Thursday, December 22, 2016

Food & The Christian Life

Food. There's just something about it that comforts the soul. It can take you back to your childhood when mom and grandma made those fabulous meals. However, it can also be a trigger to painful memories depending on taste, texture or flavor. As Christian's, we understand that food is talked about a lot in the Bible, everything from sharing meals to the sin of gluttony. The purpose of food is multifaceted. We need it to fuel our bodies. It can be used as a fellowship tool. It is one of the items behind festivals, holiday's, and feast days. It is a ministry...with it we can help those who are hungry by giving what we have in excess, facilitate fundraisers, or even help others learn how to use food wisely.

Recently, I've been confronted with a bout of anxiety. Within this bout are deep seeded issues within myself that I must work through. One of the things I've been convicted of is this very idea of food. Sometimes, I just eat to eat. Boredom, self-comfort, and even just because I want to. It was in this that I realized why I hadn't gained or lost weight recently in my weight loss journey.

I had been on anxiety meds before, and I knew a side effect of them was increased appetite, so 2 years ago, I felt it time to get off the meds, so I stopped meds, changed what and how I ate, using more natural ingredients and picked up my walking habit that had waxed and waned over the years a bit. I lost 20 pounds over the course of that time frame. But I bottomed out and hovered within 5 pounds either direction for a while. Then the anxiety came again. When that happens, I naturally lose my appetite a bit anyway. This was the motivation I needed to really look at why I had bottomed out and not lost weight. I love food...too much. I mean, I went to Culinary School. I'm a sucker for a good meal. But the problem is, everything I strove to accomplish was undone by snacking and processed carbs. I had cut my carb intake anyway, because I discovered I was gluten intolerant when I kicked off this weight loss journey.

With that said, I kicked processed breads, sugars, high fructose anything, canned things and processed food (for sodium reasons primarily) altogether in favor of fresh/frozen instead. I eat more boneless skinless chicken breast, fish, beans, and legumes for protein. I cut my calorie intake from 2000 to about 1500. In the 2 1/2 weeks post Thanksgiving weekend wake up, I've shed another 18 pounds. I've increased my walking again in addition to my eating habits. The pounds are melting off. And that's when it hit me. I LOVE the way I'm eating now, I feel better, AND the pounds are disappearing! It occurred to me that eating healthy doesn't have to be a drag. I discovered that food is a lot more important than I had originally thought...and I've always thought the ministry of food was important. I discovered that gluttony is a much bigger problem in America than I realized at first. That's when God led me to realize that I have a gift that He wants me to use for His glory.

With my education in the Culinary Arts and calling to minister to God's people, God can and wants use me in a very valuable way to tackle the issue of gluttony and healthy eating. Eating can be fabulous and healthy at the same time. I believe God wants me to help other people who struggle with gluttony, weight loss and eating healthy (and for the right reasons) as a ministry. I've been equipped to help others fight this fight. So, let's do this.

In a nutshell, here's what I've done. I've cut processed carbs like all breads, pastas, sugars, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated & fractionated oils, margarine (I use unsalted butter ONLY if I can't substitute), canned goods, processed foods (boxed potatoes, meal helpers, canned soups, deli meats, etc.), reduced dairy and beef intake, started with a quality fish oil supplement, increased boneless, skinless chicken breast, natural skinless turkey breast, and fish intake, increased fresh fruits and veggies (or frozen), beans and legumes, healthy nuts and natural grains, and I used more healthy oils like canola, olive and sesame oil instead of butter. I make an Ezekiel bread, not sprouted, but whole grains and use that as a "bread" of sorts. It doesn't do well with sandwiches like PB&J, but the PB, unless you make it yourself is loaded with bad oils like palm, hydrogenated and fractionated oils, and the J is loaded with sugar. I've also downloaded a calorie counter to help me keep track of what I'm taking in.

