked to straighten out the misunderstanding.  I had found a hobby that I enjoyed and God was glorified in its pursuit.

These, of course, are only a couple of examples of how God can use our “rest” as an opportunity to accomplish His “work”.  Yet they serve as an important reminder that God created each of us with unique interests and skills which provide us with the opportunity to reach out to those who might not hear God’s message otherwise!  Someone who would immediately turn their back on a missionary or pastor might very well be willing to listen to you – simply because you enjoy the same activities!

In the end, everything we do in life (including our restful hobbies) is an opportunity.  Whether we play racket ball at the athletic club, go ballroom dancing, attend a sewing class, or decide to take up archery, we’re likely to find our path littered with chances to share God’s love.  Don’t pass them up when they come your way!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Hobbies and Rest

18 Oct

Hobbies can be one of the most effective ways to rest our bodies.  They provide us with avenues for developing secondary skills and interests, for maintaining physical fitness and mental acuity, and for cultivating relationships.  Drawing our attention away from present difficulties, they present us with the opportunity to return to the “real world” with a renewed perspective.

That there are many benefits to developing a hobby is undoubted, yet the very activities which help us to rest can also turn against us.  Before you begin integrating hobbies into your rest, take a moment to ask the following questions:

  1. Does this glorify God?  Believers should never turn off their sense of discernment – even when at rest.  1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  This doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything fun, but it does mean that we need to ensure the things we do for fun are in keeping with God’s commands.
  2. Does this hobby boarder on or has it already become an obsession?  Scripture teaches the importance of self-control in all things and this includes our recreational activities.  (1 Corinthians 9:25, Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:5-7)  If a side interest begins to crowd out other obligations, it needs to be brought into submission or dropped altogether.
  3. Does this hobby encourage ungodly attitudes in me?  2 Timothy 2:22 advises believers to, “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace…”  If your choice of recreation isn’t encouraging the godly attitudes listed here, it shouldn’t be on your list of pursuits!  (At the same time keep in mind that just because a certain hobby isn’t good for you doesn’t mean that it needs to be avoided by every Christian.  The same soccer game that leads to an abusive and overly competitive spirit in one believer can be genuinely relaxing and God honoring in the hands (or feet) of another!)
  4. Does this hobby actually result in rest?  Truth be told, not every hobby helps us to rejuvenate.  This doesn’t mean that we ought to chuck any hobby that doesn’t, just that we don’t include those activities in the time we’ve already scheduled for rest.

If you ask these questions about your hobby and the answer to each leaves you with a clear conscience, then feel free to include it in you “resting schedule”.

If the answer is “no”, it may be time to look for some other interests worth pursuing.  Ask a friend what they do to relax, take a look through the courses being offered by your local art association or community college, or just wander through a book store until you find a subject that peaks your interest.  You may be surprised at some of the unusual hobbies which present themselves!

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