Tag Archives: Proverbs

Rule #4: Set specific intentions

torah-scrollI have been exploring the individual rules listed in an article called “Ten Rules Fit People Live By,” evaluating each of them in the light of Biblical teaching. You can check out Rule #1, Rule #2, or Rule #3. Today, we get to examine rule #3: Set specific intentions. Here’s how the author explains this rule.

The more detailed your daily goals and plans, the better. In his book, Harper cites an English study on women enrolled in a weight loss program: The researchers asked about half of their subjects to write down their strategies for managing temptation (for example, When sugar cravings strike, I will make a cup of tea). After two months, those women had lost twice as much weight as women in a control group.

On the surface, this rule seems like a great idea. I’m a goal-oriented person. I set goals (or objectives or plans) for the day, the week, the month, and the year. For example, I have a goal for calorie intake for today. My goal is simple. I’m going to eat no more than 1,750 calories plus one half of the calories I burn through exercise. When I exercised this morning, I burned about 980 calories, so I will allow myself 490 extra calories to be eaten. At the end of the day, my calorie count should be less than 2,240. Good goal, right? It’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed. It’s S.M.A.R.T.! Yesterday, I didn’t meet that goal, going a bit bananas as I watched recorded episodes of NCIS before heading to bed. Still, the goal was good and serves me almost every day.

Similarly, I never go out to run without a distance and/or a pace in mind. I don’t lift weights without knowing what exercises I’ll do at what weights and what reps. Goals are good, especially when they help us with things that could get lost in imprecision. For example, it’s a lot easier to say I’ll eat no more than 2,240 calories than to say, I’ll “eat right” or “cut back a bit.”

Goals are biblical. In Proverbs 21:5, we are admonished, ”The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty,” while Jesus shared the peculiar little parable about building  tower in Luke 14:28: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”

But goals can become an end in themselves. I think that’s why James 4:13-15 warns us about getting too involved in our goals and plans:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

I think the same basic message lies behind the parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12. We set goals. We try to achieve our goals. Sometimes we make it; sometimes we don’t, but trying is a good thing. When, however, those goals become our god, when our goals replace the goals God would establish for us, then we’re just as guilty of idolatry as those who bow down to Baal.

So in the end, rule #4 is a good one but one that can be misapplied. Remember that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Absent that, there are no wise goals.

Reconsidering My Reconsideration

Diet SodaA while back, I shared with you my determination to ween myself off of my beverage of choice: Diet Dr. Pepper. Since I spent a couple of summers working on the grounds crew at Mt. Washington Cemetery, I’ve been a determined drinker of diet soda. At first it was Tab. Then came Diet Coke. For the last several years it has been Diet Dr. Pepper, sometimes splashed with a bit of vanilla when I get it at QuikTrip.

I’m pretty sure that drinking this stuff is better for me than swilling a bunch of high-fructose corn syrup, but I, as I shared earlier, know that I could do better drinking something exotic–like water. That’s why I set my eye on cutting back and then eliminating this drink from my life.

So how am I doing? I’m glad you asked. My progress has been–well, it’s complicated. Right after I wrote that original post, I cut myself back to my first-thing-in-the-morning super tanker from QuikTrip. Then, instead of refilling it on the way home, I’d opt for tea. This process worked for me for a few days. Then I planned to downsize the early-morning cup and eventually cut it out.

But this was when I was building up to run my half marathon. I didn’t want to mess my body up, did I? Surely that wasn’t the right time. And then we were moving toward the end of the spring semester. Why put extra stress on myself then? I could always cut back during the summer, right? Right?

You hear it, don’t you? I’m a veritable fount of excuses. I know what I need to do, but my mind comes up with a succession of rationalizations to keep me from having to do it. Deep down, I know that I’m just avoiding a change to a habit that I find comforting, but if I don’t look deep down, I can convince myself that this is really a good choice.

Excuses are a human specialty. Since Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent for their sin, we’ve been artists working in the medium of excuse. In Proverbs 22:13 we read, “The slacker says, ‘There’s a lion outside! I’ll be killed in the streets!'” Today, I suppose the slacker thinks it will rain or that there’s something good on TV.

I’d love to say that my excuse making with regards to diet soda is at an end, but it isn’t. Perhaps I’ll revisit that reconsideration eventually, but not today.

Love That Body, Men

Muscle BoyOne of my new favorite online voices, Paul Maxwell, grabbed my attention last fall with a post about male body image. Actually, Paul referred to it as an “Epidemic of Male Body Hatred.” We usually think about this with women, but guys are probably just as bad. We just tend less to eating disorders in response.

At the heart of this piece, he seems to ask, “Who are you trying to impress?” He goes on to run through five different potential answers–ourselves, women, peers, fathers, God–and explains the folly of that self-loathing. Instead, he argues, we can find all of our answers through the unconditional love of Jesus.

Maxwell does not speak against your efforts to lose weight or lift it:

You don’t have to stop lifting or dieting or supplementing. And maybe you should start dieting and exercising. This isn’t a rebuke in either direction. It’s an invitation to perspective and intimacy — with ourselves, the opposite sex, the same sex, authorities, and God. Love is better than protein (Proverbs 15:17). In his abundant love, God delights in everything about you, including your body.

Instead, he calls Christians to keep that weighty action in perspective.

Nothing but Fear Itself? (Psalm 19:9)

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
and all of them are righteous. (Psalm 19:9)

Franklin Roosevelt famously warned America that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Spoken during the worst of the Great Depression, these words, uttered by a powerful politician, were amazingly silly. Did the people of Oklahoma not have to fear all of their topsoil blowing away to the east? Did people not have fear crime? Was starvation not a genuine object of fear? While Roosevelt’s line might have sounded good coming through the radio, it really didn’t have much substance to it, at least not as he intended it.

Fearer of Fear?What student of the Bible has not encountered Proverbs 9:10, which admonishes us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Apparently, FDR never read that. Let’s consider the fear of fear versus the fear of God for a moment.

That long-ago president urged us to essentially fear nothing. We didn’t need to fear death, disease, war, starvation, crime, poverty, ignorance, violence, racism, unemployment, or any of a hundred other significant things. Proverbs tells us essentially the same thing, except that we are to fear God.

FDR replaced the fear of fear with a can-do attitude and clever government programs. Proverbs replaces the fear of God with nothing. Nothing can replace it. FDR sought to banish fear; Proverbs seeks to embrace a particular fear.

The fear of the Lord endures forever, our verse today asserts. What other fear lasts forever? Pain is temporary. Unemployment ends. The Great Depression and the Dustbowl ended. World War II, not even on Roosevelt’s radar at this point, ended. Even death, through our hope in Christ, ends. Of all the objects of fear, only God remains as such forever.

The only thing we have to fear is God Himself. What if Roosevelt had spoken those words? What difference would it have made? A proper fear of God looks to God for all of its answers, all of its protection and provision. The absurd fear of fear looks to human efforts for all of its answers.

Those other fears, temporary as they are, can be considered impure, while the fear of God is pure. We don’t have fear fear itself. We should fear the lack of fear in the God who created us.