The GF Diet

Ten years ago you would be hard-pressed to find someone who claimed to be gluten-free unless you were in the midst of a crunchy granola hippie camp. (“That wheat has some totally bad vibes, man.”) It simply wasn’t a concern for the majority. Food bloggers and Internet “nutritionists” hadn’t picked up on it yet as a diet. Celiac sufferers and others of the gluten-intolerant variety simply had to find their own way and suck it up.

Fast forward to present day and gluten-free is everywhere. Restaurants have gluten-free menus. Store brands carry all sorts of gluten replacements made with nut or rice flour; everything from brownies to pancakes to chicken nuggets. It is uplifted as the new diet, the modern way to lose weight and feel good. The same principle applies to sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan, Paleo, etc. They’re always coming up with alternatives.

One could almost say they’re in the business of it, because they’ve been trying to think of an alternative to God for an awfully long time.

Whether it’s through another belief, a self-help class, spending time with your family, focusing on your career, YOLO-ing your way through life, studying scientific theories, or diving headfirst into your own ribcage because “life is all about YOU being happy”, the world is constantly throwing puzzle pieces at you. “Did that one fix the hole in your heart? What about this one? I swear, this one will fix it.”

No matter how long we sit around a table covered in temporary conveniences and religious building blocks in an attempt to make our own meaning or our own legacy, it will never fill you up. A God-free diet is a failure. The world does not give as the Lord gives. It has no alternative to the peace and love God lavishes on you, and God will never give the same pain or emptiness that the world has in abundance.

That is His promise to you.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

Now, go forth and enjoy your almond-flour cookies.

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Under a Week

I’m leaving for Africa in under a week.

As you might be able to perceive, this has caused somewhat of an explosion of different emotions. Anticipation, anxiety, impatience, excitement…it’s all popping up like Mexican jumping beans. I feel simultaneously totally ready and completely unprepared.

I’ve been loading up the Kindle with books, packing away my fuzzy travel blanket, ensuring that I have my passport and immunization records, selecting the clothes I’ll be wearing for those three weeks, etc. I’m also trying to forget the sheer number of hours I’ll be stuck in a 2×4 inch airplane seat with limited physical or mental stimulation. Sadly, “Beam me down to Africa, Scotty!” is still many years in the future.

I have been told that there will be Wi-fi at the guesthouse where I will be staying, which means I will have the ability to continue posting. My prayer is that I will be able to put into words what I experience to keep those of you who are interested updated and as a reminder for myself when my memory begins to fade.

For those of you who have no clue what’s happening, I’ll give you the quick version: I leave for Malawi on August 4th as part of a mission trip with four others to teach VBS (Vacation Bible School) to three different groups of children in three different villages over the course of three weeks. The mission is handled by WELS Kingdom Workers.

Although I can’t foresee what Africa will do to me, my writing form and style will most likely change with the different conditions, so just a heads-up that my next several posts may not possess the cocktail of funny, intriguing, and spiritually inspiring that I usually do my best to serve up.

This is an incredible opportunity and I can’t wait to just get there and begin. Thank you to everyone from family members to anonymous donors for your love and support. God, all I can do is hand it over to you and go along for the ride.

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” – Romans 10:14 NLT

Click Away

Has anyone else noticed that Facebook is slowly taking over all the websites on the entire Internet? Everywhere you go, whether you’re looking for a zucchini bread recipe or videos on how to perform open-heart surgery at home, you will find a little Facebook icon somewhere on the page. “Sign in with Facebook!” “Do you want to share your top score on ‘Life Waster 3000’ on Facebook?” “Invite Facebook friends?” The World Wide Web is saturated with Facebook. You can’t run away from it! It’s like the McDonalds of online media: Everywhere you turn, there it is.

Now imagine that for a whole week you cannot see anything about Facebook in your daily Internet explorations. No icons, no share buttons, and especially not visiting the Facebook website itself. This would be ridiculously difficult in this modern age! If you were to continue the online intake you currently have, there is a 99% chance that you are going to see something about Facebook. It’s unavoidable unless you take the greatest, most meticulous care in what websites you visit and how you act.

I’ve used Facebook as an illustration for the impurity that exists on the Internet. It is so easy to take a wrong turn and drop smack in the middle of something you never wanted to see. And if you go looking for it on purpose, it is assured that you will find it. And what with the inventions of incognito mode and the “delete history” button, no one has to know, right?

Being a Christian in the world we live in is full of temptations all on its own, but the Internet has opened up so many more opportunities for sin right inside of our homes. This is something to be aware of. Amazing things can be done through this unbelievable gift that God has given us. We can connect with people who are on the other side of the world. We can make Christian resources easily available to the general public by putting it up on a website. It is a tool to be taken advantage of.

