fitness

Eating and Exercising God’s Way

From the moment my daughter announced her wedding date, my mind started turning. Surely, this would be just the incentive I needed to spur on my weight loss. I grew excited by the prospect of having a really great reason to lose weight.

But week after week after week passed by and I could never go more than two or three days of “eating right” before I’d just cave. I’ve never been skinny but these past few years have really been a struggle, as my age, the craziness of the past two years, and my thorough enjoyment of food are a really really bad combination.

A month or so before the wedding, my goal of being a thin and attractive mother-of-the-bride started to fade from the realm of possible and became the impossible. I told myself all kinds of things, such as: “The day isn’t about me, anyway,” and “so many women my age have this problem” but it didn’t really help with the deep disappointment that reverberated in my soul every time I looked in a mirror that day. And when the photos came–well, as is often the case–they looked even worse than the mirror.

This was just not how I had hoped to look on my daughter’s wedding day.

But, you know, I’ve been thinking about this whole subject for a long, long time. As I’ve traveled along in this world beside both slender and heavy people; athletic-looking and comfy-plump looking; overweight, just-right, and too-skinny people, I’ve come to understand something important in this discussion on eating and exercising–

You cannot tell a person’s relationship with food and exercise by their weight.

We’ve all run into those people who can eat junk food all they want and never gain a pound. Are they more godly because of this? We’ve also run into those people who seem to gain two pounds for each fry they splurge on (you may even feel like that’s you!). Do those few extra pounds indicate disobedience to scripture? What about the people that put fitness ahead of God and their families? Is this good or right? I hope the answers to these questions is obvious.

So this brings us to the fact that we must understand that this question of eating and exercising goes so much deeper than how someone looks. SO. MUCH. DEEPER.

Perhaps some reflection on the questions below would be helpful for all of us–no matter what our weight. There are some things we should all think about when it comes to food and fitness.

I’ve been working through this for what seems like my whole adult life. I have struggled so to find peace. And this has led me to ask myself some really important questions:

What is my motive to lose weight/be healthy?

How does it look to please God with eating and exercising?

 

I don’t actually have the answers to this yet but I have learned a few things (or, at least, am in the process of learning these things)–

In regards to the first question: What is my motive?

• If I want to be thin for my own pride’s sake (to impress, to draw attention, to look better than others), that’s not the right reason.

• If I want to be healthy, that could be the right reason–if I want to be healthy for the right reason.

• If I want to be healthy in order to please and serve the Lord and those He has put in my life–then this is the right reason.

 

I’ve also learned some answers regarding the second question: How do I please God in this area of my life?

• There aren’t good foods and bad foods.

• It’s more about moderation and wisdom than it is about avoidance of certain foods or entire food groups or spending hours on a treadmill or at the gym.

• Consistent self-control and intentionality regarding eating and exercising–day by day, step by step– is so key. The latest fad diet or running a marathon might work…but these extremes rarely yield lasting results that keep us focused on the real reason we want to be as healthy as we are able to be.

 

God doesn’t say a whole about weight in His Word but we can gather a few things about this area of our lives from the following verses (this list is by no means exhaustive)–

Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, Lest you be filled with it and vomit. (Proverbs 25:16)

We learn from this verse that there is nothing wrong with eating sweets– just don’t overdo it!

Do not mix with winebibbers,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags(Proverbs 23:20-21)

So we learn here that we must avoid gluttony (excessive eating or drinking). Some self-examination is probably helpful in determining what excess eating looks like for us personally.

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (I Corinthians 10:14)

This verse reminds us not to give eating and exercising a wrong priority in our lives. (Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 9:24-27 that a physical runner receives a perishable crown, but the race we run as believers yields an imperishable crown. How important to remember that we must keep our spiritual race the priority!)

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

It is important that we discern truth from error as health and fitness movements sweep over our cultures. Is this practice, routine, fitness philosophy, song I’m exercising to–are these things compatible with being a Christian? It’s too much to get into here, but it is safe to say that much occultism has swept into the homes of Christians through this area of fitness and even in how we eat (see here for an example of how it’s influenced fitness and here for a way it is seeping into how we eat.)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

We know that instead of eating when we are anxious we should, instead, turn to prayer. The answer for anxiety isn’t in food, it’s in keeping our mind stayed on God (Isaiah 26:3). How funny that some of us (me, for example) turn to food when we are anxious–as if that will help at all. Emotional eating is a result of not trusting God fully for the present life we live and the days that lie ahead. It’s a lifelong journey putting this into practice for those of us that struggle with this–but we must keep working at it for it is a command: Do not be anxious about anything. That’s what it says. And so we must learn to trust and pray instead of eat.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (I Corinthians 3:16-17)

Here we see that we are the temple of God. We should treat our bodies as such, eating in moderation and with self-control and keeping ourselves as healthy as is possible. Of course, ultimately, this is in the Lord’s hands so we never want to believe that we can avoid disease and death by doing certain things. While this may certainly help we mustn’t count on this. We all know the healthy runner who has a heart attack or the health nut who gets cancer. These things are in God’s sovereignty and, ultimately, we must surrender our health to the Lord.

