We Have A Food Problem

Have you eaten your kale today? If so, congratulations! You’re going to live to be 119 years old. If not, it’s been nice knowing you but your number’s probably getting called later this week.

You can tell a lot about a society by how they view food. Our society has a lot of explaining to do.

Imagine what it would be like if Moses were standing before the burning bush today and God was promising to use him to lead the people of Israel into a “land flowing with milk and honey.”

Moses had his hesitations when this originally happened. I’m convinced that he would have a whole new set of concerns today.

“Explain this milk, Lord. Was it sourced from grass-fed, free-range cows? And about that honey, sorry, but I’ll have to pass. I just watched a Netflix documentary on how anything that tastes sweet will make your kidneys swell and your eyes sink in. Would you happen to have available a land flowing with kale and emu oil?”

As crazy as that sounds, it’s not too far off from the way it actually went down. The people of Israel were living under harsh conditions as slaves in Egypt. When God rescued them and sent them on their way to a home of their own, he made food rain down from the sky for them.

But it just wasn’t good enough.

Today, for most of us in the United States at least, God has blessed us with more food than our ancestors could imagine.

And still, it’s just not good enough.

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Each week there seems to be a new Netflix documentary about food. And whenever I hear a friend talking about it, they say basically the same thing.

“I’m never eating again.”

That’s because the basic point of most of these documentaries is that Cobra Commander has laced our food supply with poison and if we want to live to see tomorrow, we had better cut back to a diet consisting mainly of organic, free-range, fair-trade hummingbird spit.

Look, I get it. We’ve had a food problem for a long time. People have become too dependent on McDonald’s and frozen “meat” burgers. Side note: never eat any food out of a box with the word meat in scare quotes. But you get my point. Our society has an eating disorder. More specifically, we eat too much and that’s not good.

But recently there has been a shift. Because of the Netflix documentaries and Nutrition Nazis and Food Pharisees we follow on social media, with each bite we take, we take on more guilt. Or fear. Or shame. Or all of the above.

“I can’t believe I just ate a piece of my kid’s birthday cake.”

“Where was the tomato in my salad harvested from and what type of pesticide was used on it?”

“What kind of damage will that ice cream cone do to next week’s Instagram pool selfie?”

Instead of scaring ourselves and our kids to death with another food documentary, we need to cook with them and model the right way to enjoy food. We need to demonstrate self-control and gratitude. We need to stop stressing over every calorie we consume.

We need to relax.

For those who tend to eat too much food, we must relax in the sufficiency of Christ. We must remember that no matter how much we eat, we will be hungry again. And if we don’t keep that hunger in check, our appetite will strangle us. Instead, we must, “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Only then will we find satisfaction. Only in the righteousness of Christ do continual desire and continual satisfaction live in harmony.

For those of us who are slowly working themselves down to a diet of nothing, we must relax in the sovereignty of Christ. Otherwise, we will make ourselves crazy worrying about the cow that our milk came from and the grass that the cow ate and the water that the farmer gave to the cow and the mental health history of the farmer who cared for the cow. It never ends. Each bite we take must be done with gratitude to Christ while trusting that, “In him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Yes, all things. Even the molecular structure of your quinoa.

God gave us one body and a lot of food. We need to figure out how to be good stewards of both. The answer is not found in full on gluttony nor is it found in documentary fueled deprivation. Both reveal disorders that run much deeper than the amount of food on our plate. The one who gravitates toward gluttony must humbly and Scripturally address his heart’s idolatry of food. The one who lives in fear, guilt and shame with each bite must examine his heart’s idolatry of perfect health and long life.

There is no doubt that too much fried chicken is bad for your heart. But in a completely different sense, too many unnecessary food restrictions can be a sign of a bad heart, that is, a heart that cherishes the gift of live over the Giver of life.

I am what you might call a health nut. I can’t remember the last time that I ate at McDonald’s. I stay away from white sugar. We have a lot of organic food in our pantry. There are two things that I have notice about our lifestyle. First, there’s always someone more nutty about their health. Two, there are no guarantees that I’ll live any longer than the guy who eats McDonald’s every day. My body will just biodegrade faster than his.

