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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Everything Will Kill You!

Vaccines, GMO foods, dyes, additives, FDA approved and not, sweeteners, agricultural sprays, plastic water bottles, farmed fish, vegetable oils…. I even read that chicken's the very worst meat. It will kill you!*

Back in the day, the main culprits were tobacco and alcohol. Now, it's your soda. The sugar will do you in. You switch to diet drinks and find out they're even worse! In the United Kingdom, they're seriously considering demanding identification for buying energy drinks.

Don't cook in aluminum pans. It rubs off and gives you Alzheimer's. And the list goes on. Everything will kill you!

Did you know there's arsenic in apple seeds? (It will take about 200 to kill you, but who eats the seeds, anyhow?) We won't even start on Romaine lettuce.

I sometimes wonder what to believe. The prohibitions seem to go in a giant cycle that changes completely every 25 years and slightly every five. You're told to ban fats, carbs, and sugar. Then, the culprit is gluten. Seriously, after a while you wonder if you can eat anything at all.

My friends raise their own chickens for eggs and eating. A guy with whom I went to college has won awards for his contributions to organic farming. Several of my friends live on organic farms and sell their produce. My in-laws usually buy veggies from Amish and Mennonite farms.

All this sounds great to me. I think food tastes better as natural as possible. I am also for nutritionally balanced eating and no extremes (unless you have a health issue, which is a totally different subject all together).

But, I believe we've gotten a lot wrong as we're fearful about what we put into our bodies. Don't get me wrong. We should be careful. We should try to take care of our bodies. This is Scriptural** and good. But, many Christians put most of their time and energy caring for their bodies. I know people who've lost mega weight, and they're right to be proud of their before and after photos. Others have gotten healthier and fitter. I'm sincerely glad for them.

At the same time, it seems our bodies, stomachs, and looking beautiful have replaced our desire to be healthy spiritually. Jesus said, Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. And Jesus said (to His disciples), Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man (Matthew 15:11, 16-20).

In my experience as a pastor's wife and counselor, the biggest problem faced by women isn't what they eat. It's their hearts.

What's going into your heart?
  • I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope (Psalm 16:8-9).
  • The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer (Psalm 19:8, 14).
  • Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:8).
  • With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psalm 119:10-11).

Are you dining on God's Word?

Are your entertainment and leisure choices pleasing to the Lord?

Do you trust in God and pour out your heart*** to Him in prayer?

Do you seek Him with your whole heart and review His Word during the day?

If so, what comes out of your heart will be beautiful.

Let's seek moderation in other areas of our lives (including food) and find our delight in the Lord! God bless you today!


* Please understand. My point is that "they" (whoever "they" are) say all kinds of things will kill you. Have I stopped eating chicken or other things I listed? No. If I believed all the warnings, I'd never eat at all. I make an effort to be healthy but not extreme. There are many businesses that capitalize on food and health fads. They, too, will probably pass in popularity with time.
** 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20
*** Psalm 62:8; Lamentations 2:19

Friday, November 16, 2018

Passionate About Poop

There's an emoji for it, social media backgrounds full of little piles of it. The poop piles have eyes. Cartoons, sayings, jokes…. It seems the world has gone crazy about excrement.

I don't understand.

Call me old fashioned. Not too long ago, scatological references were taboo. In many parts of the world, they still are. So why the fascination?

Farmers call it natural fertilizer. I seriously doubt that any of them would draw cow pie pictures and give them eyes.

So, why do I bring up this topic at all? (Gross, I know.) Because, though everyone necessarily knows about feces, it's not a lovely subject for our thoughts. It's an ugly way to express ourselves (along with puke and some others). I believe it indicates how far we've sunk. Remember when emojis were basically smiley faces? Case in point.

Where should our thoughts be? The Bible gives us the best outline: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8). Pure, lovely, good, praiseworthy … think about these things.

Instead of references to ugly stuff, let's focus our thoughts on what's beautiful. And, the next time we want to share something on social media, let's make it praiseworthy.

Let's make this practical.

What does God call beautiful or lovely?
  • Women, such as Rachel, Abigail, Bathsheba, Esther, the Shulamite (Solomon's wife)
  • Men, such as David, Saul, Jonathan, even old men with white hair
  • The garments used in the Tabernacle worship were for glory and beauty.
  • Jerusalem, the city of God. Also, the gate of the Temple was called Beautiful.
  • Holiness in worship: Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness (1 Chronicles 16:29).
  • The Lord Himself: One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple (Psalm 27:4).
  • God's creation: He hath made every thing beautiful in his time (Ecclesiastes 3:11a).
  • Feet: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Isaiah 52:7)
  • How God "dressed" Israel was beautiful. (Ezekiel 16)

We can rejoice in creation. It points us to the Lord, the Maker of all this beauty. We can praise the Lord.

