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Read Luke 7:31-35
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:10a NRSV)
As a person who has a sense of humor, there are certain comedies that I consider to be an important part of my life experience. One of those comedies is Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part 1. A part of the joke, of course, is that there actually is no “Part 2”. But what I most love about this film, is that it covers some serious events in history with levity. It is a satire on human history as we know it.
At the very beginning of the film, we come across cavemen who have learned how to build fire, who have invented the wheel, and even learned how to sing and harmonize. At one point, the narrator says that humans learned the value of fine art. As the narrator is guiding us, we see one of the cavemen painting an animal on the way. “But with the birth of the artist,” the narrator continues, “comes the afterbirth of the critic.” The camera pans up to reveal a man urinating on the painting that the caveman just took the time to create. Too much information…I know.
One of the many things I have learned in my life is that that you just simply cannot please everyone and, truth be told, that there will always be naysayers. When I weighed 306 lbs, there is no doubt that people used to judge me based on my weight and appearance. People’s perception of me was that I ate too much, that I was lazy and inactive, and I am sure there were other perceptions as well. The truth be told, I have never been a lazy or inactive person, even when I weighed that much. But still people based their opinions of me off of their perception of me. I used to get told all the time to watch what I eat and to control the portions of that I consumed every day.
When I began juicing I am sure that there were many people betting on how long I would last. I am sure that many people did not think that I would last through the fast or, if I did, that I would not keep the weight off. Since I lost all that weight and now follow a vegan lifestyle, people question whether I am getting the proper vitamins and nutrients. They question where I get my protein from. People also now percieve me to be “iron-willed” and I always hear people say that they couldn’t be vegan like me because they “love food too much.” Of course, that implies that I don’t love food very much at all, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
The point of this really isn’t about me, but about the fact that there will ALWAYS be critics and naysayers. People will think what they will think no matter how hard you try to get them to see things differently. And to be honest, we’ve all played the part of the naysayer and critic ourselves. Each one of us have been critical as much as we have been criticized.
The truth is that you don’t have anything to prove but to God…and God already knows your abilities, your capabilities, and your heart. Don’t waste your time fretting about what others think of you. Take constructive critique, use it to your benefit, and ignore nonconstructive criticism. God knows who you are, and it is important for you not to forget whose you are. Also, be mindful of when you are playing the part of the critic. Be supportive of the people around you. Give prayerful and constructive critique, but don’t give nonconstructive criticism. Trust in God. Know that you have nothing to prove and that no one has to prove anything to you either. May you ever grow in that understanding.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“You don’t have to prove anything to anyone but to yourself and to God.” – Katherine Ann Lattig
Lord, help me to stop seeking human approval and to learn that your approval and your grace is sufficient for me. Also, help me to be less judgmental toward others so that I may be in line with your golden rule. Amen.
Read Matthew 10:24-27
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:31)
Being different is not always an easy thing. In fact, I would say it is rarely an easy thing to be different. For whatever reason, humans strive to be like the people they around. It almost seems instinctual to conform. Perhaps it is, in part, a survival instinct. Perhaps it is intricately tied in with us being social creatures. Whatever the reason, people lean toward conformity.
I even find myself conforming to things without really giving it much thought. It just seems so natural not to resist the status quo, it seems so safe and comfortable. And, indeed, to not conform certainly ushers in unintended consequences. I have learned this, big time, as I changed my lifestyle regarding what I eat. Two years ago, as many know, I went from being an omnivore to an herbivore, meaning that I no longer eat meat or any products derived from an animal.
At first the reason I did so was for my health. Doctors, family, friends, and others had badgered me for years about losing weight. I had gotten as heavy as 315 lbs (though I was only 306.9 lbs when I started my juice fast) and people kept telling me I needed to do something for my health and for my family, especially for my wife and daughters. Of course, that’s easier said than done; however, finally, in January of 2012 I found something that worked. I had tried to lose weight before, but I would only lose so much and then gain even more back. But juicing for 60 days and then remaining vegan worked…and I felt healthier than I can EVER remember.
That’s good new right? So, naturally, that led me to want to share that good news with others! That’s what we WANT to do with good news when we receive it, right? We want to share it. The only problem is…people often don’t want to hear the good news. My non-conformity to the American lifestyle, and my sharing that with others, turned into a threat for some, and an annoyance for others. Some (not all) of the same people who initially encouraged me to lose weight, were now suddenly singing a different tune. I had stopped conforming to the typical American lifestyle and that bore some consequences.
Now, I am not sharing this to bemoan the consequences that have come with my being vegan. Quite the opposite. I am happy with my lifestyle changes! I am thankful for the people who challenged me to lose weight and I am glad I found a lifestyle that is TRULY healthy. The point of this, rather, is to say that there is a cost to being transformed. The Good News of Jesus is even more transformative, and even more non-conformist, to the Western culture we live in than my being vegan is. And, without any doubt, there is a definite cost to being transformed by that good news.
You will want to share it with others and not everyone will be very receptive to it. They may get annoyed, and many will even feel threatened by the Gospel because it is calling them to change from their conformity to the world. The Gospel calls us to be LOVE, to partake in social justice, to love GOD ABOVE ALL ELSE, and to become the SERVANT OF ALL! That is a large pill for many in our self-centered world to swallow and we need to be aware of that reality and prepare for that cost. Yet, the GOOD NEWS is just THAT GOOD and, if we are truly transformed by it, we will feel compelled to share it regardless of the cost. So today’s challenge is for you to count the cost, but don’t let that stop you from sharing the LOVE!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Conformity often bears with it the larger, more expensive cost.
Lord, guide me in your ways and fill me with your good news. If I must conform, let it me to your ways and to your will. Amen.
