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)

 

He was cru·ci·fy·ed for our sins,

cru·ci·fy ˈkro͞osəˌfī/ verb past tense: crucified; past participle: crucified 1. – to put (someone) to death by nailing or binding them to a cross, especially as an ancient punishment. For as…

Source: He was cru·ci·fy·ed for our sins,

prayer in unity

We went to church in Paterson Sunday and there were three things in this church that I could not help but take note that, 1) there was an over abundance of women in the church, and 2) there was a noticeable lack of teenagers to thirty-something year old folk in the church, and 3) the music in the church was awesome!

As we drove through a blighted neighborhood in Paterson to the way church Sunday, I could not help but reflect on a book by Tom Burrell that I’ve been reading lately titled, “Brainwashed.” In Brainwashed, Burrell encourages his audience to, 1) consider the power of the ancient wisdom that says, “as ‘a man’ thinks in his heart, so is he”, and 2) to consider the horrible impact that generations of negative thinking is having a significant number of our neighbors, and finally 3) to seek significance by reaching for the amazing potential for good that God has placed inside of each of us (and not the destructive and ugly stereotypes far too many have brought into as the “truth”).

As I drove home from church, I could not help but renew my belief in the hope that we have in Christ; hope that is unleashed through the bold proclamation of the gospel, and through the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

In every place, in every culture, at every time, and in every circumstance the gospel has proven to be the difference maker. For this reason, when God used the apostle Paul to reach out to the amazingly messed up Corinthians, He did not empower him to preach religion, nor did he inspire him to lower the lights, plug in the praise band, and rock the house. The LORD empowered Paul to preach the gospel to the Corinthians, and to encourage those that believed the gospel to come together as brothers and sisters and form a new community not based on race, or religion, but based on faith and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  The Bible calls this new community the church, the body of Christ, and it is here where God’s love is displayed in living color to the watching world. As members of this new community, our obligation to one another is to love one another, and to encourage one another to live this life just as He lived it on earth almost 2,000 years ago.  As it is written:

1 Peter 3:8 ¶ Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

FYI – Below is an excerpt from Burrell’s book Brainwashed

Our Family crisis is inseparable from our black male and female identity crisis, and brainwashing has left a great many of us fearful, confused about our
identities, and hopelessly caught in a cycle of relationship underachievement.

To many black men are still stuck in roles ultimately dictated by slavery. Some, living up to the expectation that they are irresponsible, take pride in making babies knowing they can leave without stressing about the outcome of their actions.

Black boys are not the only recipients of the psychological and physical trauma inflicted on their emasculated fathers. Vulnerable black daughters seeking love and validation from the first man in their lives are often left to fend for themselves, relying on their mothers or society to define black manhood for them. Like their mothers, the girls are saddled with feelings of disillusionment and disappointment in black men that often becomes a permanent fixture of their psyches. …. many black women have been brainwashed to be active enablers of irresponsible men, supporting the unhealthy behavior of their mates, leading to future relationships fraught with unnecessary drama.”

“As the saying goes, black men have been brought p by mothers conditioned to ‘raise their daughters and spoil their sons.’ For many black mothers without committed male partners, the son becomes the ‘little man’ whom the omther overindulges and neglects until he gets to an age where she can no longer handle him. Rationalizing that he is indeed a ‘man,’ she submissively allows the boy to come and go as he pleases.

Poor young black women with little education pay the greatest toll. Many are tragically retro, stuck in the past where women had little control over their sexuality. Following in the footsteps of their female ancestors, they are brainwashed into believing that motherhood is the means by which they can validate themselves; having babies with no resources is seen as a way out. ….

THESE DISTRESSING PATTERNS MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED AND ADDRESSED IF WE EVER WANT AN INKLING OF A CHANCE TO FOSTER STRONG BLACK FAMILIES.” (Tom Burrell, Brainwashed: Challenging the myth of Black Inferiority, p.32-33)

Don’t be discouraged after reading the above citation from Burrell. There is hope! For the Bible says, “Be Ye Transformed!”

Romans 12:1 ¶ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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How to kill a giant

I needed to re-read this today. Thanks Lord for the reminder of your empowering grace.

A View From PEW

david-versus-goliath

1 Samuel 17:33, 37 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine {Goliath} to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” …… David said, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Humanly speaking, Saul spoke the truth when he said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine.”  Take a quick look at David’s resume below and see if you don’t agree with Sauls words

  • David was merely a youth (a lad) when Saul shared his assessment of David’s chance of success against Goliath.
  • David was not even the choicest of his own fathers children.
  • David was a shepherd to this point of his career, and unskilled in war.

Goliath…

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Many Voices to Chose From, but only One Voice Has the Truth

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Proverbs 3:1 ¶ My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands;
2 For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you.

Many of our struggles in life come upon us because we listen to the multitude of negative voices that bombard us daily. Below is a list of just a few of the many voices that speak to us every day.