Yet it is dangerous. We have become very comfortable with its existence and I believe that some of the rules we young people used to be held to before they could even touch the keys of the keyboard have been dismissed and faded. Keeping clear eyes, pure hearts, and retaining the ability to shut the computer down and walk away is a skill that needs to be called back. As children of God we cannot throw away grace for fleeting seconds of pleasure that a laptop can give us because it is simply not worth an eternity in hell.

So next time? Click away.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8 NIVUK

 

Those Young Whippersnappers!

My nine-year-old brother has a rather jaded impression of what teenagers are. In his mind, they are lazy bums who text and Snapchat their friends every waking moment with a disinterested expression on their face for 99% of the average 24-hour day. They have an appalling taste in music and in the end their overall appearance is of nothing. No appeal, no work output, nothing.

Unfortunately I think there are many that would agree with him. Many who were teenagers often forget the unsteady feeling of that age and those who have yet to achieve the “terrible teens” either bow down in blind hero worship or, like my brother, are completely disgusted of the entire concept.

My goal is to change that. Yes, it’s an awkward phase. Yes, the majority of teens are still discovering what the the world around them is and means. Yes, rarely ever do these halfway humans know what they’re doing. Am I still going for this? Definitely.

The Bible clearly showcases that such a thing can happen. A little girl in 2 Kings 5:2-3 essentially saves a guy named Naaman from the horrors of leprosy. David was a young shepherd boy when he slayed the crap out of Goliath. Jesus was merely twelve years old when He completely blew the minds of the learned teachers in the temple. It’s not impossible.

When it comes to God, there is no “not old enough”. As He has stated again and again, He doesn’t just use people who feel ready or the ones who are well adjusted to their bodies and characters. There is no discrimination in who can spread the love of God. My mom read a book recently about a nineteen-year-old woman who went to Uganda and taught kindergarten there to 100-something kids and ended up adopting thirteen orphans as a single unmarried girl. If that isn’t a prime example of how little effect age has on the way God can use you in your life I don’t know what is. Age is not and never will be a factor.

A phrase that I have heard many times in various different ways is “That’s astonishing for your age”. I want to strike that from everyone’s vocabulary. Make those acts of showing Christ so commonplace in today’s teenagers that it becomes a cultural norm. The term “teenager” has come to mean someone who doesn’t do anything extraordinary. That shouldn’t be. We are the representatives of the Lord of the Universe. Whether we be thirteen or thirty, it’s time we do Him justice.

Youth aren’t the future of the church. We’re the present.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV

 

That’s the Power of Prayer

“How many times a day do you pray?”

Oh, the awkwardness of that question. It’s like when the dentist asks if you’ve been flossing. You know the answer doesn’t give you a favorable report and makes you look bad. So you give the uncomfortable side grimace and shrug, hoping that if you avoid the truth and change the subject, the whole thing will eventually be forgotten and you can shove that icky feeling under a rug for the time being.

Sure, I pray. When I’m sitting around the dinner table with my 100% Christian family or in other socially obligated situations, I can bow my head and murmur a few “faith words” as well as anyone. But when I’m alone or with religiously ambiguous people, I give God the cold shoulder. I have yet to fully realize the power of prayer.

Because first of all, nothing happens without prayer. Trying to pull something off without prayer is like attempting to direct small children without talking: a whole lot of mess happens and productivity ceases to exist. It doesn’t work. We don’t live in the Old Testament when we had to speak through a priest. We have the amazing luxury of being able to talk to our Lord and Savior directly without any fanfare, yet we don’t take advantage of this gift.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” – James 5:16b-18

And how many times do we simply thank God? Not necessarily when something good happens either. We should be praising God for His gifts no matter what, because we have the constant comfort of His love and mercy waiting for us.

“I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
    I will glorify your name forever.” – Psalm 86:12

If you are in want, ask. God hears everything and no matter how inconsequential or small it may seem, you can ask him for anything. Nothing is too big or too small for God. He knows you and He knows your wants, but He also wants to hear you, His dearly beloved child.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

And sometimes it feels like you have nothing to say, and that’s fine! Just start talking. Unlike humans, God will never tire of hearing you talk to Him. Speak to Him as you would your best friend and Father. You are His favorite creation, and whatever happens you may trust that His love will always be extended to you without fail and that your prayer will never fall on deaf ears.

“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” – Psalm 17:6

The Hyena-Whale

Common belief today among scientists is that a hyena-like, cat-like, or a hippopotamus-like animal evolved into whales.

