Caution! Read the Label

Warning! May be addictive.

Yesterday I bought a jar of sunflower kernels (that’s the seeds without armor). As I hadn’t enjoyed such a treat in a very long time, and I went to the store hungry, I naturally bought the beckoning jar of golden pleasure. After enjoying a modest snack—I kid you not—I stopped today and read the label:

INGREDIENTS: SUNFLOWER KERNELS, SEA SALT, SUGAR, CORN STARCH, CONTAINS 1% OR LESS OF THE FOLLOWING: MONOSODIUM  GLUTAMATE, MALTODEXTRIN, SMOKED TORULA YEAST, DRIED CORN SYRUP, SPICE, GARLIC POWDER, ONION POWDER. (Emphasis mine)

I was aghast! Why would I want to take all that junk into my body? I thought I had read the label; it said, “Dry Roasted Sunflower Kernels (with sea salt),” but I hadn’t read the entire label.

So, I relearned a valuable life-lesson: Always read everything on the label.

You were “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14), and your Maker even provided a detailed label so you could know exactly what’s inside; it’s contained within our User’s Manuel. Of course, the Bible doesn’t tell us all the minute, physiological details of our composition, but it does reveal the really important stuff; you have a body, a soul, and a spirit, and each of those require certain things to prosper, or even to survive. For example, your body needs nutrition (preferably without all the garbage in those sunflower kernels), shelter, and hygiene. Your soul—including your mind, personality, temperament, and emotions—need to take on strong, positive character. Your human spirit is like bleached, white flower; it “tastes” great, but lacks anything to sustain life. God designed the human spirit to work in concert with his Holy Spirit, but that all ended when Man chose to disobey God’s clear command—his only command, by the way—and believe the serpent’s lie.

If you’re a Christ-follower, you already know all that, but did you know that your behavior and attitudes can shackle the Holy Spirit’s work in your life? If we subscribe to the “Stinkin’ Thinkin'” mentality, or refuse to cultivate spiritual fruit, we grieve God’s Spirit and open ourselves up to the unpleasant, even catastrophic, consequences.

Acts 17 tells the story of Thessalonian Jews dragging Jason and other believers into court with accusations of “turning the world upside down.” Are we still that church? Are we still making more than a subtle difference in our world? When did we, God’s church, loose that power? What compromise do we make that grieves God’s Spirit in our lives and churches?

The answer is easy: We have once again sold our souls to the enemy, trading the Way of Christ for playing church. We allow the world’s values and perversions into our homes by calling it, “entertainment.” We compromise our holiness to seem relevant, even cool, in our world. While all of these shortfalls are also true of me personally, this last one is true of me especially: We over-think our faith, trying to make it humanly reasonable, unable to believe what doesn’t make sense, living by sight, and not by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

If that indictment seems like no big thang, I even have to wonder if we are in Christ at all. If we’re okay with an impotent church, is it truly God’s church?

Caution! We need to carefully and completely read the Label God placed on us, then follow its instructions, not to the letter, as that is legalism, but by his Spirit. Only then will we complete Jesus’ Great Commission.

C.S. Lewis on Addiction To Experiences

Once again, Uncle Jack nailed it, and this time on a difficult topic:

TO MRS. RAY GARRETT: On the real program of the spiritual life—living in the present moment.

12 September 1960

The whole lesson of my life has been that no ‘methods of stimulation’ are of any lasting use. They are indeed like drugs—a stronger dose is needed each time and soon no possible dose is effective. We must not bother about thrills at all. Do the present duty—bear the present pain—enjoy the present pleasure—and leave emotions and ‘experiences’ to look after themselves.

That’s the programme, isn’t it?

Yes, that is indeed the “programme.” One sort of stimulation he left out is fun. We have elevated, “having fun,” from an occasional treat, to a continual obsession. We pursue it at the expense of life’s reasonable responsibilities, and as Lewis said, “A stronger dose is needed each time, and soon no possible dose is effective.”

