Trust in the LORD

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Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm. (Psalm 37:3–8, NKJV)

Psalm 37 is another Psalm of David. We don’t know the particular circumstances around the writing of the Poison, but the  theme of Psalm 37 is a comparison between the Righteous person, who trusts in the LORD, and the Wicked person, who despises God’s ways.

In verses 3–4, David explains that trusting in the LORD begins with delighting in Him. The idea here is for us to take great pleasure in the LORD. His value is beyond measure. So just as we might cherish a precious jewel, we cherish our fellowship with Him above all else. He is our source of joy and self-worth. He names us and calls us His own. So when David writes, “He shall give you the desires of your heart,” there’s two things going on. First, when we delight in the LORD, fellowship with the LORD is our greatest desire and as we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. Second, as we delight in Him and draw near to Him, His ways and His goals become our own. By humbling our hearts and entering His presence, we allow Him to fill us with joy, renew our hearts and minds making us more like Jesus, and guide our way according to His plans instead of our own.

In verses 5–6, David explains trusting the LORD in terms of a commitment to His ways. We know that the world systems are under the sway of the Enemy and all of creation is under the curse of sin. We also know, from the Word and from our own experience that in our hearts we want to live for Jesus, but these bodies of flesh carry our baggage of sin, always enticing us to turn against God’s ways. In our day-to-day lives, the only thing standing between a believer and sin is a commitment to the ways of the LORD. But we have to surrender to two truths. Trusting the LORD doesn’t start with commitment, it starts with delighting in Him, as David mentioned in verses 3–4. Second, commitment is an act of our will, but we are powerless to carry it out on our own strength. As David writes, “He shall bring forth our righteousness.” Indeed, the light in us is not our own, it is Jesus Christ, the light of all men, who covers us with His righteousness and who leads and strengthens us according to His ways.

In verses 7–8, David depicts our trusting in the LORD as resting in Him. Our English word “rest” has different meanings. David isn’t talking about taking a nap or taking a day off to watch Netflix. Now there’s nothing wrong with those things, per se. But the idea here isn’t physical rest, it’s spiritual. “Be still and know that I am God” says the LORD (Ps 46:10). And as David explains here, “Do not fret, … cease from anger, … forsake wrath.” It’s easy to look around us and see the hypocrisy of the world and the flaws in our brothers and sisters in Christ. But God doesn’t want you to change them. That’s His job and we partner with Him in that work primarily through prayer and gracious encouragement. No, God wants each of us to surrender our own hearts to Him so He can change each of us Himself. And He does this by filling us with His Holy Spirit who dwells within us and ministers to our hearts. When we’re sad, He’s with us, comforting us, if we’ll let Him. And when we’re angry, He’s with us, cooling our tempers and speaking His truth to us, if we’ll let Him.

In John 15, Jesus, at His last Passover meal with the Twelve, said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me, you can do nothing.” Jesus was talking in spiritual terms. In this world, without Christ, we can walk around and do this or that, helping people or taking advantage of them or whatever. But it all amounts to nothing apart from Christ. Eternity is real and the LORD wants us to enjoy it with Him. But at the same time, Hell is a very real place of torment created for Satan, the demons, and the fallen angels. If you don’t want to be with Jesus, He won’t make you be with Him. But the only other option is Hell. The beauty of the Cross is that enjoying Christ for Eternity is a gift that Jesus purchased for us and offers to us freely. Salvation cost Jesus an agonizing death by means of crucifixion. But salvation costs us nothing except to trust in Him. And that’s why we celebrate communion, to remember the price He paid at Calvary so that anyone and everyone who trusts in Him can enjoy His presence for Eternity.

Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

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But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?
Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living.
The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
It cannot be purchased for gold, nor can silver be weighed for its price.
It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire.
Neither gold nor crystal can equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold.
No mention shall be made of coral or quartz, for the price of wisdom is above rubies.
The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold.

