Escape, Then Never Look Back!

I remember reading an article several years ago about the dilemma faced by many people living in Arizona and other arid states.  Over the years, several thousand people suffering from severe allergies had moved to these areas in an effort to escape high pollen producing plants.  However, the migrants found themselves missing the green grass and flowers which they had left behind, so they began importing and transplanting the more hearty varieties of grasses, flowers, and other vegetation.  At first, this action did not have a significant affect on the air quality, but as more and more plants were imported and established, the pollen count began to rise.  The migrants through their own actions had imported that which they were trying to escape.

Rural America is experiencing an influx of citizens who are leaving the fast paced rat race of city life.  These migrants move to the country hoping to escape many types of influences, lifestyles, criminal activities, and social norms.  However, after living in their new surroundings for a time, many find the slow paced, uneventful, conservatively moral lifestyle to be somewhat boring and unexciting.  They don’t want to go back to the city, but they want to bring at least a portion of the excitement which they left behind into their new surroundings.  So they start and promote movements to repeal 100 year old laws which prohibit some of the activities which they found exciting in their old community; not realizing that these activities form the root of many of the undesirable social characteristics they were trying to leave behind.  The migrants through their own actions import that which they are trying to escape.

Spiritually, lost, miserable souls turn to Jesus in order to escape the devastation of sin-filled lifestyles.  They seek salvation through forgiveness, and vow through repentance to live a new lifestyle.  At first, the newborn christian often finds his citizenship in Christ’s church to be a wonderful, exhilarating experience. However, as time goes on, the new disciple begins to miss some of the excitement which he enjoyed in his old lifestyle.  So he begins to look for ways to justify his becoming involved once again in just a few of his old vices.  He begins to search for biblical or ecumenical loopholes, examples, or statements which will excuse his giving in to his desires.  He doesn’t want to leave the fellowship of Christ and His church. He doesn’t want to go back to where he was before.  He just wants to bring a part of his old ways into the body of Christ with him.  And as a result, he eventually finds himself having to deal with the same miserable sin-filled lifestyle which he sought to escape.  The spiritual migrant through his own actions has entangled himself once again in that which he was trying to escape.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.  But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” (Colossians 3:5-10)

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.  What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:20-22)

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I Know My Sheep By Name.

A dairyman that knows his cows by name cares about his herd. He may or may not be a capable dairyman.  He may or may not be a successful dairyman. Caring about one’s herd does not guarantee capability or success.  But one thing can surely be known, when a dairyman calls each cow by name, he deeply desires to provide tender loving care to each of his bovine friends.

When such a dairyman completes a milking or feeding, he will know whether or not each cow made her way to the barn and if she ate her portion for the day.  Why?  Because he lovingly surveyed each animal and made a quick evaluation of her condition.

If counting the correct total number of animals is the only way a dairyman can guarantee that all of his cows are present, then he has lost his edge.  If he knows he has a cow missing because the morning’s count does not equal the correct herd total, but he cannot readily identify the missing animal, then it’s time to either rethink his attitude toward his occupation or change occupations.

I lost my edge and chose to change occupations.

Spiritually, Jesus is our good shepherd; the equivalent to a good dairyman. Jesus said of himself:

“The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out….I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” ( John 10:2-3, John  10:14)

Jesus knows us (his sheep) by name.  This intimate knowledge should be enough to impress upon us just how much He cares for us.  But since many people in this world may not be able to relate to that particular example of caring intimacy, Jesus went on to say:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15) ESV

May we listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, the one who was willing to lay down his life for us, and may we follow him wherever he leads.

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Just The Thought Of That Hurts!

The TV monitor in the dental waiting room continuously played  a video loop explaining the process and benefits of implanting metal studs into the gums and jaw bone as anchors for dentures.  I tried not to watch, but the animated demonstration of the insertion process and the adaptation of the gums kept drawing my attention; the insertion process appeared to be much like screwing a lag anchor into a wooden plank, and the adaptation process appeared to be like a tree gradually growing around a barbed wire fence which has been stapled to it.

Just the thought of having metal studs inserted into my gums and jawbones causes me to cringe.  There was a time when I could handle shots, IVs, and blood donations.  But somewhere along the way, my mental tolerance for voluntarily allowing someone to invasively insert a sharp metal object into my body has been extremely lowered.  This is true whether it be a temporary insertion or a permanent one.