We wonder why our kids complain so often of boredom. Have we never thought it might be related to our compulsion with keeping them occupied in, “fun activities?” We recognize our babies’ need to avoid “over stimulation,” but when they get older we keep them stimulated at all cost. Lewis didn’t use the word, but that’s called “desensitization,” where they become accustomed to a certain stimulation level, so they need ever more to feel it at all. Hmm, sounds like addiction, doesn’t it?

So, what choices do we have to deal with the problem? The easiest in the short term would be to keep on keepin’ on, leaving our offspring to deal with the consequences. But is the loving thing to do?

Our second choice is the hard one to implement, but it actually deals with the problem: Take away their media gadgets until they learn to live without them, and until they begin showing some level of gratitude for life’s more subtle enjoyments. Then, gradually reintroduce them to the gadgets which, by then, will be completely obsolete.

Yes, you will have to endure a storm of opposition. And yes, you will have to demonstrate your own independence from the entertainment media. Your reward will be more quality time with them, and yourselves.

That’s hard medicine to swallow, but nothing else will free both them, and yourselves, from artificial stimulation. Bite the bullet! Kick the addiction! And yes, I need to do it as well (ouch!).

There! I said my piece.

I would like to recommend a blog that I just followed: No Apologies Allowed — Weekly apologetics cartoons for the faithful, the faithless, and the full-of-its. The cartoon above is from a post titled, “Are our protestations prepping us for judgment?” I submitted a lengthy comment to that post, and to improve the chances of your reading it, here it is:

You wrote, “Yet just as you can’t ignore natural laws and get away unharmed, so, too, can we not ignore the moral law within our consciences and expect to avoid the consequences.”

I maintain that, while moral law is within our consciences, God’s immutable spiritual law is independent of conscience. One of those spiritual laws is the Law of Sowing and Reaping, which works both in the spiritual and the natural plain. Whether we try to defy God, or gravity, we will reap the consequences.

Regarding the question of judgment for the church’s sin, Jesus bore the world’s sin-punishment on the cross; he paid the price to buy us back from Satan, to whom we individually sold ourselves when we first sinned. But Hebrews 10:26-31 (Darby) tells us, “For where we sin willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains any sacrifice for sins,
(27) but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and heat of fire about to devour the adversaries.
(28) Anyone that has disregarded Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses:
(29) of how much worse punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and esteemed the blood of the covenant, whereby he has been sanctified, common, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
(30) For we know him that said, To me belongs vengeance; *I* will recompense, saith the Lord: and again, The Lord shall judge his people.
(31) It is a fearful thing falling into the hands of the living God.”

We live under the covenant of grace, and God’s grace is indeed infinite regarding our human frailties. But I’m not sure how far God stretches his grace toward those who usurp his authority, propagate false teachings and presumptuously sin (deliberately test God’s grace). Attempting to walk the boundary between the forgivable and the unforgivable is a dangerous game pursued only by those who do not love God. But those who do stand squarely on the solid Rock of our faith, the incarnate Word of God.

Thing is, those who argue about what is or isn’t sin, or what you can get away with as a Christian are missing the gospel’s point entirely. The writer of Hebrews said: Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV) If God told his church to pursue holiness, he can’t have been referring to Christ’s holiness imputed to us because we already have that. Apostle Paul wrote: Having therefore these promises (that if we separate ourselves from those who are worldly, God will be to us a Father, and we shall be to him sons and daughters), beloved, let us purify ourselves from every pollution of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear. (2 Corinthians 7:1 Darby) The problem with today’s church is we simply do not fear God. As long as that is true, we will never glorify God and our praises are worse-than useless.

My Rights

Americans express a wide range of opinions and beliefs regarding our rights as citizens of the United States of America, many of which are absolute poppycock. One end of the spectrum declares our right to freedom from religion, while the other extreme defends our right to “keep and bear arms” of all kinds and for any purpose. And all of them cite the U.S. Bill of Rights as the basis of their allegations, though such citations are almost always taken out of context.

