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Lifestyle Medicine vs. Pill-based Medicine

Last evening, I met someone at the fruit and vegetable store who just stopped following a paleo-caveman diet that a friend of his suggested he follow to lose weight. Yeah, he lost a ton of weight, but he told me that ever since starting the diet in September 2018, he felt terrible. I asked what he meant about feeling terrible, and he just looked at me and said, “I felt weak and constipated and tired. I felt terrible.”

After waking up feeling dizzy one day, he made an appointment with his doctor. Earlier yesterday, his test results came in. Apparently, his paleo-meat based diet was killing him. His cholesterol was through the roof. He has Type 2 diabetes. His A1C levels were extremely high. From his appointment a week before, he knew that his blood pressure was not good. “I was losing weight, but my diet was killing me.”

His doctor sent in a series of prescriptions to his local pharmacy, ordering him to start taking all the meds today. At work, he Googled some of the prescriptions and couldn’t believe the side effects. “When suicide is a side effect, I don’t want none of that.”

A co-worker suggested he follow a high fiber, plant-based diet. He was desperate because he didn’t want to be on pills and shots the rest of his life. So he went to Barnes and Noble and bought the “How Not to Die” book by Dr. Michael Greger. Last night was going to be his first plant-based meal, something that no doubt will shock his girlfriend. At the fruit and veggie store, he and I were looking at the apples when we met. “That last time I ate an apple was last summer.” I patted him on the back and said a prayer with him right in front of the gala apples display.

When I arrived home, I remembered a video that Dr. Greger produced for his Nutritionfacts.org website detailing using diet to reverse diseases caused by the standard American Western diet. Most doctors don’t treat the underlying cause of the diseases we have; instead, they treat the symptoms with pills to mitigate the issues caused by the disease.

As I wrote yesterday, one of the important aspects of our lives in Christ is that God wants our best in everything we say and do. If we treat our bodies poorly with bad diets that give us diseases, then are we truly being at our best?

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Our Best

As we see throughout the Bible, God’s people fail Him nearly every time. The people written about in Holy Scripture are not the greatest, most righteous people ever born. They are weak and sinful, not unlike all of us. But the stories found in God’s Word show us one important fact: It is God who wipes away our failures and makes us new in the regenerating waters of Baptism, the sacrifice of His Son at the cross, and our individual strengthening by the Holy Spirit.

Daily, God takes what is broken and makes it new. 

Evidence from Bible shows us this time and time again. Humanity was created in God’s image, but created lesser than the angels. As such, we’re not as strong physiologically and are prone to doing things that God doesn’t want us to do. However, God works His power through His Son and Spirit to make us new every day.

Refining and strengthening us through His love and grace everyday, we, God’s creation are built up to give to God and others one thing:

Our best.

He wants us to be our best in this life to love Him and others before anything. He wants us to walk faithfully on HIs path to show what it means to be a child of God. Jesus is asked about our lives and what God wants from us. His answer is simple:

(Jesus said) “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 

(Mark 12:30-31)

God’s great directive for us is to strive to be our best – to Him and to others. He doesn’t want half-hearted worship or loving people only when it suits us.

He wants our best always.

Though being our best is not easy. Sin destroys our drive to be our best. We’re not as faithful to God as He wants and never loving enough to those around us.

As a church, I believe we need to begin to study and reflect upon working towards being our best to God and to others. Our daily mission is to be better today than we were yesterday, showing God and others our loving commitment of our discipleship in Jesus.

To be better, this commitment of ours needs to be towards formulating a more passionate prayer life, living a more expressive life of love towards the entirety of the world, including ourselves, and living the joyful hope we have in Jesus. And when we do those things, we do it all to the glory of God.

Isn’t that what Pauls tells the Corinthians? “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

God wants us to be our best.

We, the church, need to rebuild our discipleship lives around giving and being our best. 

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“Rice” Is Not Rice

Louisiana State Sen. Francis Thompson, chairman of the state Senate agriculture committee, said he decided to push a bill to tackle rice labeling, as well as dairy and meat labeling, after meeting with farmer groups. He said he isn’t against cauliflower rice—in fact, he likes the taste—but said he wanted to make sure people weren’t confused.

(Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2019 – “In Louisiana, A Fight Over What’s Rice” )

Confusion?

