Are You on the Candy Diet?

candy     Ever heard of the “Candy Diet?”  Take a look below at what a proponent of the Candy Diet said about it:

“The Candy Diet is great. Everyone knows that diet is all about moderation. Here’s how you moderate: Don’t eat anything but candy. It’s all about caloric intake, and whether you intake calories of candy or healthy proportions from the five food groups, one plus one equals two; calories are calories, they all add up to the same number. Besides, the FDA pyramid is just a government conspiracy so don’t feel badly about straying from it.”

Will eating candy give you the necessary calories that you need to feel “full” and satisfy your cravings for food?  Yes, and if losing weight is your goal, following the Candy Diet help you lose weight.

However, if the question is will the candy diet give you the essential nutrients that your body needs to be healthy and productive?  The answer is, “No.”   The candy diet cannot provide your muscles with the proteins they need, your bones with the calcium they need, your digestive system with the fiber and enzymes it needs, and your cells with the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy.  Again, the candy diet may allow you to lose weight (and losing weight may make you feel good and even look good for a while), but given enough time the candy diet will hurt you.  Our physical bodies were not designed to thrive on candy.

Likewise, our spiritual bodies are not designed to thrive on religious candy.

  • “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Mark 4:4)

  • ” Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.                       (1 Peter 2:1-3) 

What followers of Jesus need for spiritual health is not religious candy, but “The bread of Life, and the “pure mild of the Word.”  Let me suggest that one of the greatest dangers to our spiritual growth is the danger of substituting religious candy for these two essential ingredients.  Let me explain.

God uses his Word to nourish, transform, equip for service, and to lead His. On the other hand, religious candy, more often than not, does the complete opposite.  So, what is religious candy?

Let me suggest that religious candy can be found in many of the religious cliches and sayings that have become part of our popular Christian culture today.  Religious candy can also be found in the misquoted and taken out of context Bible verses that are served to God’s people from our pulpits today.  And, just as the candy diet can make people feel good for a moment, religious candy may make us feel good for a moment.  Nevertheless, just like the candy diet, dieting on religious candy cannot provide us what we needed for balanced, healthy spiritual growth.  Let me suggest that Christians that diet on religious candy will never obtain the strength to “be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58), and in the end it will hurt you.

Below is a short list of some religious candies that you may have heard (or perhaps even said) yourself:

  • God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.  (Is  this a cliche?  Look at Romans 11:22 for an answer)
  • No weapon fashioned against you shall prosper. (Does this mean that the next time I am stuck up – Yes, I have been robbed at gunpoint twice – I should expect the gun to jam or the bullet to pass through my body leaving me unharmed?  Take a look at Hebrews 11:36-38)
  • God wants you to be head and not the tail- take a look at 2 Cor. 8:1 and 2, and note that 1)  God bestowed upon the the churches in Macedonia His amazing grace, and 2) they were subjected to “a great trial of affliction”, and deep poverty.”  Also note that the Macedonians experienced tremendous joy in the midst of their poverty and suffering.

Furthermore, let me suggest that one of the most faith destroying cliches (candies) ever uttered, and unfortunately believed by many Christians, is the one that says, “The safest place in the world to be is in the center of God’s will.”  Don’t get me wrong, being in the center of God’s will is always the absolute best place for our lives, but it may not be the safest place to be at all times.  When Jesus commanded his apostles to go into all of the world and make disciples of every nation, He knew that they had some rough, even dangerous times ahead of them.  And because Jesus knew what was coming, he assured the apostles (and us) that in whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in, his empowering presence will be there too.  Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen” (Matthew 28:20).

Take a look below and then ask yourself, “Is the center of God’s will really the safest place in the world?”

  • Jesus was at the center of God’s will and he ended up mocked, beaten, and crucified. (see Matthew 27)
  • Paul was at the center of God’s will,  and according to church history he was beheaded. (See also 2 Cor. 11:23-28)
  • Jeremiah was at the center of God’s will, and he was thrown into a pit and left to die. (Jeremiah 37:1-16)
  • The prophet Zechariah was at the center of God’s will, and he was murdered in house of God.  (Matthew 23:35)

There are many examples of men and women in the Bible who were in the center of God’s will for their lives, and yet suffered.

“Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.”          (Hebrews 11:36-38)

The problem with the candy cliche that says “the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will” is that it gives the false impression that God’s perfect will for His people is to always be safe and comfortable as they journey from here to eternity.  This kind of thinking is diametrically different from the truth, “As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Romans 8:36).  The truth is that followers of Jesus have been, and are being slaughtered for their faith in Christ.

Christians killed

 “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”          (2 Timothy 3:12)

Let me suggest that God’s perfect will for Christians is that they bring Him glory  by living lives that bear the image of Jesus.  The question is, “How do we do this?”  I think that the Bible answers this question very concisely, saying:

 ¶ Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)

Consider this: if bringing glory to God means putting to death my selfishness, experiencing danger instead of safety, hardship instead of plenty, and suffering persecution instead of enjoying pleasure, popularity, and praise then amen.  For it is also written:

 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

Considering the above, I like what Erwin. McManus (An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Christian God Had in Mind) wrote,

“The truth of the matter is that the center of God’s will is not a safe place but the most dangerous place in the world! God fears nothing and no one! God moves with intentionally and with power. …. “Following Jesus is a dangerous undertaking. He was willing to die on our behalf. The Father was not only willing to let him die on our behalf, but He commanded it. The only way that I could truly follow God was to die to myself and to live for Him. Only dead men can follow the God of the Cross.”

Finally, I love what the Spirit said to us through the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20, telling us that the life we lead as followers of Jesus cannot be called the “Candy Life”, however, it is rightly called the “Crucified Life”.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

 

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Sometimes, God says no

God Cares

Proverbs 24:5 A wise man is strong, Yes, a man of knowledge increases strength;

Proverbs 24:10 ¶ If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small.

A wise person knows that his strength is in Christ, and not in his flesh.  A wise person knows that they cannot live a godly life through their own self-effort, but through the power of Christ alone.

Three times the apostle Paul prayed and asked God to remove from his life what he called “a thorn in the flesh” (Take a look at the context of Paul’s prayer in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, and note that Paul was being demonized – “the messenger of Satan” was a demon), and three times God answered Paul’s prayer.  Note, however, that the way God answered Paul was not the way that most of us consider answered prayer.

God answered Paul’s prayer by choosing not to remove the “thorn” from Paul’s life. Although God did not answer Paul by giving him relief from the tormenting demon, what He did give him was much better. God gave Paul His personal assurance that by His empowering presence, and through His amazing grace, he would make it.

God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” As a result Paul boasted, not in his healing and deliverance, but in his weakness. Paul said, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

God’s presence and His grace are more than enough to see us through any situation. Boasting about God’s empowering presence and grace is true wisdom, and the key that unlocks the door to abundant living.  As it is written:

Jeremiah 9:23 ¶ Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

Sweet ‘n’ Sour – Words Have Power

original_screen-printed-gossiping-cow-tea-towel

Proverbs 16:24 ¶ Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.

Proverbs 26:20 ¶ Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. 21 As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. 22 The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body.

It is unfortunate that gossip is an acceptable sin among too many Christians. There are two things that make the sin of gossip so hard to pinpoint and difficult to deal with: First of all, we like to hear rumors and stories of other people’s affairs. Lastly, we chose to be ignorant of the truth, and pretend not to understand that listening to a gossip (some one that digs up evil and sows strife) is just as bad as being the one who does it.

One of the greatest lessons in life that I ever learned was this one:

“Being Ignorant of the law is no excuse to break it.

I learned this lesson when I was 12 years old, and I learned it the hard way as I was tried and convicted of a crime that I had deluded myself into thinking that I was innocent of.  Let me explain.

gossip tutorial

When I was 12 years old I was caught riding in a stolen car with some friends (that I will affectionately call my friendly “Neighbor-hoodies”).  Consequently, I was booked accordingly, and given a day in court.  To say the least, I was both embarrassed and scared, because I always considered myself to be a good kid, and took pride in myself that I was not as bad as others.  So, how did this happen to me?