 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

and this one, too–

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)

From these verses we women (in particular) learn perhaps the most important lesson of all when it comes to this topic of weight: We don’t want to be consumed with what we look like. If we are known for anything, may it be that we fear the Lord. May it be for our service to Him. Our top priority should always be seeking the Lord.

The world tells us what we should look like. But the Lord obviously doesn’t agree or there would be a verse like this in the Bible about it–such as “Thou shalt be thin all the days of your life” or “May there not be found an overweight brother or sister among you.”

Please don’t hear me saying it’s okay to be an unhealthy weight. The Bible teaches us to take care of our bodies. But, in doing so, it is so important that we have a biblical perspective on this: It’s about balance and pleasing the Lord. It’s not about what others think of us or our obsession with being the best-looking 30, 50, or 70 year old around.

So, yeah…

I obviously struggle in this area of my life. I am still such a work “in progress” and most times I don’t feel like there is much progress. Honestly, this is probably one of the most challenging areas of my life.

I hesitated to share this here…

I know assumptions are made when I share something so personal. Sometimes condescension or ridicule are in the thoughts of those reading, even if they are never spoken. This is a risk I take with this kind of post.

I have chosen to take this risk because I wonder if there is someone else out there like me? Someone who is working through the eating and exercising question. Perhaps today you just need to know that you are not alone. I am right there with you–looking to please the Lord in this area of food and fitness and trying to discern just what that looks like from God’s Holy Word.

 

 

How to Cheat Death

Coffee is good for you. Oh, wait. No, they changed their minds. Coffee is bad for you. The “powers that be” can’t seem to decide if drinking coffee benefits us or if it causes cancer. This has happened with eggs and butter and red meat and countless other foods. We were to have a low fat diet and then it was a “right fat” diet. We were to eliminate carbs. Oh, wait, no that won’t work. Diet recommendations are in constant and fluid change, leaving the public in a constant state of wondering: Am I killing myself by what I eat?

It can be exhausting, can’t it? I am all for being a good steward of my body. I do believe we have a responsibility to eat in such a way that we are keeping ourselves as healthy as we can. But food is not sinful. Eating a brownie with ice cream is not sinful. And that’s the mindset that has invaded this culture. We believe it is more sinful to eat a sugar-laden dessert than to watch a sin-filled movie. What is wrong with this picture?

Why do we care so much? What is driving us? Sure, it is probably to look and feel good. But I wonder how much of it is to prolong our lives. If we do x, y, and z, we won’t die as early. This is what we are promised by the research and the reports. And yet, we see over and over again that no diet is a guarantee. We watch people with horrible diets last well into their 90s and, on the flipside, we see people who dedicate themselves to an organic, pure diet be diagnosed with cancer. These things do not compute with what we are being told, do they?

I am not implying that we should eat anything we want whenever we want. No, not at all. But I wonder if our obsession with food and what we should eat and shouldn’t eat is pleasing to our heavenly Father? And just what are our motives for our feelings about food?

I believe that many of us struggle with this and I just wonder how legitimate this is. Are we driven because of what God says or are we driven because of what the world is telling us? It is important that we make this distinction.

The world tells us that if we eat in a certain way we will stay young, eliminate wrinkles, remove our aches and pains, and live forever. It’s all about maintaining the glory of “youth”. But no diet–no matter how pure– is going to keep us from growing old. We do realize this, right? Somehow, we have to find that delicate balance of eating well and yet still find a way to occasionally enjoy a piece of birthday cake or McDonald’s french fries without feeling guilty.

So if our diet can’t help us cheat death, then are we left hopeless?

No, actually, we aren’t. There is only one way to cheat death and that is by trusting in Jesus as our Savior. He gives us eternal life in a place that is far better than on this fallen earth (John 3:15; John 10:28; Romans 6:23).

Only Jesus can do what no special diet can do. We have to remember that 100% of men die. Men can connive and invent and work to keep it from happening, but they will never succeed. Everyone dies. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) Our only hope for an abundant and wonderful eternal life is found in Jesus. By grace alone through faith alone.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. I Corinthians 15:54-58

So let’s eat smart but let’s enjoy life. Let’s work to find a balance. We do have food freedom in Christ. We have to stop believing that we can control our destinies and cheat death by what we eat. Of course we should do our best to be healthy, but there is nothing in scripture that says that weighing a few extra pounds over what the “powers that be” deem appropriate is sinful. There is no command in scripture that states “thou shalt not eat sugar or fried foods”. Our physical health and well-being has become a great distraction for many of us. It is not wrong to give some attention to the food we put in our mouths, but how about we end our obsession with it and start being obsessed with knowing the Word? As Paul says in I Timothy 4:8–

 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: Should “Christian” and “Yoga” be used in the same sentence?