Yet, sometimes those procedures which we vividly visualize as being quite painful are the very procedures that can make our lives the most comfortable and enjoyable.

Spiritually, many of the most beneficial experiences we can encounter are the ones we have no desire to under go.  We envision them as inflicting unbearable physical or emotional pain.  We watch others struggle through the processes of dealing with certain circumstances, and we tell ourselves that we just don’t want to find ourselves in that situation because we have no desire to be required to bear such pain.  We pray that God will spare us from having to undergo such trials and tribulations. And yet those trying experiences may be the very tests that we need to endure in order to anchor our faith firmly on the love of God. (Romans 5: 1-5; James 1:2-12)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12) ESV

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9) ESV

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You Want To Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.”

(source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/cheerslyrics.html) (song written by Julian A. Williams, Gary Portnoy, and Judy Hart Angelo. Performed by Gary Portnoy.  Information via Wikipedia.)

Many of us recognize the above lyrics as being the theme song from the 80’s sitcom, “Cheers”.  It describes the reason why people frequent the same pub or bar night after night.  People feel a need to be around others who call them by name, others who listen to their problems because they too admittedly struggle with the same troubles in life, and others who are glad to see them because they enjoy their company despite their irritating idiosyncrasies and flaws.

Christians, shouldn’t these lyrics be an accurate description of the warmth and fellowship found within the church?  Doesn’t Jesus want the gathering of his people to be a place where participants can take a break from the worries and stresses of battling the temptations and consequences of sin?  Doesn’t Jesus want his family to be such a loving and caring fellowship that people look forward to hearing their names called out as they break through the door? Doesn’t Jesus want everyone to feel at home in his kingdom because everyone knows that they are all dealing with the same temptations and struggles? Doesn’t Jesus want people to feel genuinely accepted despite their irritating idiosyncrasies and faults?

Christians, can we say that each of us is doing our part to make Jesus’ church the warm, inviting, caring family and fellowship Jesus designed it to be?  A place where we can all feel genuinely accepted and connected. A place where the connection stems not from a shared love of alcohol or some other vice, but from our shared love of the savior and his righteousness.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21) ESV

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)ESV

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Body Language Can Say More Than We Want it To Say

Body language often communicates far more about us than we intend it to communicate.  Sometimes our movements, gestures, and stances accurately express our mood or intended tone, even when we are trying to hide our true feelings.  Often these bodily expressions are displayed more from subconscious habit than intentional effort.

Then there are other times when the observers of our body language misinterpret our mood or intended tenor; they read more into our movements and stance than our body language implies.

This was brought to my attention during our recent trip to Peru.  When I am frustrated, feeling helpless, or aggravated, I have a habit of clinching and unclinching my fists.  Two years ago, upon our arrival in Cusco, a couple of our Peruvian brethren met our small group and provided transportation to our hotel via a private vehicle.  During our trip to the hotel, we accidentally turned down a blind alley and had to perform some difficult maneuvers in order to exit the alley.  I don’t remember a great deal about the incident, but apparently my body language made quite an impression on the brethren.  They weren’t sure of my intended purpose for clinching and relaxing my fists.  Even today, those gestures highlight their memories of the trip. That which is a dim memory to me is still a vivid perplexity for the two brethren.

Since we do so much of our communicating through our unintentional, habitual bodily gestures, controlling the message our body language conveys can be very difficult; perhaps even more difficult than controlling the message our tongue transmits.  But even so, we should be just as diligent in guarding our nonverbal communication as we are in filtering our words.

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6)

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)

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Your Money’s No Good Here

I tried to pay for a bottle of water with American dollars in a gift shop in the airport in Lima, Peru. The cashier was about to accept the money when a man I had never met before stepped up and said, “Keep your dollars. I will pay with Peruvian soles.” I responded that he did not need to, but he said that he was trying to use up all the Peruvian money that he had. He was going home in just a few hours, and the money would have no value in the land to which he was headed. I told him that he could exchange it, but he responded that he just wanted to use it to help others while he still could.

