“I Used Your Recipe. But I Omitted 2 Ingredients And Substituted A Couple. Yet It’s Still Your Recipe.” Or Is It?

A recipe for a delicious looking Brussels sprouts side dish came across my FaceBook newsfeed. I saved it, thinking I would make it one night for our supper. The ingredients were simple; Brussels sprouts, garlic, heavy whipping cream or half-and-half, bacon, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. The author listed specific amounts of each ingredient to be used.

The night that I made the dish, I read the directions. I planned to follow the directions. I tried. I followed the preparation and cooking portion of the instructions. But giving in to my own tastes and opinions caused me to significantly veer from the author’s ingredient list.

I saw some fresh vegetables in the refrigerator which needed to be used before they spoiled; cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots. I thought that these would enhance the taste of the dish. So, I added them. Due to the additional vegetables, I added more half-and-half than was called for in the recipe. I did not have the needed amounts of parmesan or mozzarella cheeses, so I purchased an Italian blend at the store. Although the recipe called for 2/3 of a bag, I poured the entire contents over the concoction. (After all, who doesn’t like melted cheese.)

What started out as one person’s Brussels sprouts side dish became my vegetable medley bake.

The dish was delicious. My wife and I agreed that I should try to recreate it.  But we also agreed that the baked mixture could serve as a main dish rather than a side dish if chicken was added.

A couple of weeks later, I tried to make the dish again, just as I had made it before; only this time I planned to add chicken. I read the original directions, starting with the Brussels sprouts as the main ingredient. I used the author’s preparation and cooking instructions. I threw in my additional vegetables. However, this time, I added a greater quantity of each to the pot. I could not find fresh garlic, so I tried to substitute garlic flakes. I did not sprinkle in enough. By the time I added the half-and-half, the hot skillet I was using was filled to the brim so I had to pour the concoction into a pre-warmed Dutch oven.

Needless to say, the dish did not taste the same as the first time that I made it. It was alright, but not the same.

Yesterday, my wife tried her hand at recreating the dish. But like all good chefs, her intent from the beginning was to bake her version of the concoction. She read the author’s original recipe; the one that called for Brussels sprouts to be the only vegetable ingredient. She followed the preparation and cooking instructions. But her ingredient list veered significantly from either the author’s or mine. She omitted the Brussels sprouts entirely. She omitted the carrots. She used heavy whipping cream instead of half-and-half. She used a different blend of cheeses.

My wife’s vegetable dish was delicious. I hope that she can recreate it. But the words she used to describe her inspiration are the motivation for this blog.

She told me, “I used your recipe.”

I had no recipe. I simply started with someone else’s formula for a baked Brussels sprouts side dish, and tried to transform it into a main dish by adding the ingredients I wanted or had available. My wife started with the same baked Brussels sprouts side dish recipe, and tried to transform it into her own personal main dish, omitting the ingredients she dislikes and substituting the ones she finds tasteful.

In the end, three separate dishes have been created; the author’s, mine, and my wife’s

Spiritually, many within Christendom approach the church in the same way we approach cooking. In the Bible, God has told us and shown us how he wants his church organized, the type of worship he wants it to offer, and how he wants his church to fulfill its mission of evangelizing the world.

But we are not satisfied with God’s instructions. They are too basic.  They are too simple. They do not satisfy our tastes or our need for adrenalin producing excitement.

So, some of us start adding our own ideas to the church’s organization, to its worship, and to its work; we put in that which excites and invigorates us; we omit that which we consider boring or offensive.

Then when we each have our own version of the church, we turn to God and say, “I used your recipe.” We imply, “What I have designed and made is exactly what you intended.”

But what we have is an organization suited to our own taste and not made according to God’s original instructions. We have a denomination. We have a social club. We have a community activist organization. But we do not have the church.

The only way that we can have the church is to go back to the original, and to restore it, using God’s recipe.

“Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13)

“I therefore a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

“And he put all things under his feet and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)


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Famous Last Words: “I Can Handle This.”

“You will be thirsty. You will beg me for water. But I will not give you any, because your stomach will still be asleep. Until your stomach awakens, I can’t give you water.”

The pre-op nurse stood at the end of the patient’s bed, using her 18 years’ experience to help the surgical candidate understand what lay in store for him.

“You will be in pain. Ask for pain medicine. Take the pain medicine we offer you. You will not get a gold star for resisting the pain unmedicated, and taking it will help you calmly endure the inevitable.”

The nurse continued to describe the different reactions which she had observed patients experience during their revival and recovery process.  No, she had not personally experienced these hardships, but through the years, she had assisted several hundred patients to regain consciousness and to learn to breathe on their own again.

“Do your best to listen to us, and to do what we tell you to do. We are here to help you. We will try to get you off the ventilator as quickly as we can, but you must work with us.”

The patient listened. He heard. He took it all in. He stored it in the back of his mind. Yet the whole time he was thinking, “But I am an exception. You have not witnessed my abilities as a patient. I’m different than all the others. I can handle this.”

These were his thoughts until the first pangs of conscious pain hit him. He believed these thoughts until his parched tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Then he understood that though we are all unique, we are all the same. Then he understood that years of witnessing the inevitable stages of the revival process produced a beneficial wisdom within his friend, the pre-op nurse.

Experiencing his own weaknesses stopped him from saying to himself, “I can handle this.”

Spiritually, we all have many people within our lives who try to help us see the dangers and pitfalls of sin. Some speak to us from firsthand experience, knowing the pangs of addiction or depravity. Some try to convince us from years of  lovingly counseling others who were searching for hope and truth upon which they could rebuild their lives. Some speak from a knowledge of the wisdom which God inspired the biblical writers to expound and preserve for us.

The most helpful adviser is one who combines all three; one who knows the truths of God’s word,  who can beneficially apply those truths because he realizes how he himself has been affected by sin, and he has witnessed many of the same affects in the lives of others.

But so many times, the wise advisers’ advice falls on deaf ears. As they try to warn us of the dangers of sin, we look straight through them and say to ourselves, “But you don’t understand. I am an exception. I am unique. I am strong. I can handle this. This will not be a sin to me, nor lead to my downfall.”

“The things that has the power to addict others will not addict me. That which may lead to depravity and poverty for the majority will not be strong enough to lead me down such a path. I will not allow those things which leave others lonely and empty to desert me in such a miserable condition. I can handle this.”

Then one day, we find ourselves slavishly swilling the alcohol or drugs. One day, we find our marriage broken beyond repair because we enjoyed the endorphin rush of flirting with lust. One day we find ourselves struggling to keep our family fed because we bet our paycheck on the horses.

That’s when we realize that though we are all unique, we are all the same. That’s when we realize that there is a reason why our wise old grandma warned us to flee from sin. That’s when we realize that the Bible’s wisdom applies to every generation of every age.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33) ESV

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) ESV

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray ny it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1) ESV

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Adjusting To Diabetes and Christianity Isn’t That Tough! Or Is It?

Walking into a hospital emergency room complaining of chest pains, and being diagnosed with vessel blockages and sugar diabetes is life changing. Many everyday habits must be modified to deal with these serious conditions.

Vessel blockages can be cured through intervention or surgery. Prevention of future problems may involve modification of diet and exercise. But the changes to a person’s life style may not be extreme, depending upon his past habits.

Diabetes, on the other hand, offers special challenges since it involves monitoring blood sugar levels multiple times per day, injecting medicines, and tracking carbohydrate intake so that one’s blood sugar may remain consistently level.  One can never be completely cured of diabetes. All he can do is gain control of it.