In addition to this, what's needed is some cooking skills. First, cut out frying altogether. Stop frying stuff. Fried stuff, even pan frying, is bad. When oven baking, use a wire rack to raise whatever it is off of the pan so it doesn't soak and cook in the grease. Steaming is the best, obviously, so I've combined the saute idea with the steam idea. For breakfast, it's homemade oatmeal with honey and nuts or fruit of some sorts, yogurt and a homemade low/no sugar granola that has nuts and dried cranberries or raisins. I also throw in a healthy cereal like a puffed rice or oat O's once in a while. For lunch its a tossed veggie salad with beans, chicken or fish as a protein, with usually no dressing. I try to leave a little sauce when I cook my beans to wet down the veggies or even use a very small dab of vinegar/olive oil to help moisten it up. However, I've come to love no dressing on a salad. (That wasn't always the case...I had to have a little something, though I've never been a huge fan of dousing the dressing on a salad.) Sometimes, if there is a leftover from the night before, I'll use that someway. For dinner, I usually chop up some veggies and a protein of some sorts and saute them with a tiny bit of olive oil and sesame oil. I'll season with various things...anything from turmeric and Italian herbs, apple cider vinegar and a pepper herb, or even a southwest spice motif. The idea is that you use enough herbs and spices without adding salt. You can put a little wine in to add flavor, or I put water in. Either way, it helps to 'steam' the veggies. I usually find that I get enough sodium from other things to cover my necessary intake and the other flavors really add enough punch to cover the reduced salt (pepper does well too). Now this isn't a hard and fast menu, but it's a basic idea of what and how I do things.

The idea is that you can eat healthy, affordable and tasty. If you need help with this, please leave a comment here or find me on social media. I would love to see you get healthy and pursue food for the right reasons. In the coming years, I will be releasing a book dealing with food and our Christian life titled, "The Life Diet". In this book we will discuss these ideas more. Until then, again, if you need assistance with this, please let me know.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The 5 Gifts from God: Hope

This week we started the Advent series! Listen in as we look at the 5 gifts from God!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Ephesians: Draw Upon the Well for a Lesson Learned

In this week's sermon we spend time in Revelation looking at the Ephesian church down the road a bit.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ephesians: Draw Upon the Well for Armor & Encouragement

Armor is vital to our walk with Jesus. This week we look at the Armor of God.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Word of Caution

For those that know me well, know that I am not a Clinton supporter and have been skeptical about Trump from the beginning. I've always thought that he was playing the field because of his history with the Clintons as well as being a New York Democrat. I thought his purpose was to bring the Republican party closer to that of the Democratic party. And in ways, he has. However, he has done what seemed like the impossible. I honestly expected to wake up this morning to a Hillary Clinton Presidency. I had myself fully prepared for her. Instead, I almost find myself in a state of shock because its surreal that Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States of America. I ran through scenarios on electoral maps trying to piece together which states he could possibly win. I figured Ohio, North Carolina and Florida...but it wasn't enough. He needed more and I wasn't too sure he could muster the electoral votes. I thought maybe he could swing Pennsylvania or Michigan and maybe even Virginia, and that was a stretch...but Wisconsin and Idaho with Pennsylvania?! I underestimated his support. Big time. All of this to say this: Evangelicals came out in droves for Trump. I am located in a state where I cannot write-in a candidate. Whoever is on the ballot is who your choices are. My candidate was not on the ballot, so I voted for President under protest and a letter to my State Congressman. But the issue I'm having is that I see Evangelicals looking to Trump almost as if he is some sort of "American Savior"...and this causes me concern.