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It has been heavy on my heart that so many fellow believers view yoga as a benign exercise. Somehow they believe that the physical poses of yoga can be separated from the spiritual purposes of yoga. But here is what a Hindu himself says about yoga:

While yoga is not a “religion” in the sense that the Abrahamic religions are, it is a well-established spiritual path. Its physical postures are only the tip of an iceberg, beneath which is a distinct metaphysics with profound depth and breadth. Its spiritual benefits are undoubtedly available to anyone regardless of religion. However, the assumptions and consequences of yoga do run counter to much of Christianity as understood today. This is why, as a Hindu yoga practitioner and scholar, I agree with the Southern Baptist Seminary President, Albert Mohler, when he speaks of the incompatibility between Christianity and yoga, arguing that “the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine” is fundamentally at odds with Christian teaching. This incompatibility runs much deeper (bold is my emphasis).

You can read the rest of this article here. It is a very interesting read.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rajiv-malhotra/hindu-view-of-christian-yoga_b_778501.html

So why have so many Christians fallen prey to becoming part of this false religion? Because we have been told that it’s simply a relaxation technique and a good form of exercise. But as believers, we have a responsibility to make sure that what we are being told is actually true.  And before I hear the argument, “Well, it doesn’t affect me…I do it just for exercise,” think for a minute why you would even desire to do something so spiritually intertwined with a false religion. Should we draw closer to false religions and play around with their rituals and traditions or remove ourselves as far from them as possible? 

I found this article by Marsha West. I have only the second half of the article here, but you can read the rest of it by clicking on the link at the bottom. 

Many Christians have been duped into thinking that yoga is just relaxation and exercise. Nothing could be further from the truth. Classical yoga is intended to put one into an altered state of consciousness. Believers who think they’re “just exercising” are being swept into a counterfeit religion.

Not all religions are equal, as liberals would have us believe. Orthodox Christianity teaches that there is one true God. God as the all-knowing, all-powerful being who created the universe and still rules it today. “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:6,7). Moreover, orthodox Christianity teaches that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes”(Romans 1:16). On the other hand, “Progressive Christians” (PC’s) believe that the Bible is a book of myths and legends. PC’s “read the Bible symbolically or allegorically, as a collection of interesting stories to take whatever meaning out of that pleases them. This allows them to reject various portions of the Bible they disagree with. Liberals label their interpretation as a “critical” approach, which essentially allows most of their theology to consist of finding ways to criticize the Bible, rather than actually trying to determine what it says.”[4]

PC’s see nothing wrong with yoga. They see nothing wrong with Christian mysticism either. But that’s another article.

According to God’s Word, mystical practices of any sort are evil. Romans 12:9 instructs Christians to, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Sooner or later the sharks will pull Christians who wade into mystic waters under. Jesus gave this warning in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Eastern mysticism leads to destruction.

Professor Tiwari is an authority on classical yoga. He believes that yoga cannot be separated from its spiritual center. “The simple, immutable fact,” he says, “is that yoga originated from the Vedic or Hindu culture. Its techniques were not adopted by Hinduism, but originated from it.” These facts need to be unequivocally stated in light of some of the things being written to the contrary by yoga teachers. The effort to separate yoga from Hinduism must be challenged because it runs counter to the fundamental principles upon which yoga itself is premised, the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances). These ethical tenets and religious practices are the first two limbs of the eight-limbed ashtanga yoga system which also includes asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (contemplation/Self Realization). Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga.”[5]

If your church is integrating “Christian yoga” or any other New Age practice into its services, it’s incumbent on you to speak up. Gently lay out your concerns to your pastor. Explain that yoga is a Hindu or Buddhist practice and has no place in a Christian church. 2 Corinthians. 6:14 says, “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

Many pastors are unaware that some yoga practices, especially meditation to achieve an altered state of consciousness, can be spiritually damaging. If your pastor chooses to ignore your warning, you might want to consider finding a new church home.

To all you Christians who want to get in shape, I say halleluiah! I’m all for physical fitness. To stay in shape I’ve taken ballet (for the novice), jazz dance, aerobics, stretch classes, played tennis and racquetball, hiked in the mountains, and gone on brisk walks. All of these things will keep you in great shape. You don’t need yoga to stay fit

Footnotes:

4, Liberal Theology Misses Plain Truth By Rachel Alexander
5, Yoga Renamed Is Still Hindu By Subhas R. Tiwari

© 2006 Marsha West – All Rights Reserved

Read this article in its entirety here:http://newswithviews.com/West/marsha30.htm

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