Unless we’re still alive when Jesus returns, none of us is getting out of here alive. No amount of carrot juice can alter that reality. Bu that doesn’t have to be a sad reality. For the believer in Christ, death does not get the final say. Rather, it is just the beginning of an eternity with no crazy food documentaries, no weird diseases and no food allergies.

In eternity, it will be Jesus, his people, a new heaven and earth and a giant supper where no one will ever be over-served and no one will have to request the gluten-free rolls.

But I’m still not sure if there’s going to be any kale there.

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Jesus And The Hysterical Historians

I love history.

And I hate it.

A few weeks ago, I took my family to Stone Mountain. We made the mile or so hike up the mountain, ate dinner on the grass in front of the mountain, watched the laser show where some kid named Johnny defeated the Devil in a fiddle contest, and complained about traffic on our way home.

We follow that same routine every year.

And every year I give my kids the same speech.

If you’ve never been to Stone Mountain, it’s hard to miss. It’s a giant chunk of granite in Atlanta with a carving of leaders of the Confederacy on it. Every year, my kids ask about the men engraved on that mountain.

Here’s a paraphrase of what I usually say.

“All you need to know about those men and any other person you see memorialized in an engraving or statue is that they aren’t God.”

It would do us good to hear that simple speech a few times a day. Maybe then we wouldn’t be so prone to worship men and identify with woefully imperfect movements.

I love history because I like knowing how we got to where we are. It’s fascinating.

I hate history because I don’t really like hearing about how we got to where we are. It’s often brutal.

I love history because I like learning about regular men and women who did amazing things. It’s inspiring.

I hate history because I’ve grown tired of those regular men and women being treated as gods. It’s hysterical.

What I am about to say is going to sound like something a preacher would say. Forgive me.

The more I study historical figures and movements, the more I am convinced that Jesus is enough. That goes double for contemporary figures and movements.

Dig deep enough into the life of any human being and you will find a mess. A real mess. So we shouldn’t be asking ourselves whether or not we need to remove certain statues and engravings. Rather, we should ask ourselves why we put them up in the first place. And when we’re done with that line of questioning, we should wonder why we choose to identify with them. If we’re honest, the answer has more to do with idolatry than legacy or heritage.

I was born and raised in a southern state that I love but I’m no apologist for slavery.

I’ve been a Christian for most of my life and I am the product of a conservative church where the Bible was taught faithfully. Now I am the pastor of a conservative church where I try to preach the Bible faithfully. But I don’t consider myself an Evangelical. Today, that term has more to do with a voting bloc than it does the body of Christ so no thanks.

I’m a proponent of an extremely limited government. But I just don’t have the stomach to call myself a Libertarian and certainly not a Republican. And when I come across someone who wants universal healthcare, I prefer not to look at them as an enemy. I’d rather view them as a human being I happen to disagree with but who has great worth because they have been created in the image of God. Sometimes my heart wants to go another direction but I’m a work in progress.

My skin is white. Well, that’s what we call it but it looks nothing like the pages in the book next to me as I write this. Either way, that’s not where I find my worth. I have no interest in the Richard Spencer’s of the world who want to use the power of the government to supposedly restore our European heritage. My two sons have Filipino blood running through their veins and I’m proud of it. My great grandmother’s blood was all Cherokee. If anyone wants to talk about preserving heritage it should have been her. But that doesn’t preach well to the crowd that wants to restore this country’s “European heritage.”

Hang on a minute, I’m about to say something else that sounds preachy.

The only cleansing I care about is the kind that comes from the blood of Jesus Christ. Every other human being who made a historic stand against something, even the great ones, to some degree became what they fought against. Through either compromise or a moral compass that never was really set to begin with, even our best heroes are very unworthy of our granite carvings, statues and worship. Not so with Jesus, he touched the untouchable and remained clean. He stood against the great Accuser and remained perfectly holy.

The more I study history, the more my love hate relationship with it grows.

I hate it for how dirty it is.

But I love it for how it serves to highlight the supremacy of Jesus Christ over all other men and movements.

I’ve never gotten a call from a pollster. But if I ever do and they ask me if I’m a Caucasian, evangelical, southern, Libertarian who likes to visit Stone Mountain once a year, at the risk of sounding too preachy, I’ll just tell them that I’m an imperfect follower of the only perfect man who ever lived.

Any other label would just be hysterical.

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