When people use the phrase “califlower rice,” it means that what is in the package is cauliflower that has been riced. It isn’t white or brown or forbidden rice. It’s califlower that’s been riced.

To a state representative in Lousiana and the people of that great state, this whole “califlower rice” thing is confusing? I don’t think so. It is the politics of food. Those who grow rice or milk cows don’t want plant-based alternatives to call their products what the these farmers and ranchers call their products.

I mean, when you go to a restaurant that serves the Impossible Burger, you could honestly have some issues with understanding that Impossible Burgers come from plants and lab and not Bessie the Cow. When you read that the restaurant is serving an “Impossible Burger,” there is a chance you could think that this is the greatest cow-based burger in the history of planet Earth!

Or you could just read a little further and see that it is a plant-based burger, not from a cow.

That is why it is important to realize that reading is fundamental. Reading the front label on a milk carton is not like reading those legal rules we all skip over when signing up for stuff on the internet. Milk labels, rice labels, pasta labels, and even meat labels are all pretty easy and basic.

  • Oat milk is made from oats (says so on the entire front of a carton)
  • Beyond Meat’s “Beyond Sausage” is made from plants (says so right under the name on the package)
  • Chickpea pasta is made from chickpeas (says so when you’re staring at the package in the supermarket)

There shouldn’t be confusion. Companies actually use the words in the names of their products. I use Oatly oat milk – and they call it oat milk. I am not going to walk up to the cold case in the supermarket and scratch my head trying to figure out what is oat milk and what is not. The name is there.

The goat milk people put their product name on the label. Goat milk contains goat milk. There is no confusion there.

I think all milk that comes from a cow should be labeled as such. “Cow’s milk” in big letters. The time has come for the cow’s milk farmers and producers to step up to the plate, follow the lead of the goat and plant-based milk producers and fix their obvious “confusion” in labeling.

I wonder what this state representative will do with Banza, a company that produces pasta and rice made from chickpeas. To me, when you look at the front of their packages, they clearly label their product, stating in very clean languate that the pasta and rice inside their packages is made from chickpeas. Should the semonlina wheat farmers get all up in arms over this one?

I know, I know – as a pastor I shouldn’t get so seemingly frustrated at stuff like this. Really, it isn’t worth the stress.

Though, I am waiting for someone to complain about Lacinato kale – people call this plant “dinosaur kale.” Maybe some state represenative here in New Jersey can offer legislation banning the use of the term “dinosaur kale” since the kale doesn’t have any dinosaur in it.

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Eat Plants

Explaining the food lifestyle I follow is basically simple:

“I don’t eat anything that had a face or a mother.” 

My eating plan consists of plants – lots of them and in a huge variety. Leafy greens, fruit, beans, legumes, and seeds. 

On April 1st, I made a commitment to really focus on eating a true plant-based diet. I had fallen into the “vegan trap” of eating all of those high-in-fat vegan mock foods and piling on way too many nuts into my diet. What caused me to upgrade my vegan diet to a whole foods, plant-based diet? My scale.

On March 30th, I stood on the scale and looked down – I was abnormally obese, coming in at 262 pounds. For a guy of five foot, eight inches tall, this amounted to a BMI over over 39!! Holy cow! That Saturday morning I committed to reforming my diet, chucking all those mock burgers and fake chik’en from the freezer and replacing them with broccoli. All the “good oils” were poured down the drain and replaced with … nothing. Who really needs olive oil since it is 100% fat? The cashews, peanuts, and walnuts went to the squirrels. Trust me, they were thrilled to get them. 

Whole Foods recently reduced prices on various greens, so I stocked up. Part of my commitment is to eat two salads a day consisting of kale, spinach, and whatever other greens I could get. And I was off. It’s been less than a month and I’m down almost 12 pounds from March 30th.

When I mention to people that I have reformed my diet away from the mock-vegan meats and stuff and now center what I eat around greens, beans, and fruit, of course that elicits a series of questions that try to pin me down to show that what I eat is not healthy.

“What the hell does ‘I don’t eat anything that had a face or a mother’ mean?”

“Uh, I don’t eat anything that comes from an animal. And you shouldn’t use the word ‘hell.’ You’re taking the Lord’s name in vain.”

“OK. No more cursing in front of you, if using the word hell is an actual curse. Back to your diet. Do you mean that you don’t eat hamburgers or steak or KFC?”

