Sunday, July 31, 2011

Battle For The Body: Part One

The average American will eat 15 cows, 24 hogs, 900 chickens, and 1,000 lbs. of assorted animals that either fly or swim over the course of their lifetime.  That is a great deal of flesh to consume for a body that was originally designed to digest fruit, nuts and vegetables. Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."

The enemy of our souls is out to kill us (John 10:10). The ancient serpent known as Satan has been around long enough to know that if he cannot do it swiftly, then he we attempt to do it slowly and deceitfully. My friends, there is an epidemic not only in our nation, but in the Church; and it's called heart disease.  We have been duped and dumbed down as a culture and as a spiritual community as to the dangers of our diet!  We have made our bellies our god and have trusted in the advice of the Food and Drug Administration instead of the Sacred Scripture.  We have made jokes to ourselves that we are glad we're not Jewish while stuffing our faces with pork and all manner of unhealthy fair at the church potluck dinner.  We have smiled with satisfaction after piling it on at a buffet after worship service and praise our children when they eat like horses.  Yes, food has become an idol to the American Church, and we are dying for it!

Because of our ignorance, or subtle denial of Scripture pertaining to food, we have invited a silent killer to join us at the dinner table.  As Bible-believing Christians, we will be without excuse when we stand before God to give an account for how we treated our bodies.


In the United States alone, someone has a heart attack or stroke every 30 seconds!  Heart disease has claimed more American lives than all of the wars, natural disasters, and car accidents combined in the past century.  Christians are not exempt from this threat!  Some will say, "Well, when it's my time to go, it's my time to go." or they might say, "If I'm gonna die young, I might as well enjoy what I eat until then."  I'm not sure that such humor will be present when their chest has been sawed open and balloons have to be stuck into their arteries. This is plain stubbornness, ignorance, and rebellion to God's word.  I would submit to you that many a good men and women of God have been taken out of their ministry calling and destiny because of disease and premature death that could have been prevented with self control and proper stewardship of one's body.

Please, do not misunderstand me; if you are struggling with weight or obesity, I am not condemning you, but rather trying to encourage you in love to begin stewarding your life as a gift from God!  We will have to give an account as to how we stewarded our bodies while on earth.  We must begin asking ourselves what ministry assignments or callings that we may be  missing out on because we are either too fat or too sick to accomplish them.  It is easy for us as Christians to stand in judgment of people misusing their bodies in a sexual way, but we tend to turn a blind eye to those who may be absuing their bodies with poor diets.  Is this love? And, what the heck does this have to do with monasticism?

Well, the monastic traditions began as early as the 3rd century A.D., when the church had begun to become more culturally accepted and institutionalized by the state.  Christian ascetics would flee the world to live in protest against the luxury and compromise that was infecting the church.  Eventually, godly men and women began to develop communities where they could live out their faith as they saw to be consistent with the first century church and the teachings of Scripture. It was in this context that many monastic communities established rules of life to ward off the "sins of Sodom", namely arrogance, apathy and gluttony.

It is not widely known amongst Christians that the great sins of Sodom, from whence it incurred God's wrath, was not primarily homosexuality, rather gluttony, pride, and a neglect of the poor.  "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49). 

It was Saint Benedict, known as the father of Western Monasticism, who established one of the first monastic rules of life, in which the monks' diets could consist of whole grain flour, beans, eggs, cheese and fruit; flesh meat was forbidden.  For those of us who are accustomed to bowing down in worship to three large servings of meat or more per day, this may sound preposterous.  However, its example is not only found in scripture, but has been proven by countless medical studies to reduce the effects of aging, heart attack, stroke, obesity, cancer, and colorectal disease. 

Trappist monks also live on meager diets made up of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains.  The Trappist abstain from any animal products such as meat, eggs, butter and lard, as well as stimulates like coffee, tea or tobacco, all of which have been found to be detrimental to our health.  Now, one might thing that these monks would be feeble and scrawny men who lack in protein, but upon closer investigation, one would find that these monastics are strong and robust men who work daily on their feet and with their hands.  It is interesting to note that, like their Benedictine cousins, they too survive and thrive on one meal a day from September 14th to Ash Wednesday!

Please understand that I am not advocating that all Christians should become vegetarians or vegans, for I myself am not one (yet), but I am under the conviction that the body of Christ in America has lost much of her effectiveness and spiritual awareness due to our being overfed!

It's tragic to note that one in two American men will die from heart disease and one in three American women will die from the same.  Why?  Because of the cholesterol obtained from animal products. 

The U.S. leads the world in cholesterol intake and death from heart disease.  Cholesterol forms a plaque along the walls of our arteries which are the mechanisms for blood and oxygen to be transported throughout our body.  When the plaque builds up enough, the arteries are clogged and blood and oxygen are not allowed to reach their intended destinations.  The average American has a cholesterol rate of 210 which equates to a 50-50 chance of dying from heart related illness.  The tragedy of this all, is that instead of prescribing patients with a healthy diet, Doctors are under increased pressure to push pharmaceuticals to their patients so that they can continue in their unhealthy lifestyles, much to the shame of those who are have been given the responsibility for healing. 

Another interesting fact to consider is that fat exists in a semi-solid state at 98.6 degrees.  In other words, just because fat enters your body, does not mean that it magically liquefies.  This is why most heart attacks occur after ingesting a meal consisting of high fat foods.  This also explains why seemingly healthy people who run and lift weights on a daily basis may drop dead from a heart attack.

Perhaps the Trappist and Benedictines learned their practices from a few young men found in the record of the Holy Scripture.  Let us recall that Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego (Daniel 1:1-21) had been taken captive by the Babylonians and were chosen to serve in the king's palace.  They were also apportioned food from the king's table which included all sorts of "delicacies" and wine (no doubt meat products and foods rich in fat and cholesterol).  Daniel had purposed in his heart not to defile himself with the king's delicacies and entreated the chief eunuch who was in charge of their health and training to allow he and his friends to eat a diet of vegetables and water.  After agreeing to a ten day test, the chief eunuch examined the young men and found that "their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of  the king's delicacies." 


The interesting part is the verse that comes next!  Scripture tells us that after they were allowed to continue in this "veganesque" diet, "God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.  Could it be that our American diets, filled with meat products, pesticides, processed and packaged foods, preservatives, antibiotics, steroids, and animal by-products are not only killing our bodies, but stifling our ability to think clearly and make sound judgments? 

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought with a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies."   If the temple is cluttered, clogged, diseased and not kept to specification, is it any wonder that we cannot clearly hear from God and thus obey His will with passion and vitality? 

To be continued...

Next week we will be discussing the impact our American diets have on the environment, the economy, and the poor.  In the mean time, check out http://www.vegan-gal.com/ .  Some of the facts and statistics mentioned in this post were gathered from Jill Ovenick's lecture on cholesterol and the American diet.

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