I see two foundational human rights upon which all other rights derive their validity: First, we have the right to expect God to be true to his divine nature, as his Word declares it. That rules out most popular beliefs about him, such as, “My god is a loving god, who would never condemn his beloved children to perdition simply for violating a few rules.” Please note that I spelled “god” with a small g, because the word, in that context, doesn’t represent the God of the Bible, but is a construct of New Age religion and wishful thinking.

The second foundational human right is hard to accept; in fact, most folks refuse to accept it. That right is: We must expect to receive the just consequences of our actions. Galatians chapter six is a rich source of principles for godly living, including commands to share one another’s burdens, to avoid comparing oneself to others, to support Christian workers, and the Law of Sowing and Reaping. These aren’t just arbitrary rules, but essential principles for effective body-life. Of course there are many more that are just as important in the New Testament, but I’d have to write a book to enumerate them all. Hmmm, maybe I should, but the trouble with that idea is the church would just ignore it right along with the dozens of other books on the same subject that are better than I could ever write.

Yes, obeying all the various aspects of New Testament law is a daunting prospect, but fortunately for us, God provided the Way around the harsh fate that naturally awaits us sinners. Yes, sinners, ’cause nobody’s perfect. If that thought is new to you, I’m curious what rock you’ve been hiding under.

Grasping our rights without accepting the responsibilities that they carry is plain foolish. Now, we don’t want to act like fools, do we?

Proud of Being White?

AWHMI followed a link to a Facebook page called, “American White History Month.” On it, I found a slogan with which I, though about as white as one can be, cannot agree. With it, however, I found a true statement, which I will quote first, “Never apologize for being white.”

I’ve done many things during my sixty-eight years for which I could indeed apologize, but why would I apologize for being what God made me? That would be like apologizing for being male, or human. Though males and whites, indeed, all humans, do despicable things, we don’t do them because we are a particular sex or color; we do them because we are sinful.

The second slogan on that page proclaims far more than its creators realize. “Proud of our race and heritage,” seems dangerously close to taking credit for God’s creative work. We didn’t choose to be born white, and of European heritage, so how can we be proud of that? We can certainly be glad of it, and thankful for it, just as people of color can be glad and thankful for who they are. Following, are Bible passages that deal with pride and its consequences:

Ephesians 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21

1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

1 Timothy 4:4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Pride in something, and gratitude for it, are antithetical, if at once, one takes credit for it, and gives credit for it. So, which will it be? The passages above, and many more, command gratitude, but never does God’s Word tell us to take pride in what he gave us; even though we may have worked hard for something, or even invented it, we didn’t create it. Such pride is most certainly one form of evil.

As for our heritage, we are a nation born of Christian principles, and that, according to our Constitution’s Establishment Clause, is where our national Christianity ends. As Premier Obama said, America was never a Christian nation. Fact is, we can take pride in no nation governed by fallen human beings, as everything they do is based in sin, even if it seems noble. But we can, and must, remain thankful for it.

Reckless Abandon with Your Gentleman-Suitor

I’ve discovered that Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost For His Highest, liked to use the phrase, “reckless abandon,” in describing the degree to which he urged patterning our lives after the Lord Jesus. So, I looked up those words in the dictionary—a slick-and-easy project in Kindle for PC.

reck•less adj. without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action: reckless driving
a•ban•don n. complete lack of inhibition or restraint: follow Christ with abandon.

I suppose every preacher develops his catch-phrases; such things help establish his professional identity. But to use them “recklessly” confuses their true meaning and reduces their impact. So let’s slice-and-dice this phrase til we find its most profound application to our lives.

What possible benefit might you find in “recklessness?” Every action has consequences, even in-action. (Why don’t they call it un-action, or non-action? Never mind, I think too much about words.) When you’re in sin—that doesn’t necessarily mean

The Kiss

habitual, gross sin, like adultery or larceny—if you’re at all a sane person, you take extreme measures to avoid consequences of the painful variety, although you’re not at all surprised if they find you anyway. You do it because you hope for positive consequences, or tangible reward.

