“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” is no talisman

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Mark 16:15-18 (KJV)

A missionary friend spent a very short week with us last Fall (2013), trying to learn my diabetic low carbohydrate high fat diet, alas, with less fruit than I’d hope. Still I always enjoy his company, and we have been friends since 1992–since Neuchatel, Switzerland. He was the one who first put me in contact with FATEB in Bangui, Central African Republic, where I taught for eight  years as a visiting professor of New Testament and early Church history. At one point during the week, my friend said something quite interesting, and I paraphrase: “You mean it really does matter what I eat. I never put any concern into eating. You know, Seek ye first the Kingdom and all these things shall be added unto you.” “All these things” is a reference to necessities of life–food, clothing, shelter. But during that week I’d stressed to him that for diabetics, sugar and starch are like poison because they raise our blood sugar to levels that we can’t bring down and the excess blood sugar begins to damage our skin, our blood vessels, our eyes, our brains, our nerves, and whatever other bodily tissue there might be.

I think I shared his attitude while still young and healthy. As long as I was in the will of God and on the mission that he’d called me to do, I didn’t have to worry about what I ate, for God would protect me. Of course I wasn’t entirely consistent. I didn’t want to go to Africa and die of malaria or some other tropical disease. So I relied on medical science to keep me alive, and indeed, without the yellow fever vaccine, you can’t even enter the tropical countries of Africa. I went to the local Missionary Health Institute and received numerous shots and two prescriptions: mefloquine for malaria and Cipro for traveler’s diarrhea. So was this the sign of my lack of total faith in my reliance in medicine instead of God’s healing power? Doesn’t the long ending of Mark promise protection  to God’s missionaries against serpents and poisons?  One would think that promise would also protect us from drinking Typhoid laden water or the bites from malaria or yellow-fever infested mosquitos. Perhaps.

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Peter and Cathy with Peter’s housekeeper, wife and children Bangui, Central African Republic, February 2005

But St. Paul left Trophimus sick in Miletus (2 Tim 4.20). Even Paul himself suffered bodily affliction (Gal 4.13). Paul says also that the grace of God means that we can do all things in Christ Jesus who gives us the strength, and that means to prosper or to suffer want (Phil 4.10-13). So Paul, arguably the greatest missionary of all time, knew both want and illness. Timothy may also have suffered from bad water (1 Tim 5.3), given his frequent illness–Was that traveler’s diarrhea? Ultimately, God’s protection is for our eternal well-being (e.g., Matt 10.28); but he allows us temporal suffering. This temporal suffering can be the most excruciating: I heard the story of an orphaned missionary kid, whose brothers died of malaria in a Canadian hospital and whose parents died in a airline crash off the coast of West Africa. And during my first trip to Central African Republic, one of my students said that the grave yards were full of the first missionaries who died shortly after arriving in Africa–but nevertheless, the African church was grateful for their sacrifice on behalf of the gospel.

I am reflecting on this issue as a I continue to suffering debilitating tendinitis, brought on by my putting something deadly in my mouth, Cipro. Somehow, Mark 16.15-18 doesn’t apply to me. Instead, as a diabetic, I have to worry about the food that I eat. Instead, I have to do the Wahls Protocol in my attempt to heal the damage that exposure to toxic foods and pharmaceuticals have done to my body. I am a victim, and this is partly as a result of answering the call of God, for I wouldn’t have taken toxic drugs like Lariam (mefloquine) and Cipro if I hadn’t taught in Africa.

So my conclusion is this: We shouldn’t see the biblical passages like Matthew 6.33 and Mark 16.15-18 as promising protection from all harm, especially the harm that we do to ourselves by eating junk food or by exposing ourselves to toxins. Ultimately, this means we are still responsible for what we put in our mouths, and if we eat badly, then we shouldn’t expect God to protect us. We shouldn’t reject wisdom and thus confuse presumption with faith. Besides, if God promises to provide food for us, our faith should be strong enough to ask God for nourishing healthy food, and we should not view food that is ultimately going to ruin our health as God’s intended provision. God gives good gifts to his children (Matt 7.9-12; RSV):  “Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Is biblical gluttony overeating? Part 2: The story of Nabal

An obesity epidemic plagues the world today. Some of my poorest friends are obese, and they often feel helpless to do anything about it. I have obese friends from Africa in countries where a typical salary, if one even has a job, is around $100 per month. No matter how little they eat, they have trouble losing weight. But in our minds today, even in the church, we associate gluttony with obesity and overeating. But in the Bible there are these stories in which very wealthy person feasts but refuses to share with the needy. One of these stories is 1 Sam 25, the story of Nabal.

One of the most important gluttons in the Bible, in my opinion, is Nabal. Nabal was very rich, and he had a shrewd wife. He himself wasn’t as smart as his wife. While David led a group of rebels, he asked Nabal for aid. David figured he had something coming from Nabal, since he’d protected Nabal’s life and property.  So he sent some of his men to request some food. But Nabal refused. Abigail heard and took some food to David and pleaded with David not to do something foolish by killing her stupid husband. David relented from his wrath. But when Abigail informed Nabal of what David intended and how she narrowly averted Nabal’s destruction, Nabal died, evidently of myocardial infarction.