As long as we believe that we have a significant amount of time left here on this earth, money has value to us. We seek it, we try to get it, we horde it,  we spend it, we worry about it, and we envy it. We believe that money can make us happy, that it will solve all of our problems, that it will ensure friendships and relationships, that it will heal our marriages, and that it will give us the power to control our destinies. We believe that money is the answer to all of our anxieties and fears.

But let us come to realize that we only have a few hours left in this earthly country; let us realize that we will soon be headed to another country; a country in which nothing of this material world holds value; and suddenly the money in our hands becomes nothing to us but small slips of paper and light pieces of metal; the numerals representing our bank accounts appear as they truly are, mere blips on a computer screen.

When we grow into a full understanding that we will soon go to a country that does not recognize the arbitrary value which we place upon the things of this world, we suddenly see money as nothing more than a tool for doing good and helping others.

Soles are only soles in the country which mints them. Earthly currency is only currency here on this earth. Heaven does not honor the value we place on any precious metal, mineral, paper currency, or computer blip. The quicker and more fully we realize this truth, the more Christ like we will be in our love of money.

” Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment,  for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:6-11)

There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.” (Ecclesiastes 5:13-17)

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Successful Traveling Requires Complete Trust In Strangers

Travelling requires an unfathomable amount of blind faith in complete strangers, especially when one primarily utilizes public transit, and when one visits foreign countries.

The moment we get on a plane, we demonstrate that we trust the plane manufacturers to have designed and assembled a machine which will safely transport itself and several hundred people to the planned destination. We trust the plane’s maintenance personnel to have properly inspected, maintained, and repaired any defects which might negatively affect its flight capabilities.  We trust the crew, especially the pilot, to be trained, capable, sober, and emotionally stable enough to handle any situation which might arise so that it does not lead to our destruction. Ultimately, we are literally putting our lives into the hands of thousands of strangers.

The moment we enter a bus or a cab, we demonstrate that we trust the stranger driving the vehicle to be trained in safely navigating dangerous and chaotic traffic, to possess a knowledge of the city which would rival a GPS, and to be sober enough and noble enough to safely deliver us to our desired destination.

The degree to which we display trust in complete strangers when we travel was even further impressed upon me as a group of five of us signed up to go on a countryside tour in Peru.  We were scheduled to make stops in two fairly remote villages near Cusco.  The residents of these villages were purported to be cooperating with the Peruvian government in a program which is designed to increase safe tourism in the region. According to the tour company’s proposed itinerary, the residents of one village would demonstrate the centuries old traditional art of spinning, dying, and weaving alpaca wool into beautiful garments and blankets.  The residents of the second village would feed us a freshly prepared meal of foodstuffs which were primarily raised in the region, and then they would demonstrate some of their farming practices.

The issue of trust arose when we came to realize just how remote the second village was.  We traveled on paved roads for about an hour from the major city of Cusco.  The driver of the minivan eventually turned left off the pavement and started down a series of rough dirt roads.  About 5 miles later, we entered a block and mudbrick settlement which was lined with single-lane, one-way alleys. We exited that village on the opposite side, and continued another 10 miles on a narrow dirt road which wound its way up a mountainside. Eventually we stopped on the outskirts of a settlement composed of mudbrick houses, storage sheds, and livestock shelters.

Four men and four women dressed in traditional native attire greeted us at the entrance to the village.  The women sang a song of welcome with the men accompanying them on traditional Incan musical instruments. The women then placed a woven bracelet on each of our wrists. The native group semi-surrounded us and began to march us up the animal dung littered pathway into the settlement. The men played their musical instruments. The women sang an extremely high pitched eerie traditional chant. It was almost as if they were singing a funeral dirge.

For a couple of moments, I found myself thinking, “I hope this isn’t a sacrificial death march.”

Here we were in the middle of nowhere in a country located thousands of miles from home.  We could not speak the language so we could not understand the significance of the chant. We knew neither the modern-day traditions nor the ancient traditions of these people.  All we knew was that we in good faith payed good money to have an English-speaking tour guide lead us into this unfamiliar experience; and to be honest, that was the only thing that provided a settling assurance in the situation.

(I thought that I had been silly in experiencing these doubts, and that it was probably just my skeptical pessimism.  However, when I later mentioned my thoughts to others within the group, they too confessed to having experienced the same uncertainties.)

In retrospect, the doubts and uncertainties that we experienced were unmerited and unnecessary.  The villagers were very warm, welcoming, and hospitable.  They served us a delicious meal consisting of soup, cheese, trout, and vegetables which they had raised, made, or caught.  The whole trip was a very enjoyable experience, and we learned much about the native Peruvian culture.

But the experience also illustrates just how much we are daily required to trust in total strangers, especially when we travel, and just how difficult it can be to place that trust in those strangers.

Spiritually, God asks us to trust Him in the same way that we trust other people.  He asks us to believe that He knows what He is doing, that He is capable of accomplishing what we need in our lives, and that he cares enough about us to safely guide us through even the most unfamiliar and uncomfortable circumstances.

The good part is that when we truly trust God, we are not trusting in a total stranger. God has provided us with a book which reveals everything we need to know about Him.  We can know that He is not a faulty, flighty, unpredictable being like the men and women in which we must trust here on earth.  We can know that he is a rock.  We can know that He is a fortress.  We can know that He is an ever protecting, ever providing shepherd.  We can know that He is a friend.  We can intimately know in whom we are believing.

“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12 NIV)

“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” (Psalm 18:1-3)

 

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Don’t Blame Me, I Simply Took Advantage of Your Mistake.

The design of my milk barn allowed each cow to occupy an individual stanchion while she was being milked.  Each stanchion had a rear entrance door and a front exit door. Occasionally, when I was letting a cow in to be milked, I would mistakenly leave the entrance door to a stanchion closed and the cow could not enter her stall; in that case, if she wanted to, a cow could continue walking down the aisle, bypassing the milking stalls until she exited the barn. Also, sometimes I would mistakenly leave the exit door open, thus allowing the cow the freedom to prematurely exit the stall should she so choose.

Some cows, especially the older ones, would understand the oversight. These cows would patiently wait until I corrected the situation.  Other cows would sneakily take advantage of my mistake by literally running past the stalls and out of the milk room. It was if they were shouting, “Nanny, nanny, boo, boo. I get to skip being milked today, and it’s all your fault. Don’t blame me, I’m just taking advantage of your mistake.”

A couple of hours later, while the rest of the cows were contentedly laying in the pasture field, the sneaky cow could be found hanging around the milk barn, bawling; asking why she didn’t get her feed ration for the day and why her udder felt so uncomfortable.

The lesson for us? Taking advantage of a mistake made by another will generally hurt us far more times than it will help us.

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31)

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” (Proverbs 11:3)

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Why Does It Sound Like It’s Pouring When It’s Only Sprinkling?

This morning, as I left for my usual social engagement with the golden-aged regulars at the local greasy spoon, the wind whistled around the corner of the house, and the dark, starless sky pelted the whole outdoors with huge drops of water. At the store, during our breakfast meal, the local televised news broadcast fed us story after story about horrifying and horrendous events which recently occurred; a son beheaded his mother in North Carolina, a fist fight between the members of a collegiate football team and members of a fraternity was caught on tape in Bowling Green, a woman drowned trying to save a dog in Indiana; and the list goes on.

Before the news cast began, the conversation between the men at the table was light and humorous. When the morning news anchor began describing the details of one depressing story after another, the group became silent, the mood became somber, and the occasional comment expressed disbelief and concern for the depravity of our nation.  Slowly the mood and conversation around the table returned to its normal lightheartedness and camaraderie, but it was plain that all had been affected by the daily dose of shame and harm.

This morning’s weather, along with the breakfast experience, and the resulting observations reminded me of a recurring situation I experienced while dairying.

I remember standing in a metal-roofed barn on several dark, rainy mornings, feeding calves or trying to teach a newborn calf to nurse from a bottle. The wind would be howling around the barn as the rain drummed on the metal roof. Occasionally, I would find myself standing under a hole in the metal and a steady dripping of water seemed to provide a preview of what was awaiting me when it came time for me to leave that barn to return to the milk barn.

As I processed all the sounds, smells, and sensations, I couldn’t help but dread the cold soaking I would get as I walked back to the stock barn in the downpour.

Sometimes my supposition would be correct and I would be drenched by the time I arrived at the milk barn. However, many mornings, when I stepped outside, I would discover that the supposed downpour was nothing more than a sprinkle. My perception of what awaited me outside the barn was far from the reality.

Why did I imagine the worst before I experienced the reality?  Because the large metal roof was combining the sound of millions of raindrops as they fell on an area of several hundred square feet. My ears funneled this collective sound into two narrow canals allowing it to vibrate the membrane of two small ear drums.  The darkness of the early morning hid the truth from my sight. The howling wind provided evidence of an unseen, uncontrollable force. The drip resulted from a collection of thousands of raindrops all following the path of least resistance to that one small opening just above the single square foot of earth which I occupied at the time. My mind combined all the sensed data and I presumed it must be bad outside the barn, otherwise it would not sound and seem so miserable inside the barn.

Our society is filled with people who thrive on creating this same type perception of the world; some do it for free, while others profit with millions of dollars. These people often combine the uncommon tragedies of a few individuals spaced many miles apart and present them as if they daily occur  in almost every community across our great nation. We may try to avoid the bombardment of disturbing information, but through the advances in technology, mass media, and social media, the data is filtered into our homes, our computers, and our phones until it regretfully becomes unavoidable. The unwanted, depressing information is continuously funneled onto the single square foot of earth we currently occupy until we dread and even fear to go out into the darkness because we believe the whole world must be as depraved as the news media makes it sound.  After all, if it’s in print or on radio and TV, it must be true.

But the truth is, most people have a basic goodness and sense of morality.  Most people still possess qualities which make for good neighbors and friends.  Most people want to live in a safe and secure environment just like we do.  Most people make this world a far better place than the news media would have us believe.

What’s the antidote for this flood of depressing news stories?

“4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9)

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Junk Food: Does It Really Satisfy?

During our teen years, when we were showing cattle at the county fairs, most of the time we would arrive at the fairgrounds the day before the show, then spend the night in the barn with the cattle. Occasionally, we would spend two nights in the barn if there happened to be a Holstein club or FFA district show scheduled for the day after the county fair show.

Mama would always pack an ice chest or two with a good supply of sandwich meats, breakfast cereal, milk (for the cereal), soft drinks, chips, and other types of convenience foods.  Needless to say, we boys would devour everything she packed, but especially the junk food and soft drinks.  If there happened to be a carnival on site and we had a few extra dollars, that meant a wider variety of junk food selection including corndogs, french fries, funnel cakes, cotton candy and more.

I remember one particular two-day show at Campbellsville.  Daddy stayed the second night.  He asked Mama to pack some frozen sausage and biscuits and an electric skillet so he could heat them for breakfast the next morning.  When the aroma of those sausage and biscuits wafted through the barn, all of us boys hit the ground running.  It was almost like having a home cooked meal.

But the thing I especially remember was the taste of the orange juice Mama had packed.  For two days before that first sip, I had lived on every boy’s dream diet; junk food and soft drinks.  Yet that initial mouthful of vitamin C packed, 100%, made from concentrate orange juice unlocked a thirst that I did not realize existed inside me.  I downed the first cup in one gulp and went back for several more before Daddy stopped me so everyone else could have some.

The orange juice tasted so good because it provided something my body lacked – healthful nutrition.  I had craved and enjoyed the junk food and sugary drinks, but they produced a bogus satisfaction; a false sense that I was fulfilling my body’s needs.

Spiritually, we can fall prey to the same type of cravings and bogus satisfaction.  Our world is full of spiritual junk food; self-help articles that make us feel good and provide lots of emotional energy, but articles which contain very little of the nutrients which only God’s word can provide; highly energized, extremely entertaining worship services which lift our spirits and send us out into the world pumped full of adrenalin, but worship services which contain very little, if any, of the simple heart felt praise which God knows we need to express if we are going to thrive in our life-sustaining faith in him.

Many times, we must taste the real thing before we come to realize that we have been gorging ourselves with spiritual junk food.  This is the reason it is important that we use the Bible as our primary source for spiritual nutrition, and that we view the writings of other men as an occasional snack or sweet treat.  It’s also the reason that we need to worship God with the simplicity which is described in the Bible; a simplicity through which we express our love for God in faith motivated obedience and not through a professionally choreographed entertainment production.

Spiritual sugar may send us on an energized temporary high, but spiritual nutrition will build permanent strength and health.

“But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

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