“From where then does wisdom come? and where is the place of understanding?
It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air.
Destruction and Death say, ‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
God understands its way, and He knows its place.
For He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heavens,
To establish a weight for the wind, and apportion the waters by measure.
When He made a law for the rain, and a path for the thunderbolt,
Then He saw wisdom and declared it; He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.
And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:12–28, NKJV)

Job was a man whose heart was fully devoted to God. But Satan was wholly devoted to turning Job’s heart against God. So God, knowing full well who Job was and what Job was about, let Satan take everything from Job except his life, his wife, and his so-called friends. In this passage, Job responds to the criticisms from his so-called friends and reflects on wisdom’s value and source.

First, Job asks the question, “where can wisdom be found?” He answers his own question: it’s not of human origin, nor found in all of creation. It cannot be bought with currency or bartered for precious stones. It’s value is immeasurable, but it cannot be found anywhere in nature.

Second, Job concedes that wisdom is “hidden from the eyes of all the living.” Animals don’t possess wisdom and even Death has only heard rumors about it. True wisdom is found only in God. Job explains that the God who looks upon the whole universe, exercising authority over all the elements including wind, water, and storms, envisioned wisdom and spoke it into existence. God is the measure of what wisdom is, and all true wisdom begins and ends in Him. Thus, Job concludes with a thought echoed throughout the Proverbs, “Wisdom is found in the fear of the LORD.”

We can fill our heads with information—that’s called knowledge. And over the course of life we amass innumerable experiences that hopefully we learn from, that’s called maturity. But God is the source of true wisdom. That’s why James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Not because God is hoarding wisdom and we need to beg Him to give us a little taste. But because God is the author and source of all true wisdom, so there’s no greater, truer source of wisdom than God Himself. And the more time we spend in God’s presence through prayer and Scripture, the more opportunity we give to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to guide us into all truth and help us grow in the wisdom of the LORD (John 16:13).

In John 16, Jesus explains that if he did not die, resurrect from death, and ascend to heaven, then He could not send the Holy Spirit to do this great work in our lives. But the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit is one of the beautiful blessings of the New Covenant under which we live. God says in Jeremiah 31:33–34, “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me.” And in Ezekiel 11:19–20, God promises, “I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”

These promises of a New Covenant have been made available to all believers through the blood of Christ. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:4–6, “We have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” And finally, as Jesus Himself said of the cup that he shared with His disciples at the Last Supper, “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt 26:28). So then, through the blood of Christ we belong to the New Covenant. The Holy Spirit lives within us. And the Cross is the wisdom of our of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, offering eternal life for all who believe in Him.

Why I Run

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Above picture: my first 5k with my wife and daughter, October 28, 2017.

I haven’t always been a runner. In fact, there was a time not too long ago when I hated the thought of going for a run. I didn’t run, wouldn’t run, and couldn’t for more than a few seconds even if I tried. But now I run at least 3 days a week and sometimes twice that. Here’s why.

It’s Healthy

I didn’t start by running. When you top the scales at over 300 pounds and it’s not from strength training, running is nearly impossible. Instead, I started my journey toward more healthful living by walking. But as I shed the pounds and gained endurance, jogging was the natural next step. And now I run. My exercise goal is actually the same as when I started my journey: 30 minutes of moderate exercise 4-6 days a week. But “moderate” is no longer a brisk walk. Instead, it’s a casual 3-mile jog through my neighborhood.

It Feels Good

I run whatever time of day best suits our family schedule. But my favorite time to run is first thing in the morning. Starting your day with exercise has many health benefits. But for me, starting my day with a run also lifts my spirits and puts me in a better mood for the rest of the day. It wakes me up, gets my day started productively, and I’m sure those endorphins released during my workout help as well. All of these help me start the day on a positive note that carries over into the rest of my day.

It’s Spiritual

Ultimately, for me, running is a spiritual experience. My goal to live more healthfully started with a conviction that my physical body is a stewardship from the LORD, a temporary gift given to me for the purpose of carrying out the Kingdom work that God has called me to do. I came to understand that if I wanted to be around to enjoy this life with my family as well as fulfill God’s calling on my life, I had to surrender my eating and exercise habits to the LORD. Also, when I run, I pray and listen to worship music. So running is one way I draw near to the LORD.