So I want to give a word of caution. The 'old fashioned values' of yesteryear are in the past. The days of having a Christian culture are over. Our country is well on its way to a more liberal and progressive future. Donald Trump isn't a savior. He is the President-elect who now has a tough job of reuniting this country, which, if you look at the vote once again, you'll see a very stark divide. I will support Trump as President, but my word of caution to the Church is this. Don't let this opportunity slip you by. We have a chance to once again become comfortable in our culture...or we can stand in stark contrast to our culture and lose our lukewarmness. Give respect where respect is due in the government. But don't let the government give you the feel-goody's about being rich, powerful and safe. As Christians our sole focus is Jesus Christ and His message of salvation. Let us win souls while we have the opportunity of government allowing us do so. Too many times in the past has the church had opportunities to reach the lost but squandered the open chance. We're getting a new chance to replay those lost times. Let's capitalize on them while the harvest is ripe for the picking. A lot of people are scared half to death of a Trump presidency. Let us share with them the reason for our hope and joy. Let's share with them our reluctance to support such a flawed candidate, but trusting in our Sovereign God and His ability to influence events for His purposes. That despite a culture becoming more hostile to a Christian way of life, we are ready and prepared to give a reason for our faith. We've gotten a 4 year reprieve if Trump holds to his word. I rest my trust in Jesus Christ because all events are being put in place as a set up to His return. For that, I echo the words of Revelation 22:20, "He who testifies about these things says, 'Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ephesians: Draw Upon the Well for Our Careers

This week we talk about our career and a little more on priority!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dealing with Nations and a Cultural Christianity

Is God dealing with America because we are a Christian nation who's fallen away? This is the question some are asking these days, and there are two sides to the argument. The first answer is yes, we are a Christian nation who has fallen away from God. The second answer is no, we are not technically a Christian nation and therefore God isn't judging us. Today, I'd like to offer a third option. I was reading in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah when I came across chapters 27-29. This is an excerpt from Jeremiah 27:4-17:

4 Command them to go to their masters, saying: This is what the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: This is what you must say to your masters: 5 By My great strength and outstretched arm, I made the earth, and the people, and animals on the face of the earth. I give it to anyone I please. 6 So now I have placed all these lands under the authority of My servant Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. I have even given him the wild animals to serve him. 7 All nations will serve him, his son, and his grandson until the time for his own land comes, and then many nations and great kings will enslave him. 8 “As for the nation or kingdom that does not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and does not place its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation I will punish by sword, famine, and plague”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“until through him I have destroyed it. 9 But as for you, do not listen to your prophets, diviners, dreamers, fortune-tellers, or sorcerers who say to you, ‘Don’t serve the king of Babylon!’ 10 for they prophesy a lie to you so that you will be removed from your land. I will banish you, and you will perish. 11 But as for the nation that will put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave it in its own land, and that nation will cultivate it and reside in it.” This is the LORD’s declaration.

12 I spoke to Zedekiah king of Judah in the same way: “Put your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, serve him and his people, and live! 13 Why should you and your people die by the sword, famine, or plague as the LORD has threatened against any nation that does not serve the king of Babylon? 14 Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are telling you, ‘You must not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they are prophesying a lie to you. 15 ‘I have not sent them’—this is the LORD’s declaration—‘and they are prophesying falsely in My name; therefore, I will banish you, and you will perish—you and the prophets who are prophesying to you.’” 16 Then I spoke to the priests and all these people, saying, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not listen to the words of your prophets. They are prophesying to you, claiming, “Look, very soon now the articles of the LORD’s temple will be brought back from Babylon.” They are prophesying a lie to you. 17 Do not listen to them. Serve the king of Babylon and live! Why should this city become a ruin?

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. 2009 (Je 27:4–17). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

First of all, America is not Israel. We are not the 'chosen people for God'. The Israelites are that nation. While one of the first things Washington did as President was to have a prayer after inauguration, we also need to understand that there were some in the Founding Fathers that were Deists. Deists deny the Trinity and deity of Christ and basically say God is aloof and doesn't intervene in His creation; that is not Christianity. It is important to note whether we are a 'Christian nation' or not. However, I also want to note that God deals with nations whether they are dedicated to Him or not. This excerpt from Jeremiah proves that God deals with nations as He sees fit. It is important to note that even in the early days of America, we weren't exactly innocent. Between slavery and our dealings with the Native Americans, we had big sin issues. One thing is for certain, we have moved away from the foundation upon which we were built. I personally believe that although a nation (like America) can be set apart for God, that doesn't mean we are a new Israel. Obviously with Nebuchadnezzar God gave Israel to him as a punishment. However, God also dealt with Nebuchadnezzar after Israel had endured her punishment. God dealt with godless humanity through Noah, the godlessness in Sodom & Gomorrah, as well as those godless nations that occupied the holy land through Moses & Joshua. In Romans 13 and Titus 3, we are reminded by Paul to be submissive to rulers and authorities over us, because God sets them in place.

This means that no matter whether or not America is considered Christian, God deals with nations accordingly. We are a nation far from the ways of God. The Christian culture that we have cultivated in America has also contributed to our decline. Persecution was unheard of as well as the term non-believer or atheist. American Christians got comfortable and dare I say lukewarm. Nowadays, persecution is on the rise as well as people who simply do not believe in Christ or even claim agnosticism or atheism. It used to be the norm that Sunday was church and family day. Now, people are rejecting the cultural Christianity. God does not want someone who comes to Him out of compulsion. He wants people to want to come to Him.

All of this to say this: fear not, for whether Trump or Clinton becomes President matters not. God is still in control and places who He wants in power. Remember, sometimes someone comes to power as the result of punishment. Sometimes it's the result of letting us go to what we desire, as in Romans 1:18-32. I've heard this question more times the past few months than anything: how did we get Trump and Clinton as our candidates??? Well, they represent the culture of our society. One is a crook, cheat and swindler, the other is boisterous, rude and outspoken. This embodies our culture. Whether we were a Christian nation in the beginning is a mute point now. At the very least, we cultivated a Christian culture somewhere in the past and now we are a nation far removed from God. And in my honest opinion, seeing cultural Christianity disappear isn't a bad thing. We will now know who exactly is Christian and who isn't. We are getting to the point that there will no longer be any cultural Christians. It will enable churches to get on their feet and effectively evangelize their cities and towns. Christians must now learn how to deal in a culture that is against everything they do and stand for. Knowing who's saved and who's not is a big part of evangelism. It's difficult to evangelize someone who 'believes in God' because they just don't see their need. They think that 'believing in God' is enough. What they don't realize is in the book of James, he says,

19 You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder.

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. 2009 (Jas 2:19). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

Believing isn't enough. It takes a faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.

The other thing to note in chapters 27-29 of Jeremiah is the fact that God also deals with prophets who falsely proclaim they are speaking for God when they aren't. As a matter of fact, God even puts one to death in Jeremiah 28:15-17. People need to be cautious when they speak and how they speak because that is another area where God will deal with someone. When you speak, be sure you speak truth. Personally, I make honest attempts to proclaim what Scripture teaches and if it is relevant to today's society, I will make a point to teach that. I try not to proclaim judgement or no judgement for God unless I am absolutely positive of what I've heard from the Lord. And even then I am hesitant because we're told,

28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. 2009 (Mt 10:28). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

With that said, I fear the Lord, not man, and this Christ-follower actually thinks its a good thing to see our cultural Christianity disappear. Yes it is sad that we will have harder battles for our freedoms. It is sad that our nation will continue to fall away from the ways of our Lord. What I am ready for the most is the renewed hunger for Christ in our churches and within the unbelieving as a result of the depravity, even though the depravity in itself is sad. Rest assured my friends, God is still in charge and He deals with nations as He sees fit...whether they are Israel, Persia, Russia, America, Rome or any nation in between. Is America under judgement from God? I can't say for sure. At the very least we're seeing things happen to get events set in motion for Christ's second coming. We're promised it's only going to get worse. I do know that the further down the road we go, the closer we are to Christ's return. And that, my friends, is worth saying "Hallelujah, Praise God!"