So Nabal’s sin is not his overeating but his failure to acknowledge the service that David had done for him, and his unwillingness to share with David and his men. Even his own wife recognized his feasting in the presence of very dangerous men to be an extremely foolish thing to do.

Should we consider an obese person a glutton if that person is very willing to share and is generous towards the poor?

See also:

Is biblical gluttony overeating? Part 1

Is biblical gluttony overeating? Part 1

An African friend once told me that in his home province an elderly man learned that his son had killed a chicken and had eaten the gizzard. Now in that culture, it is a custom to offer the gizzard to the most honoured person in the family, and the father considered this act by his son to be disrespectful and so asked the constabulary to arrest his son–for eating a chicken gizzard! This seems to me to come close to the Old Testament understanding of the term “glutton”.

“Glutton” is a term that appears in the Old Testament a few times.  The Hebrew term, זלל (zalal), appears in Proverbs 23:20-21:

Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

This appears in a context of admonitions to children, telling them to obey instruction of their elders, as also Prov. 28.7:

A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

The Proverbs passages may depend on common understanding of the term זלל that we find also in Deut 21:18-21:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.  They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

Overeating may be an aspect of what it means to commit זלל, but it is very much a sin associated with rebelling against the commands of God and against the instruction of parents. Gluttony seems less a question of eating so much that it leads to obesity but rather of eating in a manner which does not honour other people, especially one’s parents.

Tendinitis: The mouth connexion

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I had a severe flare up of quadriceps tendinitis while in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

For about seven or eight years, I’ve suffered from recurring tendinitis in multiple locations: both achilles heals, rotator cuff, neck, both quadriceps, and extensor (big toe). I’ve only received treatment from chiropractor who applied electric acupuncture to the affected site. Inflammation has been a symptom of my tendinopathy–that’s how I know it is not tendinosis (on the difference, see: Tendinopathy: Why the Difference Between Tendinitis and Tendinosis Matters). Last Fall, I had my worst bout of tendinitis while visiting the Orkney Islands. On the top floor of the Orkney Museum, I took a little rest on a couch. When I stood up, I felt a shooting pain in my knee, which I later determined was quadriceps tendinitis.

Because it is almost invariably a condition that manifests itself upon the occasion of using a tendon’s services, conventional wisdom treats tendinitis as a sports or repetitive use injury. At blame are overuse, lack of stretching, bad posture, or bad form.  The aging process also takes (see Chronic Tendonitis Causes and Treatment), so it becomes part of the popular understanding that if you have tendon problems it is a sign that you are getting old. This is a kind of bigotry of low expectations. When it comes to treatment, doctors prescribe rest, icing, non-steroidal anti-infammatory medications (NSAID), and steroids–and possibly surgery. Prevention focuses on good posture, stretching, and prevention of overuse.

It really makes one feel very old not being able to walk up and down stairs, get into the shower, or sleep normally. In my late 40s I reminded myself of my diabetic grandmother who went up and own stairs slowly and carefully. But Grandma Ruth was in her 70s. What was my problem? In 2011, I remember not being able to sleep because I couldn’t turn my head. I could barely bend my neck down to get in a car nor turn my head to look out back–not without pain.

Last Fall, my Orkney Island quadriceps injury worsened to the point that even a slight bending of my left knee was extremely painful, and so I went to see my chiropractor. He required that I get an ultra sound, and for that I had to see my doctor who offered me a powerful NSAID, but I was happy with the over-the-counter Ibuprofen that I was taking. She said to take it round the clock. The ultrasound showed nothing conclusive, but by that time my knee was improving a little and my chiropractor decided he could treat it with electric acupuncture, which led to a recovery until I tried to use the tendon again, and the pain and inflammation revived. I had at that point been on a low carbohydrate high fat diet for ten months, to the great improvement of my health. And so I decided that if I had been able to improve my health so much, then perhaps I could find a dietary solution to my tendinitis. So I began to search the internet for a solution, and I learned, not surprisingly, that a primary cause of tendinitis is the mouth.

More specifically, I learned that it is what we put in our mouth, the food we eat or fail to eat, or indeed toxins we consume, that have a profound influence on the health of tendons. The most helpful website was that of the Tendonitis Expert, Joshua Tucker, who provides a specific list of dietary supplements to heal tendons. It was Tucker from whom I first learned of a condition called “Leviquin Tendinitis” which is caused by the fluoride in fluoroquinolones like Cipro and Leviquin. Fluoride depletes the body of magnesium which is necessary for mitochondrial health and when mitochondria become unhealthy, connective tissues become weak and are susceptible to damage. I’d likely taken Cipro at least six times over the last decade coinciding with my devastating bouts of tendinitis.