We can center our thoughts on the Bible. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But; his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).

I'm afraid we're so obsessed with all the crud in the world—and in our own lives—that we forget to discipline our minds to Philippians 4:8 thinking. The next time you think how poopy something is, change your thoughts. Look up. View the clouds, stars, and sunset. Look around you and smell the roses. Praise God in your heart.

That's a great beginning towards having a Christ-like mentality.

If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him,
as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation
the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is
created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:21-24).

… if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
(Philippians 4:8)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

When You Mess Up God's Perfect Plan for Your Life (Is There One?)

There's a popular evangelistic tool that begins "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." I was trying to think of any Bible verses about God's plan, and the only one that came to mind was one that says God thinks about us in a positive way.* It's not the same as saying God has a distinct life plan already set for you.

Does the Bible actually say God has a master plan for people's lives? It depends on how you look at it. The word plan(s) doesn't appear in the King James Version even one time. But, the Bible gives us a good idea about God's will—in a more general way. He wants us to:
  • Obey Jesus unto salvation. Hebrews 5:9
  • Put God first. Matthew 6:33
  • Keep Jesus' commandments. John 14:15
  • Recognize that everything that comes into our lives is for our ultimate good. Romans 8:28
  • Display the fruit of the Spirit. Philippians 1:9-11; Galatians 5:22-23
  • Be holy. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
  • Give thanks in everything. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
  • Do good. 1 Peter 2:15

Instead of a mapped out plan for each person's life, God provides guidelines, and He also promises to be our Guide.
  • He will teach sinful people who are willing to learn. Psalm 25:8, 12; 32:8; Proverbs 4:11; 8:20
  • God will actually light our path step by step with His Word. Psalm 119:105, 133
  • God is our Guide. Psalm 31:3; 48:14; 73:24; John 16:13 (Holy Spirit)
I love these verses: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

But, all of us mess up sometimes. We make bad choices. We sin. We forget about asking God for His guidance, and we might even get away from the Lord, for a time not even considering what He wants.

When we make mistakes, does that mean the whole wonderful plan gets ripped up and thrown in the trash can? Does this mean that we can never have a life that pleases God? Do we have to settle for second best? Do we even get in on God's plan at all?

I am so thankful for God's Word. It says, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for our sins. All of them. If you have accepted His incredible gift of redemption, you have been saved. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).

I believe there's no one so far gone that they can't be turned around and have a happy, victorious life in Jesus.

How can someone who's messed up get back on track? There's a simple little verse in 1 John, Chapter 1 that tells what a Christian needs to do to get back into fellowhip with the Lord. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (verse 9).

Do you remember the Apostle Paul? He was a great missionary, founding churches, strengthening believers, and suffering for the Lord—with joy. But, before he knew the Lord, he persecuted the church and was even responsible for imprisoning and murdering believers. And God chose to use Him.

If you, like Paul, think you're less than the least of all saints (Ephesians 3:8), remember that God rejoices in those who want to do His will. He can lead you and He will guide you.

Is there a perfect plan for our life, all mapped out and waiting for us to do it? No, I don't think so. Even perfect Adam and Eve could not remain sinless. Can God use us from wherever we are at this moment? Of course, if we're willing to trust Him step by step.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).

But the path of the just is as the shining light,
that shineth more and more unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18).

* Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Trusting for Tomorrow

Boast not thyself of tomorrow;
for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
(Proverbs 27:1)

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.
For what is your life? It is even a vapour,
that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
(James 4:14)

I filled out the questionnaire. Short term goals. Long term goals. It was a fresh reminder that we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

Life is fleeting.

We might seem healthy one day and learn we have an awful disease the next. We could lose a loved one. Accidents happen. People get killed. We never know when we get into the car if we'll arrive at our destination. There are fires and all kinds of possible dangers. And, a happier thought: we might go to meet the Lord in the Rapture, without dying. (That would suit me just fine.) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).

Whatever tomorrow brings, as Christians, we need to trust God. This subject reminds me of the song by LeAnn Rimes, "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow." Some of it goes like this:

"I don't know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day….

There are things about tomorrow
That I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand."

Her song is about Jesus. Knowing Him and trusting Him make all the difference.