Final Thoughts

Running isn’t for everyone. And physical wellness is a very personal issue, though it does affect the lives of other people in our lives. But if the LORD is burdening your heart to live more healthfully or actively, I encourage you to step out in faithful surrender. Then wait and see how the LORD works in your life.

God Our Rock

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“For You are my lamp, O LORD; The LORD shall enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop; By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

“For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?
God is my strength and power, And He makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your gentleness has made me great.
You enlarged my path under me; So my feet did not slip. (2 Sam 22:29–37, NKJV)

These words, sung by King David, are part of a song that David composed toward the end of his life. The song is quite lengthy, beginning in 2 Samuel 22:2 and continuing through verse 51. It is a kind of memoir of David’s life, an ode to the LORD, with its primary theme being how the LORD was David’s light, his strength, and his deliverer.

David describes how the LORD is like a lamp in his own life: He brings light to David’s darkness, which, in context, probably refers to how the LORD delivered David time and time again from death at the hands of the Philistines, Saul, Absalom, and everyone else who tried to kill him. The LORD illuminated David’s mind and heart, giving him wisdom on the battlefield and to overcome even the most challenging obstacles in his life.

We, too, have a lamp in the LORD our God. We were in a state of spiritual darkness. But when we surrendered to Christ and trusted in Him, the Light of the World became the Light in our lives, delivering us from the power of darkness and delivering us into the marvelous light of His eternal kingdom (1 Col 1:13).

In the second stanza David shifts his analogy to the idea of the LORD as his rock. The LORD made David into a man of war and used him to lead Israel in subduing the surrounding nations and expanding the borders of ancient Israel. So I think its interesting that David first speaks of the LORD as his rock, strength and power regarding his feet. But a warrior is only as effective as his foundation. And David’s foundation was the LORD God Almighty. There is no surer foundation than the LORD. And with the LORD as our champion, leading us into battle and teaching us the art of spiritual warfare, we need not fear the Enemy. We need only to trust and follow the LORD.

Similarly, our hope for eternal life rests on our foundation in Jesus Christ. He is both the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2), a faith based on the sacrificial love of our Savior who died the death we deserved and payed the ransom for our sins with his death on the cross. A faith secured by a proclamation on the cross, “it is finished.” A faith that was proven true when Christ conquered sin and death and rose victoriously from the grave on the third day.

In both verses 31 and 36, David describes the LORD as a shield—first, as a shield for all who trust Him, and second, as a shield of salvation. With David’s many run-ins with near-death experiences, both as a shepherd (with wild animals) and as King (from enemies trying to kill him), David surely knew first-hand about the saving power of the LORD, Who, as we’ve already mentioned, rescued David from death numerous times throughout his life.

As David surrendered his heart to the LORD Who delivered him from death many times, so we, too, receive the “shield” of the LORD’s salvation when we surrender our hearts to the LORD and trust Him with our eternal destiny. Then, as we learn to trust the LORD daily in our lives, His shield grows from a tiny buckler, barely big enough to protect our souls, to a giant Roman shield capable of deflecting the Enemy’s arrows and inflicting incredible damage when we use it properly in spiritual combat.

So, the LORD is our light, our rock, and our shield. All of these speak to God’s immense power to guide, strengthen, and protect us. And yet, David confesses, it is the gentleness of the LORD that raised him up. There are some who think that God is some kind of sinister overlord, actively checking a naughty list ready to zap us if we get out of line. Well, it is certainly true that God is righteous and just, punishing evil and wickedness. But God’s righteousness and justice flow from His love.

God’s love is so great that He decided to share it. So He created an entire universe and populated it with living creatures to share His love with them. Then, when  we humans rebelled against Him, we received the just penalty of death for our rebellion. But the LORD, not willing to condemn us without a means of deliverance, gave us a promise of salvation, and made good on that promise by sending His One and Only Son to live the sinless life we never could, die the death that we all deserved, and usher in a new era of salvation for everyone willing to trust in the name of the Son–Jesus Christ.

