Coffee May be Brewed To Suit Our Individual Tastes. The Truths Of The Bible Cannot.

I am not a major coffee drinker.

Yes, I drink a cup or two in the mornings while I sit with the other old men at the local country store.  And I will occasionally drink a cup at night if my wife makes a desert for supper. But I have never developed an intense craving for the drink, or an addiction to the caffeine.

Since I do not crave either the taste or the “kick”, I like my coffee weak.  Most restaurant blends are far too strong for me.  When making a pot at home, I will generally put 2 ½ tablespoons of mid-roast grains in the filter for a 10-cup carafe. I like to see the bottom of my cup through the amber liquid. For most people, this doesn’t make sense.  And for true coffee drinkers, this is crazy.  In their minds, I would be just as well-off drinking plain hot water.

And I suppose they are correct.  But I like what I like.  I have tried to develop a taste for a stronger blend and steeping, but the enjoyment is just not there.

Spiritually, we often approach the truth of the Word with the same attitude as we use in brewing our coffee.  Some like a strong, straightforward, dark truth.  The kind that says everything in their lives is wrong, unless the Bible specifically says it is right.  They like to hear a version of the truth that challenges them to change and adapt every part of their lives to fit the teachings. Others like a weak, vague, light truth.  The kind that says everything is in their lives is right unless the Bible specifically says it is wrong.  They like a truth that invites, “Come as you are, and stay as you are. No change is needed.”

But God did not design the truths of the Bible so that we can adapt them to our individual tastes. God does not desire that we apply his teachings more strongly than he intended, but neither does he desire that we water down his teachings.  God does not want us to pessimistically view everything in life as being wrong, where every minute of every day must be seen as a struggle to change the entire world; but neither does he want us to view everything as being right, where anything that pleases us, pleases him.

God did not design the truths of the Bible so that we can adapt them to our individual tastes. Rather he expects us to adapt our individual tastes to his truths.

That’s called faith.  That’s called repentance. That’s called conversion.

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19) ESV

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” (Colossians 1:3-6) ESV

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I Have Never Needed Insect Repellent Before. Why Should i Need It Now?

“Bring insect repellent.”

This exhortation has been included on every tour description we have taken over the past 7 years in Peru.  But I have never experienced the need for the repellent. Apparently, mosquitoes can’t live in the higher altitudes.

This year’s tour description was no exception to the rule. But I failed to pack the repellent. I brushed off the oversight, reasoning that I wouldn’t need it anyway since I had never used it before.

At the prep rally, two days before the tour, the tour guide warned us that one of the stops where we would be getting out of the van was at a lower altitude. He stressed that there would be mosquitoes.  He stressed that we needed insect repellent. Once again, I brushed off the warning.

When we arrived at the touring site, there were some “gnats” flying around, but I didn’t see any mosquitoes, so I thought I was safe.

Later, when we stopped for lunch, these same “gnats” hovered around us.  I swatted one on my arm.  It was filled with blood.  These were the mosquitoes we had been warned about.  I checked my arms and they were covered with bites. The bites did not hurt when the gnats had made them, nor did they ever itch or hurt.  But I had definitely been attacked by blood suckers.

Spiritually, God warns us about the presence, prevalence, and dangers of sin.  He tells us that sin will be around us wherever we go.  He exhorts us to resist sin by drawing near him. He warns us that if we do not draw near him, sin will infest our lives.

We look around us and think that we really don’t need God’s help; that we have made it through life pretty good on our own, and we really haven’t encountered any “sin”.  We see actions occurring all around us which appear to be nuisances and aggravations, but not harmful sin.  These actions don’t look like our concept of sin. So, we put up with them, thinking the whole time that we are not being affected.

Then one day, after it is too late, we realize that these nuisances are filled with blood; our blood. We realize that these are the sins God warned us about. And, they have silently and stealthily been attacking us, biting us, affecting us, until we find ourselves “eat up” with the sin.

May we always listen to God’s exhortations, striving to use his power to resist the sin of this world, so as not to become secretly and silently infected by it.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13) ESV


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Sweetness Can Be Enhanced By Sweetness

It was a plain bar of milk chocolate, but it may have been the “sweetest” candy I have tasted.