“No.”

“What about a good beef stew?”

“Nope.”

“You gotta eat a hot dog or two? You’re a baseball fan.”

“Uh, while I am a Yankees fan, I don’t eat hot dogs.”

“What about cheese? You gotta eat pizza. You’re Italian.”

“No cheese. No dairy. No yogurt.”

“But you have to eat fish? Doctors say it is good for you, those Omega oils and stuff. Keeps your brain in good shape.”

“No fish, either. And you can get those omega oils from plants and seeds.”

“Seeds? Birds eat seeds. Humans eat steak. Where the hell do you get your protein?”

“The word ‘hell,’ again.”

“OK, OK.”

“Protein comes from plants.”

“Oh, come on! There isn’t enough real protein in lettuce!”

“I know this is shocking, but there is protein in vegetables, even in lettuce. Real, honest to goodness protein. Plus, I eat kale. And spinach. And Swiss chard.”

“So, you’re telling me that eating a bowl of green stuff is equal in protein to eating a steak?”

“No, the greens have less protein, but it is good protein since it doesn’t come from an animal. And you don’t need all that protein you get from eating animals.”

“That’s bull! You need protein for life. Didn’t you listen in health class in high school? Protein is the building blocks of life. Protein is best when it comes from a steak or chicken. That has all the protein chain-building things needed for muscle growth.”

“And green leafy vegetables have enough protein to satisfy any human being’s protein needs.”

“Come on! You admittedly get less protein and you don’t drink milk. Where are you getting your calcium from?”

“Kale. Oh, and other green leafy vegetables.”

“So you’re saying that there is calcium in kale? Milk has calcium and lots of it. And it tastes good on cereal and when you dunk an Oreo. Kale tastes terrible.”

“No, kale tastes good. But that’s an argument for another day. Let’s stick with milk: It comes from the mammary glands of a cow or a goat and designed for baby cows and goats to drink so they can grow up to become big cows and goats. It is not designed for human beings to drink. Why? It gives you all the hormones that baby cows and goats need to grow. And it is high in fat.”

“Are you calling me fat? But that’s why you drink skim milk. Less fat.”

“And what about the hormones?”

“Eh, who cares! Milk tastes great cold. Don’t you watch the Indianapolis 500? The winners get to chug milk. There isn’t anything more American than milk and the Indy 500.”

“Yeah. I love the Indy 500. But let’s be honest, if a vegan won the race, they’d probably forego the milk chugging unless it was almond or oat milk.”

“Oat milk? Almond milk? Hate to break it to you, but you can’t milk an almond or a bowl of oatmeal.”

“No, you can’t milk it the way you milk a cow. You create it from combining oats or almonds with water.”

“But that’s all that its in there, water and almonds. Where do you get your calcium?”

“The speciality milks are fortified with vitamins.”

“Ah-ha!! See! You can’t get anything from milking a bowl of oatmeal. All the good stuff needs to be added like calcium and Vitamin D.”

“You know that they add Vitamin D to cow’s milk, don’t you?”

“Well, yeah, but at least you don’t have to add calcium to it like you have to do with oatmeal milk.”

“That’s oat milk. It tastes great. You should try it.”

“Nah, I’m sticking with normal cow’s milk.”

“That’s milk baby cows need to grow up into big, fat cows.”

“Stop that!”

“I love oat milk. It tastes great on a bowl of oats and fruit.”

“Don’t you think it’s weird to pour oat milk over a bowl of oats?”

“Weird? Why?”

“Oat milk over oats? Wouldn’t be easier just to pour water over it?”

“You are making no sense.”

“OK. You say you get protein and vegetables from plants. But without eating meat or dairy, isn’t your diet dangerous?”

“Dangerous? To who?”

“You!! It doesn’t sound like a completely rounded diet. Not enough protein. No amino acids. Calcium from veggies and not milk.”

“So, you’re telling me that eating plants and only plants is less healthy than eating hamburgers or fried chicken?”

“Well, at least you’re getting enough protein.”

“Didn’t we already have this conversation?”

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More Than Just Sunday

When I released my overview plan to transform St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church into a mission center – a plan that I believe will change the direction of small churches in our church body – I did so to begin the discussion of one simple question: What is the Church today?