Black Bean Turkey Chili

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One of my favorite one-pot meals is chili. A warm bowl keeps the chill away on a cold day. A big pot serves a hungry crowd on gameday. And it doesn’t get much easier than browning some ground meat then tossing everything in one pot to cook for 30 minutes!

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This recipe keeps the calories low and the flavors fresh with a combination of ground turkey and smoked turkey sausage. Personally, I prefer black beans instead of kidney beans, but either would work well in this recipe. Black beans are also high fiber and easy to find canned with no salt added. Corn for crunch and a rich blend of tomatoes with classic spices round out the flavor profile for a traditional one-pot meal with a few flavor twists!

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Black Bean Turkey Chili

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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A fresh twist on a classic gameday dish that warms the hands and heart on a cold day and makes the taste buds happy, too.

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg (14oz) turkey smoked sausage (Hillshire Farm), coarsely chopped
  • 1 pkg (1lb) ground turkey 90% lean (Jennie-O)
  • 2 cans (14.5oz) black beans no-salt-added (Great Value)
  • 2 cans (14.5oz) diced tomatoes no-salt-added (Great Value)
  • 1 can (6oz) tomato paste (Great Value)
  • 1 1/4 cups frozen whole kernel corn (Great Value)
  • 1 medium white or sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 package low-sodium mild chili seasoning (McCormick)
  • 1 3/4 tbsp granulated garlic (Great Value)
  • 1 tbsp parsley flakes (5th Season)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (First Street)
  • 1 tsp salt-free southwest chipotle seasoning (Mrs. Dash)
  • 1 cup water

Directions

Stove-Top
  1. In a large pot, brown the ground turkey and drain.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and stir until well-mixed.
  3. Cook over medium-low heat for at least 25 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.
Slow-Cooker
  1. In a skillet, brown the ground turkey and drain.
  2. Add all ingredients to slow-cooker and stir until well-mixed.
  3. Cook on low (depending on your slow-cooker) for 2-4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Nutrition information

Makes 8 servings. Calories: 350, total fat 11g, cholesterol 78mg, sodium 735mg, potassium 666mg, total carbs 37g, protein 27g. (Courtesy MyFitnessPal Recipe Creator.)

Tips

  • Like your chili spicy? Use medium or hot chili seasoning, add more chili or cayenne powder, and/or add your favorite variety of peppers!

Zesty Grilled Tri-Tip

I’m a huge fan of barbecue. From the moment I started cooking I wanted to learn to barbecue. So far, this tri-tip is as close as I’ve come. Technically this might be grilled and not barbecued (depending on where you’re from and who you ask), but either way, it’s delicious!

One of the tricky things about barbecue is the seasonings and sauces often used to enhance flavor before and after cooking add extra fats and sugars that aren’t very healthy. That’s where tri-tip and dry rubs come in. Tri-tip is one of the leaner (and more affordable!) cuts of beef roast. And a well-thought-out dry rub can avoid some of the extra fats and sugars as well.

The flavor profile in this recipe is quite versatile and it pairs well with many different flavor profiles. Also, it makes several servings, so share it with family and friends or keep the leftovers for another meal!

Zesty Grilled Tri-Tip

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
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A zesty high-protein, low-sodium take on a classic grilled meat. This grilled protein takes a bit of work and time but the results are delicious and leftovers can save time preparing future meals.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs (or more) tri-tip
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic (Great Value)
  • 1 tbsp smokehouse maple seasoning (Grill Mates)
  • 2 tsp mesquite seasoning (Grill Mates)
  • 1 tsp salt-free southwest chipotle seasoning (Mrs. Dash)

