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)

 

Anger Management?

self control

Proverbs 16:32 ¶ He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,

And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

There is a legitimate time and place for anger.  One day when Jesus walked into the temple and saw that men had turned God’s house into a crooked mall he got angry.

Mark 11:5 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.'”

Why was Jesus angry?  Let me suggest that one aspect of his anger was his seeing how the poor and needy were being treated in God’s house.  Take a look at the parallel passage found in Matthew 21:12-14, and observe that after Jesus kicked the religious merchants out of the temple, the Bible says, “Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.”  It seems from this text that the blind and the lame (a generic description of the poor and needy in Jesus’ day) who could not afford to buy the stuff that was being sold in God’s house were not welcomed inside.  Jesus hated seeing people treated poorly, and we should too.  We should hate the things that God hates, and when we see the weak being hurt or discriminated against, we should be moved to passionately do something about it.  This kind of anger is OK with God.  Being angry when we see God’s truth being distorted, or Christianity being prostituted and merchandised is also OK with God.

  • Psalm 119:104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.
  • Psalm 119:113 ¶ SAMEK. I hate the double-minded, But I love Your law.
  • Psalm 119:163 ¶ I hate and abhor lying, But I love Your law.
  • Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.
  • Proverbs 31:8 Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, And plead the cause of the poor and needy.
  • Isaiah 61:8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, And will make with them an everlasting covenant.

However, let’s be honest and confess that most of the things that make us angry have nothing to do with God, righteousness, truth, or standing up for others.  Most of the things that make us angry are the (real or imagined) intrusions on our sense of personal entitlement.  Here is a list of a few suggested entitlements:

  1. I am entitled not to wait behind people in the check-out line that try to save money by using coupons.
  2. I entitled to cut a line to ask the customer service person a question that the person I have cut off had to wait in line to ask.
  3. I am entitled not to be skipped in line.
  4. I am entitled to leave for an appointment five minutes later than I should have, therefore:
  5. I am entitled to drive 15 miles an hour faster than everyone else on the road so I won’t be late for the above appointment.
  6. I am entitled to come home to a clean house, have my dinner waiting,  have the kids homework already done, sit on the couch and watch football (Monday, Thursday, Saturday Afternoon, and Sunday … but only during the regular season, then I an entitled to watch the playoffs too.).
  7. I am entitled to having a great night with my wife after cashing in on all of my entitlements listed in number 4.
  8. I am entitled to my wife taking aspirin for her headache at least two hours before I get home.
  9. I am entitled to everyone knowing that my opinion is the only one that is right and valid.
  10. I am entitled to criticize others and pointing out their mistakes.
  11. I am entitled not to be criticized.
  12. I am entitled to be listened to at all times.
  13. I am not entitled not to listen to others.
  14. I am entitled to more entitlements.

The point is: When our personal list of entitlements is threatened or violated by others we get angry.  However, the scripture says to those that are followers of Jesus, “you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:20-21).  Therefore, the LORD instructs his followers to:

  • put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (Ephesians 4:22)
  • be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (Ephesians 4:23)
  • put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
  • put away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”(Ephesians 4:25)
  • “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26,27)

One aspect of self control is the ability to check our attitude and emotions before reacting.   Thus, the hot buttons that trigger anger inside of us are either removed completely or insulated under a deep layer of what the Bible calls “Long-suffering.”  From whence does self-control come, and where may we find the covering of longsuffering?

Let me suggest that as followers of Jesus fellowship with the LORD, and walk with Him by faith, God transforms them through the power of the Word (The Bible) and by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Our faith in Christ is what makes it possible for the, “old things [to] “pass away, [and] all things [to] become new”.  Yes, the “old things” that have passed away includes our list of personal entitlements, and with them the triggers that cause us to exhibit ungodly anger.

God wants followers of Jesus, not just to become better individuals, but expressions of the life of His Son in the world. When Jesus’ life is being expressed through his followers, it looks like:

people genuinely loving others …

folk filled with joy …

people at peace …

with their hot buttons insulated by layers of longsuffering ,,,

a spiritual community where random acts of kindness are the norm …

enjoying an atmosphere goodness, …

faithfulness, …

gentleness, and …

self-control. (see Galatians 5:22-24)

Furthermore, when the life of Jesus is being expressed through his followers, “those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”:

they live in the Spirit, …

they walk in the Spirit …

they are not conceited …

they do they provoke one another ..,

nor do they envy one another. (See Galatians 5:24-26)

When the life of Jesus is being expressed through His followers, their anger is not under management, it is managed.

 Anger

Victory over fear

overcoming-fear

1 John 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

It is no sin to be afraid.  When king Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was threatened by an overwhelming army, the Bible says that this godly king “feared” (2 Chronicles 20:1-3).  When the apostle Paul shared his testimony with the Corinthians, he admitted that there were times in his life when he was “troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.” (2 Corinthians 7:5).

It is OK to be afraid at times, but it is never OK to allow fear to stifle us, stagnate us, subjugate us, or cause us to stumble and feel sorry for ourselves.  When Jehoshaphat feared, he sought strength and comfort by standing on the promises of God (2 Chronicles 20:4-13).  In the midst of his troubles, conflicts, and fears Paul found his strength in God; the One “who comforts the downcast” (2 Corinthians 7:6)   When I consider the examples above, I have to conclude that it is no sin to fear.  However, I must also conclude that if I do not turn my times of fear into opportunities to renew my trust in the unfailing promises of God, then I will be faithless; and whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23)

Psalm 56:3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.

I love Watchman Nee’s thoughts on victorious faith living below :

“Let me tell you here and now that if Satan comes to make you feel cold, weak and defeated, you should say , ‘I am victorious, for Christ is my victory.’   If he comes to make you feel hasty, you still should say, ‘I am victorious, because Christ is my victory.’  By so doing you declare that what Satan does and says is a lie, because only the word of God is true.  This is faith, and such tested faith is the kind which glorifies God’s name.”

“….. genuine faith must successfully go through testing.  You are finished if as soon as you encounter temptation you concede you do nave victory.”

“When you are faced with temptation, you will stand victoriously if you declare that God’s word–the word of Jehovah of host–is trustworthy and dependable.  Whatever God says is yea and amen, and His word is set in heaven forever.  The question now is, whose word will you believe?”  (Watchman Nee, The Life That Wins)

fear-no-evil