Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's the Calories Stupid

Early in my ministry I noticed how men, scared by a heart attack, began following strict diets and exercise routines. I also noticed how their quality of life improved - even after suffering a heart attack. I decided a long time ago that I'm not waiting for a heart attack to get me to diet and exercise. But I will admit that my struggle with dieting is a lot like my struggle with sin: I'm a saint and a sinner! It is hard to stay on a diet, any diet.

Several years ago I saw a T-shirt that simply said, "It's the Calories Stupid." I'm amazed how this sentence has stuck with me. It really is true. The only effective diet for me is simply counting calories. It is a basic principle of God's creation: Take in more calories than you burn and gain weight, or, take in less calories than you burn and loose weight. But counting calories can be such a pain!

There are, however, some very helpful tools now that make calorie counting much easier. One important tool for me is a website called This website allows you to type in the foods you eat, and it automatically counts the calories as well as the other nutritional information that is available for that food. You can also customize it to remember your favorite meals that you eat consistently (my morning oatmeal, PBJ sandwich, or protein milkshake). Myfitnesspal also has a great iPhone app. The other very helpful tool is a cheap (less than $10) digital scale. Using a scale helps you gauge food portions, and after a while you don't need to use it all the time. You can accurately tell what three ounces of ham on your ham sandwich looks like. The scale totally changed the way I eat certain foods that are real diet busters - things like potato chips!

Counting calories is somewhat like reading the Bible in Hebrew or Greek. My Hebrew teacher, Dr. Andy Bartelt, always told us that reading in Hebrew forces you to slow down and get more out of the text. Counting calories forces me to slow down and mentally "digest" what I am eating. Thinking about it helps me to resist the desire to keep on eating until I feel sick.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Christian and the Environment

This is a brief Bible study that we had in our Men's Ministry Saturday, August 14, 2010.

The environment has been a growing concern in our American culture. President Teddy Roosevelt's love for nature compelled him to preserve beautiful landscapes for all Americans to enjoy. President Woodrow Wilson established the National Park Service. The demise of the last Carrier Pigeon caught people's attention as have other extinctions. But along with concern for the environment has grown an almost religious devotion to it. Henry David Thoreau called for an intimate relationship with nature. Photographer John Muir argued for the inherent rights of nature. NASA scientist James Lovelock taught the Gaia Hypothesis that life on earth is to be understood as one organism. This is an important part of Deep Green ideology and was featured prominently in the film Avatar. Environmental disasters certainly raise awareness of the importance of taking care of the environment. The main question in this Bible study is this: How should Christians care for the environment without falling into the temptation to worship it?

1. What does the Bible say about our relationship to the environment in the following passages?

Genesis 1:28 - Man was given dominion over the earth.
Genesis 2:15 - Man was commissioned to care for the earth.
Psalm 8.6 - Man was given dominion over the earth.

2. Has the Biblical language of "dominion" led to exploitation of the environment?

Secular humanists often complain that the Biblical teaching of "dominion" has led to destruction of the environment. The idea of dominion divorced from caring and good stewardship could certainly lead to this. But dominion is not an isolated concept for Christians, and this type of dominion is a mischaracterization of Christianity.

3. How does Psalm 96.11-13a help us with a Christian view of the environment?

In a number of places the Bible portrays the creation itself glorifying God. This does not mean that plants and animals have souls and a faith relationship with God. However, it does show that creation has a role to play in bringing glory to God (see Psalm 19).

4. How does God's covenant with Noah and the creation in Genesis chapter nine help us see the importance of caring for the environment?

God's covenant with Noah was also a covenant with the earth. He promised not to destroy it again with a flood. His plan to preserve life on the ark shows us His love for the creation.

5. What is the purpose of caring for the environment for a Christian?

By its very existence the creation glorifies God. God loves His creation. We should love what He loves and take care of it as a testimony to Him.

Every part of the environment holds within itself the mystery of creation. By avoiding wasteful and unnecessary destruction of creation we help to preserve the mystery of life. Who knows what benefits (medicines, etc.) may be discovered in any corner of God's creation.

6. What can we as Christians do to "care" for God's creation?

Study environmental issues and take care to avoid unBiblical beliefs such as pantheism and panpsychism.

Work for energy efficiency and reduce trash output.

Support efforts to protect species while working to balance human needs.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Red Chair Videos

In last week's Bible class I gave a little overview of the 2010 Convention of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Despite the structural changes and the election of a new president opposed to many of those changes, there were a number of important decisions. I appreciated, for example, the decision to speed up the process of declaring fellowship with emerging confessional churches. I liked the decision to continue the great work being done to combat malaria around the world. One of my favorite decisions was one encouraging family devotions. I'm a bit partial to that one because I helped write the resolution.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the convention for me was the Red Chair videos. Conventions need something to give delegates a little break from the concentrated focus on resolutions and debate. The Red Chair videos were stories of forgiveness told by the members of the Council of Presidents and the Synod President and Vice Presidents. I especially liked President Kieschnick's story about a school prank in which he was involved. These videos help capture the important theme of the convention: One People Forgiven. Despite the difficulties involved in all conventions, we can be eternally grateful that we are united in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.