Month: January 2020

Spiritual and physical fitness go together for 78-year-old Lewis

With her 78th birthday just around the corner, Carole Lewis is completely healed from the double knee replacement surgery she had just one year ago. She’s free from pain, free from medication and free to live each day to the fullest.

“I’ve done strength training, I eat right, exercise and, most importantly, I have learned how to balance my life physically, emotionally and spiritually,” said Lewis, director emeritus of First Place 4 Health, a national Christian weight-loss program that grew out of a ministry that began at Houston’s First Baptist Church.

“I’ve had my share of losses over the years,” she said. “My daughter was killed by a drunk driver on Thanksgiving 17 years ago, my husband passed away from stage four prostate cancer, and we lost everything in a hurricane in 2008. If it had not been for the total health and wellness ministry of First Place, I could be a wreck.”

She believes the church plays a vital role in the overall health and wellness of its church body because, ultimately, they know the truth about what the world should seek first for life fulfillment and peace.

“Matthew 6:33, which is also the First Place founding verse, says: ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’” That’s the premise of our program and of what living from Christ means; we give Christ first place and we don’t have to worry about all the other stuff.”

Lewis, who was a member of the original First Place group that started back in 1981, speaks at conferences and ministry events on the importance of personal and spiritual balance, fitness, encouragement, and personality and temperament. She has also written 15 books throughout her ministry.

She said churches should be intentional in their health and wellness ministry because anything less than a comprehensive biblical approach to health won’t last.

“If a person is just focused on weight loss and doesn’t deal with the real underlying reasons behind their poor health, it’s like putting a Band-Aid on an open wound,” Lewis said. “The Band-Aid doesn’t do you a lot of good because you didn’t clean it or dress it or do what’s necessary for true healing and restoration.”

Sadly, Lewis said, the body of Christ is missing the mark in many ways.

“At an expo I encountered a man I knew pretty well from the Christian publishing world who weighed I’d guess probably around 350 to 400 pounds,” she said. “I tried to get him to come into our First Place booth. I was able to tell him a little about First Place and he said, ‘Oh well, if I die young, I’ll go live with Jesus.’ The man had basically given up. But the sad reality of his life is that if he doesn’t do something different, death is his best-case scenario. What if he had a stroke and his wife had to take care of him? It’s the quality of their life and their witness that gets lost when Christians don’t take care of themselves.”

Unlike the overweight man, Lewis said she doesn’t want to just survive—she wants to thrive. At nearly 78, she wants to walk upright and stay up on her feet for hours at a time. She wants to haul books to and from speaking engagements because she can—because she’s strong.

“This is the only body we’re going to get,” she said. “And, by the way, it’s not our own—it was bought with a price. Believers should honor God with their bodies.”

And while weight loss is one probable side effect of health and wellness restoration, it’s not the ultimate goal.

“Losing weight is not the problem,” Lewis said. “The problem is that only 5 percent of people keep it off. They’re not willing to change their lifestyles and instead, just see their efforts as a diet or as something temporary. It’s not a diet, it’s a ‘live it.’ We can live this spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically strong the rest of our lives and glorify God every day.”  

Hit pause on the name calling

I’ve said elsewhere that the overuse of superlatives (best, worst, greatest, most, etc.) leaves us no room for when something breathtaking comes along. It’s sloppy and it numbs us against experiences worthy of the description. I recognize that these are relative terms that usually refer to a person’s experience up to now, but if a traffic jam or messed up coffee order caused the “worst” day of the week for you, you’ve had a pretty good week. 

A similar thought came to mind this week as I noticed rising rhetoric among SBC influencers regarding who’s a racist and who is a liberal. Some would say I’m unqualified to determine if a thing or person is racist, so I will abstain from doing that. The term can still be overused or unfairly used. Just the frequency of the use might indicate that this is happening. 

Perhaps I’m on safer ground with the term “liberal.” It’s also a relative term and has occasionally had a useful definition. Within the SBC it mostly means someone who cannot honestly affirm the inerrancy of Scripture. I don’t care about the “multiple” definitions of inerrancy or the fact that we don’t possess the autographs; is the Bible true in everything that it affirms, whether science, history or theology? It’s a “yes” or “no” question. You are likely an inerrantist if you can honestly affirm the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. In my modestly informed judgment, you are not a liberal if you can answer “yes” to that question. 

I grew up hearing non-SBC Baptists criticize our denomination for its connections to “liberals.” Granted, our denomination did for years employ some (I can name names) who were not inerrantists, but the criticism of our more independent brothers went beyond this embarrassing truth to connect my pretty conservative church to a less conservative church, or even a liberal member of a conservative church in another state. I, and my church enable liberalism because I, and my church, do not disassociate ourselves with the SBC—because they will not disassociate themselves with a conservative church that has a liberal member—according to this view. 

The election of inerrantists to the president’s office at every SBC entity (completed in 1995) did away with any sense in which this sort of criticism was fair. Some independent Baptists have recognized this and affiliated with the SBC since that time. Once the theological issue was settled in our denomination, the virtues of cooperative missions became clear and appealing to fair-minded critics. 

Some of the current cries of “racism!” and “liberal!” seem indirect in this way to me. Not everyone who disagrees with you or me is a heretic, guys. A few of them are probably correct when they disagree with me. 

Another way that this kind of overblown use of terms appears in the connection between one thing generally accepted to be very bad or very good and another thing that the speaker thinks could turn out that way. Many have suggested that Christians who do not embrace the orthodoxy of the LGBT movement are doing exactly the same thing to Scripture that pro-slavery preachers did to justify that institution. Too many have suggested that anyone who does something they find disappointing is perhaps a Nazi. Positively, a politician invokes Ronald Reagan or Franklin Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln; a new invention might be prematurely predicted to change your life (even the world). These extremes—like inappropriate name-calling—don’t stand up to scrutiny but they do evoke emotions, very often divisive emotions. 

Yes, some differences within the bounds of polite company and Baptist Faith & Message 2000 are important. But within those parameters, not many things are worth dividing over. Neither are many worth ejecting someone from our fellowship. 

I apologize to you who are only puzzled by what I’m saying (and I congratulate you on avoiding social media). Here’s something for you that applies to this as well: don’t be eager to believe the worst about someone. There are several negative rumors and accusations bouncing around that can be consistently traced back to a handful of sources—self-appointed gadflies and ministers of discernment. You may not know where a rumor started, but it began on the internet with someone you’ve never met. If it fits the negative narrative you favor about another person, think twice before believing it. If it seems too good or bad to be true, pause a moment before passing it along. The people most annoying  to me within our fellowship of Bible-believing people are not necessarily heretics or liberals. 

We may have some disagreements to work out, especially in a culture that throws new challenges at us every day. But we have a better chance of understanding the way forward if we don’t turn the volume up to 11 at the slightest provocation.