  • We hear the voice of fear
  • We hear the voice of failure
  • We hear the voice of defeat
  • We hear the voice of rejection
  • We hear the voice of incompetence
  • We hear the voice of criticism
  • We hear the voice of slander
  • The voice of guilt
  • We hear the voice that says we are not loved

Sometimes these voices are rooted in our past circumstances. Sometimes these voices are fixed in our present circumstances. No matter where these voices come from, they are not the voice of the Spirit of God. For:

  • God says “fear not”, for I have not given you the spirit of fear, but of “power, love, and soundness of mind.” (Isaiah 41:10; 2 Timothy 1:7)
  • God says we are not failures because “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)
  • God says we are not defeated, because in Christ “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
  • God says we are not rejected. Quite the contrary, we’ve been 1) adopted as sons to Himself, 2) according to His will, and 3) for His glory. Simply put, God has “made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:5,6,7)
  • God says we are not incompetent because we “are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:10; see also I Corinthians 12)
  • Regarding criticism, God says “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33)
  • And when haters slander us and try to bring us down to their level with hurtful words, God says “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11,12)
  • God speaks to us with the voice of forgivenesssaying it is I, “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:3-5; see also 1 John 1:9)

In essence, God says we are His “beloved”.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” (1 John 3:1,2)

What God says of His children defines them for both time and for eternity. By faith believe what God says, and by faith live your life accordingly. Of the thousands of voices that are in the world today, voices that cry out for our attention, only One voice says authoritatively, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11)  When this voice speaks, it speaks the truth with power.  This is the voice of freedom.  This is the voice of God. (John 8:32)

I love these words from Eben Otuteye, that I have shared below:

Affirm and meditate on the life of God in you. Meditate on your oneness with God. If you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior then God has put His spirit in you and His spirit has merged with your spirit. Therefore deep at the spiritual level you are one with God. (You may be wondering “if I am one with God how come I am not perfect and I still have these wacky beliefs, behaviors and attitudes?” The answer is that it is your mind and your body that are in the way but God can fix that).

Recognize, acknowledge and thank God that the best and the greatest thing that can ever happen to a human being has happened to you. You have the best and the greatest thing that a person can ever have: you have the life of God in you.

God, by His Holy Spirit dwells inside of you and is always with you and He fully fills your whole being. He is Emmanuel, the Lord with us. He is Jehovah Shammah – The Lord is there; the ever present One. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ and Christ is in you and you are in Christ. Your spirit is fused and merged with the Spirit of God and you are one with God. (John 17:23; 2 Peter 1:1-7)

Meditate on and thank God for the fact that He has put His life in you, which means that you are one with perfect love; you are one with all power; you are one with all wisdom; you are one with all knowledge; you are one with every good thing. You are one with the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God. Nothing can ever overcome or defeat you because the omnipotent power of God is working in you, through you, and for you. The omnipotent power of God, combined with His wisdom, lovingkindness, and faithfulness towards you, makes you always a winner and an overcomer. Nothing can separate you from the love of God and nothing can separate you from the power of God. That makes you more than a conqueror in all things.

You are a child of God and whatever is born of God overcomes the world. Whatever is born of God overcomes all circumstances and situations. Since you are merged with God and you are one with God, that means whatever comes against you has to contend with God. Whatever comes against you needs to overcome God in order to be able to overcome you. There is nothing that can overcome or defeat the power of God. Therefore, nothing can overcome or defeat you. The power of God working in you and for you guarantees that you will win in every situation and over anything. Meditate on this.

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

delight

Captain or Crewman?

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Proverbs 13:13 ¶ He who despises the word will be destroyed, But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.

Proverbs 14:12 ¶ There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Ravi Zacharias wrote a book titled, “Can a Man Live Without God.” Although the obvious answer is no, this does not prevent the foolish from trying. Everyone born into the world has brought into lie that we are “gods” (Genesis 3:5), and this makes us proudly believe that we are “master of our own fate and captain of our own soul.”

Truth is, if we are masters and commanders of our own destiny we aren’t doing too good at it (frankly, we are making a mess of things).

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The reason that God gave us His Son is because He loves us, and He does not want us to live in darkness. God does not want us to walk aimlessly through this life, and then spend eternity in Hell.

  • John 8:12 ¶ Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

The wise understand that we are not gods, but through faith in Jesus Christ we’ve become children of God (John 1:12). Our faith in Christ has given us new life, a passion to know God intimately, and a hunger to know and live by His word.

My prayer today is that God will take us deeper into the knowledge of God, and deeper still into the love of God as we feast on His word.

  • Colossians 2:1 ¶ For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Remember, “he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.”

Wanted! Counselors of Joy

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Could you imagine seeing a newspaper want ad like the this one:

  • Help Wanted! Counselors of Joy:
    • Must be willing to retrain the way you think and speak of others.

I thought about this as I read my daily proverb this morning.

  • Proverbs 12:17 ¶ He who speaks truth declares righteousness, But a false witness, deceit. 18 ¶ There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health. 19 ¶ The truthful lip shall be established forever, But a lying tongue is but for a moment. 20 ¶ Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, But counselors of peace have joy.

As I continue to read through the book of Proverbs it is amazing how many times the LORD commends the righteous for speaking words that build others up; words that promote healing, peace, joy, and comfort. It is also amazing how many times the LORD condemns the the wicked for speaking words that destroy others.

I have a friend who was destroyed by the words of a teacher when he was in grade school. My friend suffered with asthma as a child, as a result he tended to miss a lot of school. One day when he returned to school after missing a couple days, his teacher said to him, “You are always absent, you will never be anything.” These were horribly harsh words to a kid that loved learning and loved going to school.  Needless to say, after hearing this my friend hated going to school; he hatted it so much that his mom would fight him daily to do so. (The above friend was actually one of my brothers)

Take a look at Ephesians 4:29 below:

  • Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

The word in verse 29 “corrupt” (GK. adjective = sapros) means rotten, like rotten fruit.  When I think of this word it reminds me of a tomato or a piece of fruit that has become moldy and unpalatable.  The point is: If I would not eat something rotten and gross like this, then I should not serve it to others.

My prayer for everyone that reads this is that God will use them as “Counselors of peace”. Although using words to put someone in their place or tear them down may make us feel important and powerful at the time, in the long run they will not bring us joy. As Proverbs 12:20 says, the “counselors of peace have joy.” Friend, let’s speak life!