Now, I don’t know the extent of your knowledge concerning whales, but let me remind you that the largest species of whale, the blue whale, weighs in at 360,000 pounds, measures 100 feet long, has a tongue the weight of an adult African elephant and possesses a heart the size of a compact car.

Already, this isn’t looking good.

Shall we go over all the things that would have to occur for a hyena to become a whale? I think it would be beneficial for everyone.

#1: The hyena would have to develop a dorsal fin.

#2: The bony tail of the hyena would have to change into a cartilaginous fluke.

#3: The hyena’s teeth would have to develop into a huge baleen filter.

#4: The hyena’s hair would have to nearly disappear and be replaced by blubber for insulation through chance mutations in the DNA.

Nope, still not done.

#5: The nostrils would have to move from the tip of the hyena’s nose to the top of the whale’s head, disconnect from the mouth passage, and form a strong muscular flap to close the blowhole.

#6: The hyena’s front legs would have to change into pectoral fins.

Not the end yet, hang in there.

#7: The hyena’s body would have to increase in size from 150 pounds to 360,000.

#8: The hyena’s external ears would have to disappear and then develop to compensate for high-pressure diving to 1,640-feet deep.

Last one…

#9: The hyena’s back legs would have to disappear completely.

This course of events would have to happen completely by accident through a series of random mutations (despite the fact that more often than not mutations in DNA result in sicknesses and defects) and natural selection. Not to mention how many retries and mulligans this would require to get the perfect mix.

In fact, the chances of a hyena becoming a whale is less likely than the chance of winning the national Powerball Lottery every year in a row for the next 200 years. Or throwing 2,000 dice up all at one time and having every single one of them come down on three dots.

For those of you who like your numbers, the odds of a hyena becoming a whale are 1 in every 364 followed by ONE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED TWENTY-FIVE ZEROS. You have to be a bloody rocket scientist to even imagine that number.

And this supposedly happened with multiple species and animal types! Apes to humans! Fish to alligators! Single cell organisms to life as we know it today!

The odds are not in evolution’s favor.

 

Source material – Evolution: The Grand Experiment Vol. 1 by Dr. Carl Werner.

No Offense

We are so worried about offending people, aren’t we? When we express our opinions to others, we constantly fear that they will not understand us correctly or they will disagree with what you have said and feel animosity towards your beliefs. We prefer to be quiet and make no judgments rather than be taken the wrong way. I used to be absolutely terrified when I was reading a book and someone who had loved it as their firstborn child asked me how I was liking it. Sometimes I wouldn’t have a lot of good things to list and I was embarrassed to say I wasn’t enjoying it as much as they had. It becomes a goal in day-to-day conversation to display as few controversial thoughts as possible. You will play the listener more often just to find out what the popular stances and positions are so that even if the person you talk to doesn’t agree with those things, you still are on the side of the majority and therefore have the upper hand in this situation.

When in church, you are surrounded by fellow believers, and you have no problem whatsoever singing at the top of your lungs to “Happy Day” and coming up to the front for prayer group because everyone else is doing it and it is not considered to be weird. But when it is a crowded room of guys you don’t know all that well whom you’re not quite sure are Christians, how much more hesitant do you feel about singing of joy about Christ’s love for us? Religion is one of the most controversial subjects you could pick! What if these people are atheists? Or hate your guts? Or laugh at you? The downsides seem to outweigh the benefits! Who cares about them perhaps getting closer to God? I don’t want to be a laughingstock!

We put so much merit on others’ opinions that I don’t think we take enough time to wonder who we might be offending or hurting through our silence. What if every time you didn’t ask an acquaintance if they wanted to come to church, it hurt God? A dagger in his heart that two of His children were not listening to Him? God, the Creator of all, Bringer of Life, has asked you to share the Good News, and he says that we will have trials here on Earth because of our beliefs – there is no “if” or “maybe”. You will endure trials. And when we think of those trials we think of chains and being stoned and starvation, physical pain. But it is also being ridiculed and offending thousands of people and being spit on and laughed at.

Sharing the Good News will offend people, no doubt about it. There will always be someone booing from the back of the crowd, there will always be children mocking, there will always be gossiping and jeers. We’re guaranteed it in 1 Peter 4:12-13:

 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Yet after we have gone through the ridicule and disbelief of our fellows, we will run into God’s arms and He will whisper, “Well done, child. Well done.” (Not an exact quotation, I’m not entirely certain what he will say, but I can be sure that he’ll be happy).

The rewards you receive on earth for your masked opinions will be dust compared to the rewards in Heaven.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. -James 1:2-4

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. -Romans 5:3-5