What the Church Was

At one time, most of our now small churches were vibrant, worshiping lots of people every Sunday. They were places where Sunday Schools were overflowing and ministry efforts were strong. And, most of these Lutheran Churches were ethnic at their core. German, Swedish, Chinese, you name it – many established Lutheran Churches had an ethnic component at their founding. For example, if you were German and Lutheran living in the northern New Milford area in the 1900s, you went to St. Matthew’s because it was a German Lutheran Church.

As time has gone on, the ethnic make up of neighborhoods and communities change and the numbers of people attending church every Sunday dwindles. Newer neighbors who have no connection to a Lutheran church are less inclined to attend, even if the church is around the corner from their house.

The challenge for these churches is to begin and sustain a real outreach effort to not just new neighbors but to families in the region. It is here where churches have stumbled. Outreach efforts cannot be sustained if there aren’t enough bodies in the pews or if the bank account is small. In small churches, they begin to look inward instead of outward.

Sunday Morning Church

In small churches, institutions that worship with less than 50 people per week, just because of the smaller attendance and weaker financials, church is Sunday morning. The focus of church leaders, including the pastor, is to make sure that the doors are open and the lights are on come sunrise on Sundays. Small churches, by their very nature, retract from daily ministry simply because “there aren’t enough bodies to get the work done.” When church events come up, there are always complaints that the same small group of people are doing the work. And as membership grows older, the numbers of people doing the “church things” drops, putting pressure on the remaining members to keep the doors open on Sunday morning.

An Idea

I believe that if we are to change the direction of small churches in our Synod, the first realization that all small worshiping communities have to come to is that there is no grand Daddy Warbucks coming to drop a ton of cash into the bank account. The Synod and all of our individual districts don’t have the resources to pour endlless amounts of dollars into helping keep up small churches. They’d go broke just trying.

Small churches have to realize that in order turn things around, they have to take the first step. They need to take a deep look at their ministry (if it even exists) and make a commitment to change.

Change is hard.

After doing the church thing one way for decades and decades, to admit to yourself that it is not working for the greater church is off-putting. It hurts. You’ve liked coming to that particular building for years and years. You’ve loved singing the same hymns week after week. Maybe there are even times when you like the pastor’s sermon. It is your church.

Admitting that change is needed – dramatic and soul-rattling change – is scary. We love our comforts. When doctors tell us to change our diets, no one wants to stop eating the foods that we like.

Yet to change the direction of a church, this type of change is needed. It means taking a serious look at the entirety of the church and making a true estimate of the effectiveness of the ministry. If at any time during your assessment you start looking inward at yourself and at your comfort level, stop. The assessment should be about how your church is doing and what direction is it headed.

If small churches take this assessment truthfully and without emotion, then they will say that change is needed.

We all have to remember two important aspects of our Christian lives: Churches are not buildings. Churches are the people of God.

Today in many of our small churches, the struggles of ministry and membership and finances are real. If we are to turn things around, we need to commit to major change. Churches need to be more than just a Sunday morning appointment on your calendar. Souls are at stake.

Culture · Gospel Life · Uncategorized

“Have We No Decency”

 

From Mona Charen at The National Review:

Not too long ago, I returned to my parked car and found a sheet of paper on the windshield bearing an expletive-laden message. The anonymous poster had obviously gone to some effort to make these flyers on his home computer — complete with color cartoon figures and such. It let me know what a $#@&*%! I was. My sin was having parked my car a tiny bit over the white line. I confess, I’m guilty. The garage was full of empty spaces, mind you, and it was only a few inches, but still, it was wrong. But did it require that response? If he had to vent his rage, couldn’t he have left a note saying “It’s inconsiderate to park over the white line”? My offense seems to have been merely an excuse. This person, clearly overflowing with hostility to his fellow men, had preprinted these vulgar missives, and delivered them to everyone who offended him.

Is it my imagination or has the tone of the Internet seeped into daily life? People often suggest that Twitter’s cruelty and misanthropy are unique to the format. Announcing that he was deleting Twitter from his phone, Andrew Sullivan advised: “Social media has turned journalism into junk, has promoted addictive addlement in our brains, is wrecking our democracy, and slowly replacing life with pseudo-life.”

Continue reading “Have We No Decency?” Written by Mona Charen at National Review