At first, lying in the hospital room, one experiences denial. He reasons that the lab techs must have made a mistake. He tries to get the medical staff to admit that the established standards vary from person to person and that the levels he is experiencing may not be high for him; that they are peculiar to his health. He may go through a phase of making light of the seriousness of his condition; he tries to convince himself that gaining control of his diabetes really doesn’t make any difference.

But eventually, the fact sets in, and he realizes that he must deal with this undesired condition.

While lying in the hospital room, one begins reasoning that dealing with diabetes will not be difficult. The nursing staff regularly checks his blood sugar levels, and injects the needed insulin.  The hospital dietary staff delivers tasty, balanced meals (yes, I did say tasty) at consistent times each day.  In those circumstances, there is no need for him to count carbs or starches.

So, he reasons, “This isn’t going to be that hard.”

At home, where the food choices are somewhat limited, the diabetic may reason to himself, “This is going to be a little more difficult than I thought, but still not too hard.”  The fact that his RN wife prepares his meals, doles out the portions, and helps him monitor his sugar levels adds to the diabetic’s confidence that he can indeed make these changes with ease.

But eventually, the diabetic must go out on his own. He must monitor his own health. He must make wise food choices.  And he must do so outside the confined room of the hospital or the semi-confined walls of his home.  He must do so in the mega commercialized food world.

The nurses and dietary staff are not around to ensure that he receives a well-balanced diet. His wife is not there to monitor his dietary intake.  It’s just he against the food world.

And the food world isn’t particularly concerned about his condition. Its main concern is presenting bountiful portions of food which the masses consider delicious. The food world spends millions of dollars on advertisement, hoping to draw as many people as possible through their door, or to their grocery aisle.

That’s when the diabetic experiences true temptation. That’s when it finally hits him just how hard it’s going to be to make the healthy lifestyle changes. That’s when he realizes what the rest of his life is going to be like.

And it’s tough.

Spiritually, many people begin searching for Jesus, already suspecting that they have a spiritual health issue.  Through the sermons they hear, they are convicted of their sin problem and they realize that they must do something about it.

The Bible teaches that our hearts are the cause of our spiritual disease. God and Jesus can cure the heart. Jesus can empower a person to transform from a voluntary slave of Satan to a humble servant of God. When one transforms, he realizes that he must make major changes in his lifestyle; he must give up sin. (Romans 12:1,2)

This may not seem difficult as long as the new disciple remains in the presence and worship services of the church.  Preachers and Bible school teachers serve the proper type and amount of spiritual foods. Fellow christians help the penitent sinner identify and keep check on those sinful activities that seem “sweet” to him. When confined within the church, adapting one’s lifestyle to a faithful lifestyle may not appear difficult.

Within the presence of a christian family, living a faithful christian life may not appear to be a difficult task. One’s parents, spouse, and children constantly encourage him to give up old habits, and to replace them with prayer, Bible study, and christian priorities. The temptations which one faces are limited. God designed the home to be a safe place for his followers.  And within the home, a new christian may be tempted to reason that adapting from sinner to disciple will not be difficult.

Then there comes the day when the spiritual babe must face the world on his own. His fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are not with him. He is absent from the influence of his family. He, and he alone, must make wise decisions as he purposely resists the temptation of the world.

And the world doesn’t care about his spiritual health.

Satan, through the world simply wants to market bountiful temptations which taste “sweet” to the masses.  He spends billions of dollars trying to entice as many people as he can to try his destructive delicacies.

Facing these temptations alone are the times when a christian will be more likely to give in to the destructive forces of sin. Facing these temptations alone are the times when a new disciple realizes that faithfully living his newly chosen lifestyle will not be easy.

These moments are the times when he must fall back on all the Bible truths he has learned. These are the times that he must appreciate the love and care of his family. But mostly, these are the times that the new disciple must learn to rely on his Master, his Savior, his Teacher, and his Counselor.

For when a newborn babe truly learns to trust Jesus, he realizes that he is never alone, and that the salvation of his soul is worth resisting even the sweetest temptation.

“18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me

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