It's January and the weight loss gurus are in their glory. As people who over-celebrated and those who made a New Year's resolution to lose weight are deciding what weight loss program they are going to use, magazines, t.v. shows, and the Internet are flooded with information on the best exercise program, the best diet program, what foods to eat, and what foods to avoid. I pay little attention to any of this. I do want to lose a little weight, but I think that when the rubber hits the road in the weight loss world the simple truth is that we have to burn more than we eat. In other words, eat less, move more. This is assuredly a sure fire way to shed those extra pounds.
I don't have some grandiose plan of having a rock hard body that sports 2% body fat in 6 months. I exercise because I want to be healthy. My first grandchild is on the way and I want to do all I can to remain mobile and cognizant so that I will have lots of quality time to spend with them.
I'M GOING TO BE A GRANDMA! I'M SOOOO EXCITED!
I understand exercise pretty well. I was, after all, a college athlete. So the exercise regimen is no problem for me, except the occasional I-don't-feel-like-getting-up-off-the-couch syndrome that we all suffer with from time to time. On the other hand, I've never been knowledgeable at all about food unless we are talking about what tastes good and what tastes bad. LOL! I don't understand the chemistry behind it or how all that chemistry works in the human body. This is the major reason that I gave up the idea of medical school. To me, an element has always been a brand of clothing that I buy on occasion at the mall and nothing more.
So the other day, I thought I would educate myself about foods. I'm now officially more confused than ever! One article said to avoid fat and carbs. Another to eat fat but avoid carbs. Another to eat certain carbs and avoid fat. Another to eat certain kinds of carbs because they will actually help you lose weight. One said to cut out all vegetables except green leafy stuff which means that I will have to throw away the only vegetables my kids will actually eat! Some say don't eat eggs, others say eat eggs. Don't drink milk, drink milk .All these people claim to be "experts". So how do I know who is telling the truth?
The man responsible for all the fitness craze, Jack Lalanne, passed away this week at age 96. One of his most quoted remarks is "if man made it, don't eat it." He claimed to be an expert too. Not only did he claim to be an expert, he proved it. Any man who can swim 1 mile, handcuffed, shackled, and fighting strong winds and currents, while towing 70 rowboats, one of which is loaded with people at age 70 has a lot of credibility in my way of thinking! After 60 odd years of preaching health and fitness, he proved that his ideas were true. He also said, "if it tastes good, spit it out!" He was certainly of the philosophy that we "eat to live" as opposed to "living to eat".
Later that day, I received a Christian Book Distributor catalog in the mail. In it were all kinds of books offering all types of advice on living a healthy, productive, and extended Christian life. Pages and pages on how to have a better marriage or a better family life, how to break bondage and addictions, how to prosper, how to succeed, letting go, giving in, getting free, surrendering, and the list goes on and on. All these authors present themselves as experts too. So I had to ask myself, how do I know which of these books is good? How do I choose a book?
It was then the voice of Jack Lalanne came thundering through my mind. "if man made it, don't eat it." And I thought to myself, "that's good spiritual advice too!" If God didn't write it, don't read it."
I am an avid reader. Right now I have a John Kennedy book, an A.W. Tozer book, an Andrew Murray book, and another book given me by a friend waiting on my night stand to be read. I'm always reading something. I'm very picky about who I read. I don't read just anything and certainly not everything that's out there. I don't assume that just because a person is published proves that they are an expert. After all, Adolph Hitler wrote a book. No, the people I read have to have certain qualifications.
1) First and foremost, they have to base their writing on the practical working out of Biblical doctrine, used in it's proper context. When I read something that uses a Bible verse out of context, even if what they are saying is right, it just ruins it for me. If there's not enough integrity to use verses in context to prove what you say, then your writing has very little integrity at all.
2) They have to have "provable", tangible results that what they are writing is absolutely true and trustworthy. Jesus taught and then he demonstrated. There are so many fly by night ideas about Christianity and ministry out there, many of which have not been time tested. You can draw a big crowd and cause a big stir with a new idea but when the results of that idea are examined 25 years later, what evidence is there that it was true or effective? Many in recent years have claimed to have revival, yet there is no evidence that real change occurred as in the revivals of earlier years. I tend to read the writings of those men and women who caused a stir that was a genuine move of God, not some highly publicized method or new idea.
3) They have to have stood the time test in their personal and ministry life with evidence of prolonged and consistent character. If you're going to preach it, you better live it. There is nothing that has hurt the name of Christ in the world's eyes more than people who have written books and then been found to have some moral failure or flaw. I don't mind people having quirks. That's what makes us all unique but a man or woman who preaches or teaches one thing and lives another is simply a hypocrite. So if I'm going to open my heart and mind to the writings of another person, I want to know for sure that they were consistent in their character and daily living. Otherwise, I might just fall prey to the failings of others. There is much wisdom in the statement "time will tell."
There is so much being written today by people who don't meet any of these criteria.
Most of what I read is either out of print or has been recommended to me by someone I know personally that meets the above criteria.
I don't want to be fooled into trying the latest Christian fad because it's exciting, it's unique, or it's considered the latest, greatest thing. Just as new medications come with a list of warnings, I think Christian books should too. Something like" if you read this book you may experience temporary inspiration that will fade as soon a thin layer of dust accumulates on the cover; there is a real possibility that reading this book will fail in accomplishing the ideas set forth in the following pages; the ideas presented in this book have not been tested and there is no research that says they will produce results in every case or in any case for that matter." Many "new" Christian ideas keep us very busy but on a shallow level, working, working working, but spending little quality time developing our character or spirituality. Some of them are just plain dangerous to us spiritually. This usually becomes evident over time and then a whole new string of books are written telling us how to counteract the effects.
Which brings me to one conclusion. If God didn't write it, don't read it. First and foremost, we MUST be students of the Word of God. People throughout all the ages of the church made it on much less information than we have today. All they had were portions of scriptures. They didn't have myriads of books, teachings on DVD or CD, the Internet or even their choice of churches and pastors. They didn't have Christian political groups, Christian ecological groups, or any Christian "interest" groups. They just had the bare bones, as we might say. Funny, they were so much more productive and effective than the church today. Do you think there's any correlation?
Am I saying don't ever read anything other than the Bible? No! Of course not! God has given teachers. Very often, teachers write. But just as you would not go to any class before examining the credentials of the teacher, don't read whatever book you see that sounds interesting. Be sure that the author has some tangible credibility in the area that has caused you to be interested in the first place.
Many years ago, I resolved to not make any more new year's resolutions. I'm going to break that resolution and resolve that three months out of 2011, I'm going to read nothing but the Word of God, allowing the Holy Spirit to provide the practical illustrations and applications to what I read. As much as it will hurt, the Puritan writings will wait, Andrew Murray will receive a much overdue hiatus, and A.W. Tozer will be stored out of sight (because I'm not sure I could resist the temptation otherwise). I can't wait to see what happens.