Read Psalm 146
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” Proverbs 3:5
As a vegan, I am someone who is ever mindful of what I need to be eating in order to maintain optimum health. I am also one who advocates supporting honest companies who promote healthy living. Just recently I came to a realization that caused my heart to sink. I have been supporting a brand of juices, supposedly all natural juices, called “Naked Juice.” I loved these juices because they were a quick fix if I was in a rush and wanted something “healthy” to drink. They assure everyone on their bottles that they do not use GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in their juices and they put on the facade of being a part of the health food movement.
As it turns out, I discovered that “Naked Juice” is owned by Pepsico…as in the huge soda company that makes products such as Pepsi, Mountain Dew and other toxic drinks that have no nutritional value whatsoever. What’s more, Pepsico donated over $2,000,000 to fight against Prop 37, which was a measure to have honest labeling on food products, so that consumers can know exactly what they are buying. Even worse than that, Pepsico owns Tropicana Orange Juice and a whole host of other popular products. Yikes! Who knew, right?
Have you ever stopped and wondered, “who can I trust?” In the American and/or Western culture, we are bombarded by tons of companies, government agencies and/or people, all begging us to place our trust in them. Yet, time after time we are let down by the reality that most of these things we place our trust in are not trustworthy.
Many of us then come to the conclusion that if we are going to trust anyone it is going to be ourselves; yet, how many times have we let ourselves down. I know I have let myself down quite a few times. I put my trust in my ability to eat healthy and stay on track, and yet I find myself derailing every so often. This of course leads me to be doubtful of whether I can even trust myself and my own abilities.
And let us not even mention the church. Can the church be trusted? How many times have people been burned by the church? Unfortunately, this leads many people to come to the conclusion that God cannot be trusted, and if that is the case, who can be trusted? But the reality is that, while the church represents God, the church is still made up of people. And while people can sometimes be trusted, and most people try to be trustworthy, the fact is that people cannot ALWAYS be trusted.
But God CAN always be trusted. Placing our trust in God is not the same as placing our trust in the church. Rather than placing our trust in companies, in products, in ourselves or in institutions such as the church, God is pleading with us to put our trust in GOD and in GOD’s abilities! In fact, if the church would just place its trust in GOD, it would look much different than it often does.
So, today’s challenge is for you to start placing your complete trust in God! Whatever your concerns are, whatever your worries are, whatever your trials and challenges are, whatever your triumphs are, TRUST that God IS and WILL CONTINUE TO lead you from where you are to where God is calling you to be. If you do so, you will find that GOD NEVER FAILS and that your TRUST has finally been placed on the only ONE who is TRUSTWORTHY!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Rather than stamping “In God We Trust” on our money, we should be stamping that on our hearts.
Lord, I put my trust in you to lead me to where it is that you would like me to be. Amen.
Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Leviticus 19:11-18
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
This past Sunday, I just celebrated the two-year anniversary of my starting a 60 day juice fast that would, ultimately, change my life. Sixty days and sixty-six pounds later, I was on the road to a new me…a healthy me…and I wasn’t about to start looking back. From that point on, I stayed vegan. For most people, the word “Vegan” sounds like something from Mr. Spock would say in an old Star Trek episode. All it means is that I abstain from eating meat, dairy, eggs and anything that comes from an animal.
Many people don’t understand why anyone in the world would want to abstain from meats, butter, cheese, milk, ice cream, eggs and all of the things that come from those products. I often get many questions and, to be honest, some people balk at me as if I am a lunatic. While it is true that I may be a little nutty, as it turns out my being vegan has absolutely nothing to do with it! Just ask anyone of my friends and family members.
Of course, I can certainly understand why people are put off by the notion of being vegan. In our culture, it goes against everything we were taught about a well-rounded diet. We’ve been told that we need animal protein, that we need milk to make our bones strong, and who can ever imagine baking without butter and eggs? Seriously! The truth is that I, too, balked at vegans before becoming one. I swore that I was a carnivorous meat-eater through and through. I could eat a block of cheese in a single sitting! I loved cheese! And baked goods, cookies in particular, forget about it! I couldn’t get enough of them.
But in my quest to lose weight and regain my health, I discovered what life without them would be like. I discovered that I would have tons of energy, that I would get rid of all of the diseases plaguing me, and that I would actually LOVE food just as much…if not more so…than I did before! Anyone who knows me knows that I NEVER stop talking about food and I certainly never stop trying new recipes! Yet, the foods I eat are definitely different than the ones I used to consume, and as a result, I am a new and transformed person.
While I have been talking about my personal dietary lifestyle, I can truly tell you that the same principles apply to our spiritual lives. In our culture, we are told to seek fame, fortune, and bliss. We are taught to expect things automatically. We are told what is beautiful and what is ugly. We are told what is healthy and unhealthy; however, a majority of people in our world are plagued with spiritual dis-ease. Many are seeking answers in all of the wrong places and balk at people when they are told that there is a better way.
Yet, there IS a better way! There is a way that is healthy and wholesome! There is a way that leads to abundant life! There is a way that will transform you completely from the inside out! There is a way that will lift you out of dis-ease and into HOPE, HEALING and WHOLENESS. That way was embodied by Jesus the Christ. That way leads us into service of others. That way leads us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It leads us to seek justice and love mercy. It leads us to forsake everything, but the Gospel of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, as rubbish and worthless. Jesus embodied THE WAY and is calling you to join him in doing the same.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Transformation in the world happens when people are healed and start investing in other people.” – Michael W. Smith
Lord, transform me. Lead me on the way toward hope, healing and wholeness so that I may bear witness to it for the transformation of the world. Amen.