It's so easy to become stressed and anxious, but the Lord knows all about it already. He sees the future as if it were today—and He's already there. I have to remind myself often, Be careful (full of care, anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Here are some more of my favorite verses about trusting in the Lord:
  • The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence (2 Samuel 22:3).
  • But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee (Psalm 5:11).
  • What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee (Psalm 56:3).
  • Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).
  • Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Knowing Jesus, we can have peace in any situation by putting it into His capable hands. Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (1 Peter 5:7).

What's going to happen tomorrow? We don't know.

But God does, and we can trust Him.

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!
therefore the children of men put their trust
under the shadow of thy wings.
(Psalm 36:7)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Planning My Party

I was planning a party for thirty friends,* and I sent out cute invitations, reflecting a Mexican theme. In a few days, the RSVPs came back. This is what they said:
  • Just so you know, I'm vegan.
  • I'm gluten free. I hope there will be something there for me.
  • I would love to come, but I don't eat any dairy or animal products.
  • Ahead of the party, just so you understand, I don't eat sugar in any form.
  • I can't have fish or seafood. I am extremely allergic.
  • I'm on the Newest Diet. Sorry, I can't come.
  • My family is vegetarian, but we eat dairy.
... And more. As I stood at my kitchen island reading the tenth such note, I shook my head. Then, I cried.
  • The cake I had planned is out—eggs, gluten, milk, and sugar.
  • The Mexican theme I'd planned is out—flour tacos, meat, cheese….
  • Hmmm … I could make a big salad with black beans—or a salad bar and be careful about dressings. For dessert: a mélange of natural fruits, no sugar added. Okay, my party is still on! No sodas, and I'll serve a variety of healthy drinks, sweetened—and not.
  • I'll label everything with cactus-style calligraphy.

The party day came, and so did my friends. Everyone ate and had fun. I was glad I'd been careful and labeled every drink. I was especially thankful I'd been forewarned. Games and laughter made me happy I had persevered. My decorations were bright Mexican blankets, embroidered shawls, pottery, and sombreros.

If you have a real issue with any foods (an allergy or illness), you do well to advise your host. As in my made-up party scenario, hosts are thankful to know about your needs ahead of the event so they can plan. I am very grateful for the guests we've entertained in our home who have done this for me.

One issue, though, is non-threatening foods and mere preferences. Do you need to be picky? Do you need to protest? Can you not break your own diet for one meal, when invited to someone's home? (Again, we're not talking about genuine health problems.)

I saw a cartoon about Jesus and the feeding of the five thousand. It was titled "If it happened today" and the people were asking, "Does the bread have gluten?" "Has the fish been tested for mercury?" and so on. It was funny.

Does the Bible have anything to say about our food choices? Yes.

Back in New Testament times, for Jewish believers in Jesus, there were two camps:
  1. Those who wouldn't eat any meat that had been offered to idols
  2. Those who realized idols weren't anything but carved images, so they felt free to eat any meat
This was a conscience issue, as the Apostle Paul explained, and he instructed brothers in Christ not to look down on one another. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him (Romans 14:2-3).

The unity of the church is much more important than what people eat. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence (Romans 14:19-20).

This next Bible passage is about issues in the last days of the world: Commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:3b-5).

So, how should Christians act when invited to others' homes?
  • Jesus said, And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you (Luke 10:8).
  • In the context of meat offered to idols: If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake (1 Corinthians 10:27).
Many years ago, I remember a rift in a Christian community over cooked and raw foods. Some only ate raw, and others enjoyed all kinds of foods. I actually overheard people asking what would be served at social events. I attended a women's meeting at that time and noticed the food was arranged in the two categories. A few years back, I went to a church function where people could choose between three different menus.

When I was young, there were two options: 
  1. Try a little of everything, (and if you didn't like it, you didn't need to ask for more). 
  2. Go without. 

We learned to eat whatever was served with gusto. Even today, my siblings and I enjoy almost any kind of food. Of course we have our preferences. Everyone does. But, we can go to anyone's home and happily eat what is set before us.

We can, of course, watch what we eat. When we attend a potluck meal, we're free to pick and choose. 

If you have an allergy or other health issue (diabetes, celiac, allergies, etc.) it is absolutely fine to tell the hostess ahead of your arrival about it.

But I'm afraid many Christians have gone too far. Some diet preferences today have almost become a religion. They've even divided churches into those who do and those who don't. They've separated people socially. And, instead of enjoying fellowship together around a meal, Christians are caring more about what's served than the people around them. That's sad. Maybe we need a rethink.

Jesus said, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, 
if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).


* This story is entirely fictitious, but it represents the dilemma of hostessing today. Sadly, it's not much of an exaggeration.