Meet the new Nero.

Consequences of following Christ also fall into those two categories. The painful side, at least in the U.S., includes alienating close friends and family, or loosing social status. As for the blissful—yes, I said blissful—side, they range from loosing your guilt feelings, shame, and regret, to gaining a fantastic new Friend, and the family that comes with him. Oh, and don’t forget eternity with your loving, personal God.

I can’t imagine what it will be like …

“Abandon” certainly has a romantic connotation, as in “throwing caution to the wind” with that lady or gentleman you’ve been dreaming about. While such wind-throwing sports undeniable rewards, they are mild and short-term compared to the rewards you can expect from intimacy with Christ Jesus.

So, throw caution to the wind, and recklessly pursue your Gentleman-Suitor. He’ll love and care for you forever.

I Won’t Hear It!

“Don’t prophesy against me, O man of God!” Did you catch the sarcastic inference? That’s the historical response to a prophet’s warnings, both then, and now. Of course, today’s prophets—we call them preachers—only reiterate the warnings of old, but such warnings are just as prophetic as they were then; reject God’s loving chastisements and suffer the consequences.

Pop psychology calls it, denial. God calls it, foolishness. I call it, normal human behavior. But, whatever you call it, the end result is the same: Judgment!

Today’s people reject God’s messengers as readily as did their Old Testament counterparts. So, what does God have in store for us? Whether you call yourself atheist, agnostic, pagan, religious, or Christian, the eternal Lord of hosts has words for you. All of those categories, indeed, each of their members, have unique ways of dismissing God’s messengers.

Some “consider the source.” Whether it’s a televangelist, a gospel tract, or a guest preacher, we easily rationalize their message away if they challenge our status quo.

Some simply tolerate direct preaching, preferring the more conciliatory approach. Judgment and hell-fire are, after all, a huge turn-off.

Some are so egocentric that they can’t imagine a higher authority than themselves. Of course, barring divine intervention, we’re each the center of our own personal universe, so it’s easy to imagine yourself as its god. That’s the personal autonomy myth, where we confuse volition with ultimate authority. Truth is, everyone, regardless their position or title, derives their authority from someone else. Even the President of the United States, though his lackeys say he’s the world’s most powerful man, serves the nation’s people, and ultimately, God.

Some honestly don’t know about God; that’s the definition of agnostic. Yes, they’ve heard of him, but they think they haven’t seen any evidence of his existence, even though such evidence surrounds them. Somehow, the idea of something, or someone, existing without giving sensory clues is inconceivable to them. The difference between the agnostic and the atheist is the agnostic grants the possibility that God exists. And that introduces the final category.

Where the agnostic finds God inconceivable—which, truthfully, he is—the atheist absolutely denies God’s existence. Atheists usually are mad at God, or even hate him, so they jealously grasp any ideological straw that allows them to deny he exists. I mean, if he doesn’t exist, he can’t punish you.

I, like most Christians, admit I could obey God more fully. That means we fail to live up to the light God gave us. What’s my excuse? What’s your excuse? Fact is, there is no excuse for disobeying God; we are all held accountable for our disobedience. If not for God’s grace, granted to us through Jesus’ holy blood, that accountability would be our condemnation. God’s Word is full of his love for us, but two Scripture passages clearly reveal to us the magnitude of his grace:

1 John 1:8-9 ESV
(8) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
(9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Romans 7:13-25; 8:1-2 ESV
(13) Did that which is good, then[the Law], bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
(14) For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
(15) For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
(16) Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
(17) So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
(18) For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
(19) For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
(20) Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
(21) So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
(22) For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
(23) but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
(24) Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
(25) Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

8:1-2
(1) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
(2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death

Both the bad news of our sin and God’s judgment for it, and the good news of his love and gracious provision for our weakness and rebellion, are prophetic. Just as God is always the same, so is his message: Listen up, and obey, so I can bless you with my infinite love and grace.