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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The Impertative of Thinking out of the Box

overcoming-fear

The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. (Albert Einstein)

The headline of David Farenhold’s article (Washington Post, 12/16/2014)  read:

NASA built a $349 million tower — for a program scrubbed years earlier: What happens to a big bureaucracy after its sense of mission starts to fade?

When I read this article I thought to myself, “What ever happened to the Grace Commission Report on government waste?”  If you are not familiar with the  Grace report, it was commissioned by President Ronald Regan in 1982, and presented to congress in 1984.

The report claimed that if its recommendations were followed, $424 billion could be saved in three years, rising to $1.9 trillion per year by the year 2000. It estimated that the national debt, without these reforms, would rise to $13 trillion by the year 2000, while with the reforms they projected it would rise to only $2.5 trillion.  Congress ignored the commission’s report. The debt reached $5.8 trillion in the year 2000.  The national debt reached 13 trillion after the subprime mortgage-collateralized debt obligation crisis in 2008.”

The report said that one-third of all income taxes are consumed by waste and inefficiency in the federal government, and another one-third escapes collection owing to the underground economy. “With two thirds of everyone’s personal income taxes wasted or not collected, 100 percent of what is collected is absorbed solely by interest on the federal debt and by federal government contributions to transfer payments. In other words, all individual income tax revenues are gone before one nickel is spent on the services that taxpayers expect from their government.” (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grace_Commission)

Has anything changed in the way our government does business since the Grace Report was released 34 years ago?  The answer is, “No.” (Since 1980 we have had 20 years of Republican leadership in the White House, and – by the end of President Obama’s second term – 16 years of Democratic leadership)  Therefore, the question is, “Why hasn’t anything changed?”  Let me suggest that things have not changed because we have not changed.  To paraphrase Pogo, the problems that we face are not the Republicans or the Democrats, it is us; “We’ve met the enemy, and the enemy is us.” Looking into the mirror and noting that the “enemy is us” is the first step to freedom.

I love the scene from Remember the Titans, where coach Boone tells his players,

Everything we gonna do is changing. We are change. We’re gonna change the way we run. We’re gonna change the way we eat. We’re gonna change the way we block. We’re gonna change the way we tackle. We’re gonna change the way we win.

Winning (freedom), according to coach Boone’s philosophy, does not start with analyzing the other team’s strengths and weaknesses, by adding new players to a broken team, or by taking note of the inadequacies of the playing field, and then protesting that the game is slanted against you.  According to coach Boone, winning (i.e., freedom) starts within.  Winning starts with changing the way we think.  Winning starts with thinking outside of the box

The question is: What is at stake if  we don’t change our thinking?  Answer:  We will continue to be stuck in the loop that Einstein warned us about; we will continue to try solving our problems with the same level of thinking that created the problem in the first place.  G. Carter Woodson put it this way:

“History shows that it does not matter who is in power or what revolutionary forces take over the government, those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they had in the beginning.”Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro

The road to freedom always begins within, and traversing freedom’s road is the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.  The journey begins with thinking outside of the box.

Romans 12:2 Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. wisdom seeker

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

Get Wisdom!

wisdom seeker

Yes, “Wisdom is the principal thing”, and true wisdom is not found in books, discussion and focus groups, gossip columns, Google searches, or Wikipedia. Furthermore, wisdom cannot be found in religion.

True wisdom can be found in the person of Jesus Christ; as it is written:

1 Corinthians 1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption– 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

With this said, read the biography of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson below. Dr. Wilson was a brilliant man, who found true wisdom, not in academics, but in Christ. Enjoy.

Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930) was fluent in 45 languages and dialects, including all of the Biblical and cognate languages, such as Hebrew, Greek, Babylonian, Phoenician, Coptic, various Aramaic dialects, French, German, and so forth. 45 languages and dialects in all.

Wilson could already read at the early age of four, and by the age of five he had read, among other books, Rawlinson’s Ancient Monarchies. Wilson graduated from Princeton University at the age of 20, and he read the New Testament fluently in nine languages by the time he got to seminary. He had memorized the entire New Testament in Hebrew, along with portions of the Old Testament, and it is said the he could recite the New Testament in Hebrew without missing so much as a syllable.

Dick Wilson demolished the critics of his day, especially the likes of the heretic S. R. Driver and the Graf-Wellhausen School. Wilson’s major publications, in which he not only annihilated the liberal critics, but also fortified the foundations of the study of the Old Testament with brilliant elucidations and conclusions, like nobody before or since, were, The Scientific Investigation Of The Old Testament, Is Higher Criticism Scholarly, Studies In the Book Of Daniel (a two-volume masterpiece, and THE classic defense of the book of Daniel), and a host of papers and treatises in various publications. An example of Wilson’s genius and scholarship can be seen in this short paper — The Veracity Of The Old Testament — which delivers conclusive evidence for the accuracy of the foundation and transmission of the Hebrew Text.

Wilson became the leading professor at Princeton Theological Seminary where he spent many years defending the Bible against all comers, as well as turning out students with a sound foundation of rare learning. Nearing the age of seventy, Wilson nevertheless produced a stirring moment for his students when, after a dissertation on the complete trustworthiness of Scripture, the renowned scholar said with tears streaming down his face —

“Young men, there are many mysteries in this life I do not pretend to understand,many things hard to explain. But I can tell you this morning with the fullest assurance that:

Jesus loves me, this I know

For the Bible tells me so!”

Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise

A Priceless IPO That You Can Buy Without Money or Price

Psalms 19:7 ¶ The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.

Last Thursday Alibaba was introduced to world of finance with much fanfare, as Panos Mourdoukoutas notes, “Anyone following Alibaba’s (NYSE:BABA) debut on Wall Street this week cannot help but be impressed by the buzz it generated among institutional and individual investors, as the stock rocketed higher in the first day of trade.” (Forbes Online, 09/20/2014)  What is so good about Alibaba?  Well, to many investors Alibaba is the next best thing to offer investors an avenue to enormous profits and earthly riches.  However, as good of an investment Alibaba may be, if you are one of the fortunate investors to strike it rich through this investment, when you die, how much of your earthly wealth will you leave behind? And more importantly, “when you pass from earth into eternity, how much of your treasure will you take with you?”  The answer to the first question is, “all of it.”  And the answer to the second question is this; if your treasure was only material, then you will take nothing with you.  (supposedly these were questions being asked after the death of J. D. Rockefeller)

Now if you will, imagine what would be the price of an IPO that promised to give “new life to the soul”, to give wisdom to the foolish”, to make “glad the heart”, to give “light to the eyes”, and it was always “clean”, “true”,  and “full of righteousness”  (quotes are excerpts of Psalm 19 from the Bible in Basic English)?  Wouldn’t this product be priceless?  Yet this is exactly what the Law of the Lord is guaranteed to do.   Nevertheless, the LORD beckons us to come and buy it without money and without price. (Isaiah 55)

What grace the Lord has bestowed upon us in giving us the Bible; it is the only infallible source of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding on earth.  Read it!  Feast on it!  And if you make it your aim in life to both know and to do it, God’s word will positively change your life forever.

Proverbs 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; 8 He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints.

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