A few weeks earlier I had seen the amazing video by Dr. Terry Wahls, Minding your Mitochondria:

So I began to eat organ meats and take the supplements that Tucker recommended: vitamins A, C, D, E. I also took CoQ10 (Ubiquinol) and R-Lipoic Acid (R-LA), for my mitochondria, and several fish oil capsules every day. I also began to skip breakfast, having only a high fat coffee in the mornings (called “intermittent fasting”).

My bouts of tendinitis started to be further apart and less severe. Then in May, after Dr. Wahls book, The Wahls Protocol came out, because I still had recurring tendinitis (now with my right quadriceps), I decided to embrace her strictest regimen (Wahls Protocol Paleo Plus) to heal, if possible, the damage that Cipro had done. On her way to recovery from multiple sclerosis, Dr. Wahls became a specialist in functional medicine, which looks upon chronic disease as a single disease with multiple expressions, such as diabetes, cancer, and auto-immune diseases. She writes, most poignantly:

When chronic disease is the result of a deficiency, drugs aren’t going to solve the problem. As I’m sure you realize, multiple sclerosis is not a deficiency of the latest multiple-sclerosis-disease-modifying drug like Copaxone, just as fatigue is not a deficiency of wakefulness-promoting drugs like Provigil or even caffeine, and depression is not a deficiency of antidepressants like Prozac. No, these problems are not deficiencies of drugs, but they are triggered by deficiencies in your cells that lead to broken biochemistry and impaired signaling between your cells. When you look at chronic disease in this way, it’s obvious that you should treat the cellular deficiencies that cause diseases to develop in the first place instead of just treating the symptoms, which is what most conventional pharmaceutical treatments do.

In this way of thinking, tendinitis is not due to lack of NSAIDs, surgery or steroid treatment: it is instead a result of toxins and nutritional deficiencies. Conventional therapy and electric acupuncture may aid in the relieving of pain or the localized healing of specific injury, but it is not able to prevent later injuries because it doesn’t deal with the ultimate nutritional causes.

In my view, here are the causes of my tendinitis:

  1. Cipro treatments and fluoridated water were toxic to the mitochondrial health of my tendons.
  2. High blood sugars resulted in glycative (sugar) damage of capillaries so that my body was unable to nourish tendons properly.
  3. Stress to the tendons revealed weak tendons and brought out the tendinitis and inflammation. Stress could be brought on by walking, cycling, basketball, weight training or other activity.

Since adopting the Wahls Protocol, I eat organ meats regularly, especially pork heart and grass-fed beef liver and heart. I include bone broth. Eliminated are potential anti-nutrients, especially sugar and gluten, but also dairy, eggs and peanuts. I also consume Dr. Wahls’ recommended leafy greens, sulfur vegetables, and coloured berries and vegetables. I take regular seaweed and wild fish. For the last two months I’ve been taking only purified water. The Wahls Protocol Paleo Plus is a very high fat, extremely low carbohydrate diet. Mitochondria experience great oxidative damage due to glucose metabolism and they thrive particularly on a high fat, ketogenic diet.

In conclusion, I am seeing a great improvement of my tendons. I even played basketball four out of the last five days and I can still walk. The measures I’m taking to improve the nutrition to my tendons seem to be really helping, and I will plan a canoe trip next summer in Algonquin Park–the first one in over a decade. I hope my tendon testimony will encourage others who suffer from tendon problems to consider a good nutrition protocol, like the Wahls Protocol, the most important step in healing. At very least, one should be wary of Cipro, and diabetics need to get their blood sugars under control through a low carbohydrate high fat regimen.

Introducing GIGOLO, a new diet formula for fast weight loss

I am working on a new diet concept that will dispense with the application of the First Law of Thermodynamics and instead focus on the law of Conservation of Matter. Instead of CICO (Calories in Calories out) it will be GIGO (grams in grams out). I will call it the GIGOLO diet, pronounced (Gee, go low!).

Now obviously the Law of Conservation of Matter applies. Not to take it into consideration is actually very unscientific. It is also much easier to measure than CICO: no one can actually measure calories lost in the form of heat and practically no one ever measures the calories in urine and feces.

In my system, you merely have to do what can be easily done: weigh your food, drinks, and your excretions and other loss of mass (urine, sweat, tears, lost blood and feces)–and make sure more goes out than comes in and you will weight. I guarantee, or your money back, that you will lose weight.

With GIGOLO there will be no more fussing with:

(1) Inaccurate calorie counting because of bad labeling. You can actually control the grams that you put in your mouth by keeping a personal scale handy, although for hygienic reasons I would recommend a second scale for excretions.

(2) Worry about the calorie density of the item you are eating. In fact, my GIGOLO diet will favour high fat because fat is the least weighty of all foods, except perhaps rice cakes–but personally I do not find air particularly filling.

To be absolutely precise, make sure you collect lost skin (in your bed for example), and hair and nail clippings.