When my “friends” offered me a ride home in a car that they had stolen, although I knew in my heart that this was wrong (and that they were hoodlums), I convinced myself that simply riding in a stolen car was not the same, or as bad, as stealing it. Therefore, I convinced myself that simply riding in a stolen car was OK, and therefore I was innocent of a crime.

Fortunately, when the judge considered my case she thought otherwise. Judge Phillips rightly condemned me for being “Party to a crime”, and she sentenced me to probation with the understanding that if I stayed out of trouble until I was 18 this offense would be expunged from my record.

In the eyes of Judge Phillips, my participating in (and benefiting from) a crime made me just as guilty as the person that actually did it.  If being party to a crime is itself a crime according to human law, how much more is it a crime according to the Law of God?

Colossians 3:25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
1 Peter 1:17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;

My prayer today is that God will give me the wisdom to discerned between the pleasant words of the righteous that are “like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones”, and the evil words of the wicked that are “like tasty trifles.” May God give me the strength to cling to the former, and the power to shun the latter. As it is written:

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Epilogue – I thank you Lord that this sad episode in my life scared me straight.  I also  thank You for the last forty-six (and counting) years of my life I have lived crime free.  I thank you Lord because I know that it was, it is, and it will continue to be only by Your grace!

Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise

forgive

nail-in-hand

Forgive

verb
1. stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forgive David for the way he treated her”

(synonyms: pardon, excuse, exonerate, absolve)

  • stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for (an offense, flaw, or mistake).

“they are not going to pat my head and say all is forgiven”

  • cancel (a debt).

“he proposed that their debts should be forgiven”

I once worked with a man whose mother, by birth and by training, was truly a ninja warrior.  My co-worker’s mom was an accomplished martial artist, and a self-defense instructor for several police departments . My co-worker told me that he had seen his mom do some very violent things to others, so violent in fact that he grew up with absolutely no desire to follow in her footsteps and study karate. My friend told me that his mom lived by a very strict motto—a motto that had been handed down to her from generations of her warrior ancestors—which went something like this, “If you scratch my arm, I will cut your flesh, If you bruise my flesh, I will break your bones.” Although I did not grow up in a household of martial arts experts, I did grow up in a culture that routinely programmed me to think that “Revenge is a dish that is best served cold.”

From birth I was taught to hurt those that hurt me, and that it was my right to hold people accountable for their wrongs. However, as a man that has experienced the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ, God is teaching me that this kind of thinking is wrong.  As a follower of Jesus, I am being taught a new philosophy of life that instructs me to love my enemies, and to forgive them.

Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.

Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Matthew 18:21 ¶ Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

You may ask, “How serious is God about us learning and living the new behavior of forgiveness?” “How far does God want us to take this?” Well the answer to these questions can be found in Matthew 6:15, where Jesus said that if we do not practice forgiveness then “neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Furthermore, the standard of forgiveness by which God will hold us accountable is the standard demonstrated to us by Jesus himself. I like R. T. Kendall’s thoughts on “Total Forgiveness” below. R. T. Kendall writes,

     It is very hard to forgive those who have hurt us directly, especially when they do not feel the slightest twinge of conscience. If our offender would put on sackcloth and ashes as a show of repentance, it would be much easier to forgive them.

     But remember, at the foot of Jesus’ cross no one seemed very sorry. There was no justice at His ‘trial’—if you could even call it a trial. A perverse glee filled the faces of the people who demanded His death: “’Crucify him!’ they shouted” (Mark 15:13). Furthermore, :those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’” (Mark 15:29-30). They shouted, “Let this Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32).

     What was Jesus’ response? “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). This must be our response as well.

     Jesus could have said, “I forgive you.” But such words might have been misinterpreted and wasted, like casting His pearls before swine. (see Matthew 7:6) Instead Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, a far more grand gesture. Asking the Father to forgive them showed that not only had He forgiven them and released them from their guilt, but also that He had asked His Father not to punish or take revenge on them. It was not a perfunctory prayer; Jesus meant it. And it was gloriously answered! These offenders were among the very ones Peter addressed on the Day of Pentecost and were converted. (see Acts 2:14-41)

Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise