DIET AND EXERCISE: A Spiritual Perspective – Part I
Daniel 1: 3-16; John 4: 4-14; 7:37-39
1. We have just completed a 4 week study entitled Christian A&P 101 where we reflected on the Apostle Paul’s favorite description of the Church as the Body of Christ. We examined 4 main aspects of our physical anatomy and physiology and made spiritual application to our relationships with one another in the church and with Christ as the Head of the Body.
2. As I meditated on what to share with you over the next two Sundays, the thought that remained uppermost in my mind was to stay with the theme of the Body and simply make an extension to two specific ways in which we can keep the body healthy and fit – namely diet and exercise. So today we will look at diet and next Sunday at exercise. So next Sunday you may all come in your sweats and workout gear!
3. Now in contrast to the New Testament references that draw parallels between our physical bodies and the spiritual Body of Christ, as you may have guessed, there are no similar Scripture passages applying clear and direct spiritual lessons to the topics of diet and exercise.
• The only Scriptural passage that came close was the passage from Daniel where he and his three Jewish friends, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego refused to eat the rich delicacies from King Nebuchadnezzar’s kitchen and preferred a healthy diet of vegetables and water.
• So what you are going to get today and next Sunday, are Johann Neethling’s own insights applying the essential ingredients of healthy diet and exercise for our human bodies to what we can and need to do to keep the Body of Christ – the church – fit and healthy.
4. If you’ve heard this story before, my apologies – just enjoy it again: GOD’s DIET PLAN
• And God populated the earth with broccoli and cauliflower and spinach and green and yellow vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.
• And Satan created hamburger restaurants. And hamburger restaurants brought forth the 99-cent double-cheeseburger. And Satan said to Man, "You want fries with that?"
• And Man said, "Super size them." And Man gained pounds.
• And God created the healthful yogurt, that woman might keep her figure that man found so fair.
• And Satan froze the yogurt, and he brought forth chocolate, nuts and brightly colored sprinkle candy to put on the yogurt. And woman gained pounds.
• And God said, "Try my crispy fresh salad."
• And Satan brought forth creamy dressings, bacon bits, and shredded cheese.
• And there was ice cream for dessert. And woman gained pounds.
• And God said, "I have sent you heart healthy vegetables and olive oil with which to cook them."
• And Satan brought forth chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter, and Man gained pounds, and his bad cholesterol went through the roof.
• And God brought forth running shoes, and Man resolved to lose those extra pounds.
• And Satan brought forth cable TV with remote control so Man would not have to toil to change channels between ESPN and ESPN2. And Man gained pounds.
• And God said, "You’re running up the score, Devil." And God brought forth the potato, a vegetable naturally low in fat and brimming with nutrition.
• And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fat fried them. And he created sour cream dip also. And Man clutched his remote control and ate the potato chips swaddled in cholesterol.
• And Satan saw and said, "It is good!" And Man went into cardiac arrest.
• And God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. And Satan created HMOs....
5. Now we laugh at that story, but that is only because it is so true and we are embarrassed. More than 60% of the American population is overweight – and I include myself in that category – and our problem is getting worse every year.
• 30% of adults aged 20 and older are considered obese
• The percentage of obese children ages 6-19 has more than trebled since 1980 and now more than 16% or 9 million kids fit into that category.
• And with the increase in obesity for all age groups goes the various ailments including:-
Type 2 diabetes
Coronary heart disease
Sleep apnea and respiratory problems and many more . . .
6. The situation is critical.
• While many of the foods we eat are fast and convenient, they also tend to be high in fat, refined sugars, grains, and calories.
• Portion size has increased so dramatically that JUMBO SIZE has become a standard choice. Have you seen the huge buckets of popcorn smothered in butter that folk now take into the movie theaters?!
• Many of us are in jobs where we hardly get any exercise – we’re sitting at our computers, sitting at our desks, sitting behind the steering wheel of our cars and trucks. Even most golf players nowadays no longer walk the course carrying their clubs - they ride in their comfortable golf carts! Others are relaxing in their LazyBoy couches and the only exercise they are getting is flipping the channels on the TV remote or reaching over to grab their beer and pretzels!
7. So drastic and immediate action to change our eating and exercise habits is critical if we are to avoid serious illness and early death.
8. A healthy diet will include the three main food groups in balanced proportions – proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and a reasonable quantity of water a day. So let’s see what meaningful spiritual applications we can make from those 4 components of a healthy diet.
• Now understand that I am not making any strict parallel on these matters – just offering them to you as a useful way to reflect on and categorize the essential ingredients for a healthy and fit church congregation.
PROTEINS: THE BUILDING BLOCKS FOR OUR SYSTEM
1. Proteins – are the main building blocks for our system - they help our bodies grow and are essential for the speedy healing of our wounds.
2. I believe that within this group we can include the ingredients of Christian Education through Sunday School and Bible Study – both corporate and personal, - and let me add here that if you are not participating in one or the other or both then you have a serious imbalance in your spiritual diet and you are also denying the rest of the body the input that would come through you and your contribution. Then there are the structured and unstructured opportunities we provide for fellowship and interaction, the visits in one another’s homes, the Care Groups we are establishing – through which the members learn to care for, encourage, and build-up one another at a smaller and more manageable level, the meals or snacks we share with one another - where we listen to and hear both the words and the heartbeat of one another.
3. I believe that the Body is built up as we work together as a team to reach out to our world with the Good News of Jesus Christ – the Vacation Bible Schools we run for kids in our community, the growth, development, and support of the Teen Center, the Youth Group that Tami and Robert and others are working to develop, the ongoing efforts of our Sunday School youth to raise $5000 for the Heifer Project that will bless families elsewhere in the world.
