Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Poison Your Brain So You're Friends Think You're Hot

Ok, so most of you probably know that I used to be a personal trainer. I want to make sure and re-emphasize the words "used to", because if you know me, I'm sure it's very evident that this "used to" be a very big part of my life. I am very grateful for that time in my life, as it was definitely used as a season to be encouraged and drawn to Christ, as well as a season for the removal of unseen idols. From an educational standpoint, I would say that I was not among the most knowledgeable of trainers, but I definitely gained a substantial amount of knowledge regarding the makeup and movement of our bodies, as well as information about general fitness and nutrition. Part of the reason that I left this career  was out of a response to a Spirit-led tug toward preparation for pastoral ministry, but part of it was for a different reason. For a season, I was definitely caught up in the industry, and all of the idolatry that can potentially come with it. I worked out 6 days per week, ate 6 meals per day totaling over 6,000 calories, and couldn't walk past a mirror in sight without checking myself out. Caught up. It was very hard not to be, considering that virtually every person in my immediate surroundings was also caught up. Toward the end of my training career, my eyes began to be opened up to those sort of idolatries; not just in myself, but in all of my clients. I have always been a guy that finds a lot of joy in helping others. I loved the fact that I could be used to help people meet their goals, and that they would feel more confident about themselves than before they came in the gym. Here is the problem with that though; the Lord began to re-define the word "help" in me. I was able to "help" many people lose a lot of fat, tone up, get a six pack, and just get sexy altogether. But again, toward the end of my training time, what my clients saw as "help", I began to see as not helpful at all. I would say that during the entire 3 years of my training career, I probably had 3-4 clients that I actually "helped", now that I have a new definition of the word. 

I will tell you what I mean by addressing an issue that I believe our culture has fallen prey to. I believe that our culture has substituted internal health with external health. I can go one step further by saying that I believe that our culture has chosen external health AT THE EXPENSE of internal health. Here is what I mean by this. How many of you drink diet drinks? There are probably many of you that would answer "yes" to that question. If I were to ask you why you drink diet drinks, the majority of you would probably say something like "less calories" or "less sugar." Everyone is under the impression that "sugar means fat," and that "low calorie diets will keep you from getting fat." So, underneath our motivations to drink diet drinks would most likely be to avoid getting fat. This is a perfect example of what I'm addressing. Diet drinks absolutely have fewer calories. Diet drinks absolutely have less fat. But, there is an ingredient in diet drinks called aspartame. Aspartame was actually denied 86 times by the FDA because of its' level of toxicity to the brain. Many studies have linked aspartame to complications such as; multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, methanol toxicity, and birth defects. But the good news will keep you from getting fat. Solution: poison your brain so that your friends will think you're hot!

Every one of my clients was so intent on being sexy, avoiding fat, getting swole, and fitting in their jeans. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to help them, but by continuing to do this, I was potentially playing a significant role in fueling an image-motivated, approval obsessed, self-conscious mind. "Helping" them was more realistically turning into "hurting" them. 

I am absolutely not writing this to harp on diet drinks. Diet drinks are my illustration, because I think this issue plays itself out in more than just a gym. Christians, this is an issue we must also war against. We were called out of darkness, so that we could be saved, but also to represent Christ through our lives. Every one of us would say that it is absolutely absurd to  "poison your brain so that your friends will think you're hot." But how many of us do this everyday? Imagine a brand new cherry red 2012 Mustang GT, with 20 inch chrome wheels, euro lights, racing stripes, and tinted windows. Imagine if someone offered you this car for free, the only catch is, there's no engine. There's absolutely nothing under the hood. Would you take it? NO! Because it will not be able to accomplish what a car is meant to accomplish. It may seem like it could, but it will not. I fear that we, as Christians, look no different than the rest of world in this category. How often do we create an image of ourselves that would demand the respect and approval of the rest of the world? Or worse than that, the church? We've bought into the lie that if you look good, you also feel good. I contend just the opposite. How exhausting is it to clothe a painful, hurting body with purple robes, diamonds, and gold every day? What a foolish substitution! Especially considering what we are offered. To substitute godliness with the appearance of godliness does nothing but pour salt on your wounds. We've got to get out of this! We've got to walk in the light and lay down our hopes for our reputation! I pray the Lord would help us believe that we have been clothed in pure, white vestments. 

Here are some scriptures that will hopefully encourage us today: 

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”
(Zechariah 3:1-4 ESV)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

(Galatians 1:10 ESV)

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

(James 4:6-10 ESV)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:5-9 ESV)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Two Truths And A Lie

Have you ever played the game "two truths and a lie"? If you haven't, I will explain the nature of the game. Basically, I would come up with three statements about myself. Two of them would be true, and one of them would be a lie, and the object is for the other person to guess which statement is a lie. Here is an example:

1. I have performed on the Ryan Seacrest Show
2. I made it to Hollywood on American Idol
3. My cousin won the Masters Golf Tournament 2 times.

Now, the object would be to guess which of these three statements is not true. I will just tell you that I never made it to Hollywood on American Idol. I tend to think I could come close, but that's beside the point :)

 Anyway, the interesting thing about this game is that it's very possible for a lie to seem like it's true, and for a truth to seem like it's a lie. This brings about an interesting question. How can you know if something is a lie? I contend that the only way to know if something is a lie, is to know what the truth is. For example, I could tell you that I did make it to Hollywood, and the only way you could actually know if I were lying, is if you had evidence of the truth; or if you personally knew that I did not, in fact, make it to Hollywood.

This is such an important concept as a believer. Even using that word, "believer", implies in a belief that something is true. The reason why this is important is because, as the game demonstrated, lies can actually deceitfully present themselves in such a way that could convince us that they are actually true. Sometimes lies seem like the truth. To get personal, sometimes the way we feel about something we know to be a lie, makes us actually want it to be the truth, and therefore stand on it as if it were the truth. Sometimes, though we would say with our mouths that we believe that something is a lie, our hearts may actually be believing that it is the truth. So, again, the only way to know that something is a lie, is to know what the truth is. Here are some examples of lies that the culture tells us about ourselves, that we often believe to be true:

1. Women must be sexy and revealing to be beautiful. (seems like that is truth, right?)
2. Men must be rich and powerful to be respected. (seems like that is truth, right?)
3. In the end, money really will make you happy. (seems like that is truth, right?)

 These are very simple, general lies that we are all familiar with, but you get the picture. Again, the only way to know that these are lies, is to replace them with the truth. For example:

1. "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" (Prov 31: 30)
2. "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you." (James 4:10)
3. "For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil." (1 Timothy 6:10)

 Knowing that we often fall prey to even the simplest, most direct and obvious lies that are given to us, how much more important is it to know the truth, when considering lies that we are believing that we may not even be aware of? What about lies concerning what we believe about God? I do not know what all of these specific lies may be, but one thing I do know, is that there are lies that each one of us are believing that are simply not true. Not just that, but we are not even aware that many of these are even lies. They seem true to us, so they must be true. Again, the only way to know if they are lies, is to KNOW THE TRUTH! Ephesians 6:14 says, "Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth." The only way to extinguish the lies that will be thrown in our direction, is to know that they are not true; and the only way that we can know that they are not true, is to know the truth. In this case, the truth is His Word. I fear that we have taken feelings, and the way that things seem, and claim them to be true, without actually considering what the truth really is. I know that this is the most overly used Sunday School answer ever, but the reality still remains; we must read our Bibles more.

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15