Directions

  1. Prior to cooking, set the tri-tip out in a large dish to warm to room temperature.
  2. In a bowl, combine and mix the seasonings until well-mixed.
  3. Rub about half of the lime juice over the tri-tip. Then rub about half the seasoning mixture over the tri-tip.
  4. Turn the tri-tip over, rubbing with remaining lime juice and seasoning mixture. Then cover with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 15-20 minutes (up to 2 hours)  until ready to grill.
  5. Preheat grill to 450-500ºF. Keep one area lower heat for indirect cooking.
  6. Once the grill reaches at least 450º, cook the tri-tip over indirect heat, starting with the fat-side facing upward. With the lid closed, cook for at least 15 minutes for medium-rare, or a few more (3-5?) minutes for medium or medium-well.
  7. Turn the tri-tip over so the fat-side is facing down. With the lid closed, cook for at least another 15 minutes.
  8. When you’re ready to take the tri-tip off the grill, if you like crispier bark, place the tri-tip over high heat (or a searing burner) for about 30 seconds per side with the lid open. Watch carefully, because the fats in the meat catch fire very easily.
  9. Remove from grill, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Then slice or dice and serve.

Nutrition information

Makes 10 – 4oz servings. Calories: 164, total fat 7g, cholesterol 35mg, sodium 262mg, potassium 8mg, total carbs 1g, protein 23g. (Courtesy MyFitnessPal Recipe Creator.)

Tips

  • Here’s my formula for cooking time for this recipe: weight (lbs) * 12 = total minutes. A 2.5 lb tri-tip needs at least 30 minutes over indirect heat at 450-500ºF to come out medium-rare (as pictured). A 3.5 lb tri-tip would need around 40-43 minutes. If you need more than 4 lbs, you might consider getting multiple smaller cuts and cooking them at the same time, adding a couple minutes to each side of cooking.

Enchilada Casserole

For as long as I’ve known my wife, southwest-style dishes have ranked quite high among her favorite cuisines. So from the time we started our journey toward more healthful living a little over a year ago, staples like tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, etc. have become commonplace at our dinner table.

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This recipe was inspired by a combination of two of my wife’s favorite dishes: enchiladas and lasagna. So after a few hours of perusing internet and some experimentation, here’s my low-calorie, high-protein, low-sodium recipe for enchilada casserole. I would characterize it as mild, fresh, and flavorful 🙂

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Enchilada Casserole

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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A low-calorie, high-protein, low-sodium take on a family favorite. This casserole is a great prep-it-and-forget-it option when you only have a few minutes to prep but plenty of time for a casserole to cook in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 16oz ground turkey, 90% lean (Jennie-O)
  • 1 10oz can red medium enchilada sauce (Las Palmas)
  • 1 15oz can no-salt-added black beans (Great Value), drained and rinsed
  • 1 15oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes (Great Value), drained
  • 1 cup frozen petite white corn (C&W)
  • 6 taco-size tortillas (Romero’s Casera-style)
  • 1 3/4 cups 2% shredded Mexican cheese blend (Kraft)
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic seasoning (Great Value)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin seasoning (First Street)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder seasoning (First Street)
  • 1 tsp onion powder seasoning (Tone’s)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. In a large skillet, brown the ground turkey and drain.
  3. Lightly spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Then pour just enough enchilada sauce (about 1/4 cup) on the bottom of the dish and spread to cover the bottom. Set dish aside.
  4. Add the black beans, diced tomatoes, frozen corn, remainder of enchilada sauce, and seasonings to turkey. Simmer on medium-low, partially covered, for 7-8 minutes (just long enough to thaw the corn and get the flavors simmering together), stirring occasionally.
  5. Arrange two tortillas on the bottom of the casserole dish, covering the bottom as much as possible. Spread one-third of the skillet mixture over the tortillas. Top with one-third of the shredded cheese.
  6. Repeat step 5 two more times for a total of 9 layers: 3 tortilla layers, 3 layers of skillet mixture, and 3 cheese layers.
  7. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in the oven at 375ºF for 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook another 8-10 minutes (cheese should be fully melted and gooey).
  8. Remove from oven, let rest for 2-3 minutes, then cut and serve.

Nutrition information

Makes 6 servings. Calories: 409, total fat 15g, cholesterol 78mg, sodium 774mg, potassium 267mg, total carbs 39g, protein 30g. (Courtesy MyFitnessPal Recipe Creator.)

Tips

  • Want more heat? Try substituting 1 cup medium or hot salsa for the diced tomatoes!