4. The Body is built up and strengthened as we support the local Food Bank – assisting families in distress, our love offerings through UMCOR to help relieve the plight of the thousands rendered homeless and destitute following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and even our teamwork to keep the streets of Morton clean and neat.
5. Spiritual Proteins also work to bring healing to the Body through the love, comfort, prayers and support we offer one another in times of trial – when the Body has been wounded by sickness or bereavement. The way members assist in very practical matters with the provision of meals and some housekeeping chores. We bring that healing also when we have wounded someone by a careless or thoughtless word or action – when we have been insensitive – or our well-intentioned remark or action has been misinterpreted - being quick to apologize or seek reconciliation by requesting and offering forgiveness.
6. All of these ingredients are essential to provide the necessary spiritual proteins for the building up and healing of the Body.
CARBOHYDRATES: PROVIDE ENERGY, ROUGHAGE AND SWEETNESS
1. Carbohydrates – are basically the sugars and the fiber we need for energy and strength, plus they add some sweetness to our diet. They are the ingredients that make us feel good and give us our “get-up and go”. The fiber helps provide essential roughage to keep our systems cleaned out.
2. I believe that some of the primary ingredients of both energy and sweetness in the Body come from our corporate and personal worship of God.
• Hymn 462 states in the opening verse, “’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus and to take Him at His word”
• Hymn 334 states “There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place, and I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord”
• The more we adore and lift up the Lord in our songs, our prayers, our love and worship – the more we are drawn intimately into His presence and that is sweet.
3. True worship – which includes all that we do in the service – the adoration, the prayers, the music, the offering, the singing, the delivery of and reflection on God’s Word, the gathering around the table for Holy Communion, our gatherings for baptism – all these are what energize, motivate, and empower us to do the will of the Father. As we spend unhurried time in God’s presence so our wills are brought into alignment with His and we begin to have God’s bigger and broader perspective on things rather than just our own.
• The weight and burden of our sins and guilt is relieved and we are able to get up again and move ahead renewed and invigorated with God’s joy and power.
• Our fears and frustrations find resolution and the energy we had wasted on those negatives we are able to re-direct into more positive and productive pursuits.
4. The “holy hugs” we give one another and the genuine affirmations we speak into one another’s lives help create a safe place where I know that my blunders and my failures and my shortcomings will be dealt with gently and compassionately with the goal of restoring and strengthening me - not keeping me at arms length.
5. The actual process of repentance and confession and forgiveness is the vital roughage the Body needs to get rid of the waste products and keep it from becoming constipated. And if that process remains current and frequent - and we don’t leave issues unresolved for days and weeks or longer - then we will never need unpleasant heavy doses of “spiritual Dulcolax” or an enema to take care of the blockage.
FATS: IN MODERATION PROVIDE WARMTH AND MAKE FOOD TASTE GOOD
1. Fats – in moderation, supply warmth for the body and they just make food taste good. So we add a dab of butter to our corn, or we crisp fry our chicken in butter or oil, we spread some margarine on our toast or muffins, we enjoy some of our rich and tasty desserts. And in moderation, they simply add tastiness and enjoyment to our meal.
2. A moderate layer of fat is also what helps provide some warmth for our bodies.
3. The spiritual application here, I believe, are all those delightful extras we do with one another that add some lightness, fun, and enjoyment to our times together. The activities and interactions that provide the “warm fuzzies” and just make us feel good to be in one another’s company.
• The visiting and greeting time we do at the start of the worship service – the handshakes, the hugs, and the encouraging “good-to-see-you’s” we give one another.
• The refreshments and small talk we enjoy with one another following the service that strengthen our feelings of being connected, accepted, and valued.
• The parties we share in together, the bake sales, the trips we may take somewhere together, the church picnics and barbeques
• Whatever helps build a sense of camaraderie and togetherness and helps people to feel validated.
4. All of these ingredients in moderation help add flavor and delight to the proteins and carbohydrates. Now too much of the fats will produce a body that is overweight, lazy, and complacent and is focused primarily on feeding itself the next fatty meal.
WATER AS AN ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT
1. One of the major commodities called for by the survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita was clean water. We need it to stay alive - we need it for drinking, for cooking, and for staying clean and healthy.
• According to some recent studies the generally accepted wisdom that we need to drink at least 8 oz. of water 8 times a day is not totally justified unless we are fighting off some disease, trying to prevent and flush out kidney stones, during major physical workouts or enduring very hot weather.
• So we maintain a moderate flushing of our system under normal circumstances and increase our intake in times of physical stress and illness.’
2. In the two Scriptures from John’s Gospel that Ann Marie read to us, Jesus refers to Himself as the source of living water which if we drink will not only completely satisfy us, but enable us to be a channel of that same life-giving and life-sustaining water to others.
• John tells us that Jesus referred to water as a symbolic way of speaking about the Holy Spirit
• As we stay close to Jesus, commune regularly with Him, so His Spirit will satisfy our deepest longings, keep the impurities of this life flushed out of our hearts, our minds and our relationships, and make us a conduit of His blessings to all others.
3. So the challenge I want to leave with us this morning is twofold:
• Let us commit ourselves to challenging one another and encouraging one another to a physically healthier lifestyle – helping each other by providing good nutritious foods and snacks at our get-togethers. But more importantly...
• Let us commit to play our part in providing for the balanced spiritual health of this body through our own contribution of the essential spiritual proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and by helping keep the body sufficiently hydrated with the flow of the Holy Spirit’s life and power to refresh us and to make us a channel of God’s blessing to our world.