No, it didn’t physically taste any different than any of the chocolate we can buy here in the States.  The “sweetness” came in the process through which I had come into possession of the chocolate bar.

“I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you!’ for coming down to help us and for all the work you have done.  I hope you enjoy it.”

A Peruvian young lady of about 20 years old chose these English words to explain the reason behind the gift. She worked as hard as any of us in the optical department of our medical campaign.  She sat for hours each day, translating the patients’ questions from Spanish to English, and then our responses from English to Spanish. Yet she did not want credit for the work she had done. She just wanted to say, “Thank you!”

Each of us received this same type of gift expressed in different ways.  The spontaneous, fervent hug a physical therapist received from the mother of a small child who is confined to a wheel chair, after the therapist had shown the mother therapeutic exercises which will help the child develop.  The bright smile those in the “lentes” (lenses) department witnessed when a patient received a pair of glasses which corrected his extremely poor eyesight. The voluntarily offered hand of a child who felt safe and loved in the presence of strangers who had invaded his neighborhood.

This morning, I thought long and hard about the chocolate bar.

I sat in a plane seat clutching a small bag of pretzels, waiting for the stewardess to pour me a cup of soft drink.  I expected this refreshment.  It was a part of my airfare. I had paid for it. I would have been disappointed had I not gotten it. Those pretzels and that cup of liquid were a symbol of the commercialized, materialistic world we live in; a world where almost everything is for sale, and very few things come without a price.

At that moment, I once again looked into the eyes of an energetic, smiling young lady as she sweetly explained, “I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you!’ for coming down to help us and for all the work you have done.  I hope you enjoy it.”

That was the one of the “sweetest” chocolate bars I have ever tasted.

“Give, and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38) ESV


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Wisdom Often Determines The Rightfulness Or Sinfulness Of A Practice.

Suppose there is a drug which legally can be purchased and consumed by almost anyone. Consuming the substance is not necessary to sustaining life, but simply a choice. Suppose at least one member in almost every family in the world has chosen to consume the drug, and through its consumption has developed a life-threatening disease. In fact, many families have had multiple members to prematurely die because they chose to consume the chemical compound. There is no doubt that the consumption of the drug is the sole cause of the disease within these loved ones. No drug, no disease.

What would be a wise public response to such a drug? What choice should a person make concerning his own consumption of the substance? What would a responsible parent teach his children about that drug?  What should Christians teach their fellow man about consuming the potential life-altering, life-threatening drug?

Knowledge is accumulating and storing facts in our minds.  Wisdom is the ability to use the accumulated knowledge to its best potential.

Wisdom visualizes the potential power of the accumulated knowledge. It evaluates the hidden good or evil within the information. Worldly wisdom seeks to use its knowledge for its own pleasure. Godly wisdom chooses to utilize its knowledge with the intent of benefitting everyone concerned. (James 4:13-18)

Mankind’s ability to accumulate knowledge has led to the discovery and development of many kinds of chemical compounds, and mechanical tools.  Almost all these discoveries and developments have had potential to benefit mankind.  However, mankind’s inability to control himself when it comes to using these discoveries has often led to abuse, self-destruction, dependency, and atrocities.

Christians regularly find themselves debating the rightfulness or the sinfulness of employing certain discoveries. The use of these chemical compounds or mechanical tools is not specifically condoned or condemned within the scriptures.  Within the debate, knowledge freely flows forth. Many factual details are brought to light. Yet very little progress is made toward arriving at a conclusion because the participants have forgotten that the rightfulness or sinfulness of the practice may not lie in the substance itself, but in the wisdom of those who choose to use it.

An illustration of such debates can be found concerning the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages (reread the beginning illustration), the legalization of marijuana and other drugs, the ongoing gun-control debate, etc.  In each of these discussions, the point that is continuously brought to the forefront is: “The Bible doesn’t specifically and emphatically state, ‘Thou shalt not.’ Therefore, I have a right to participate in this practice. And since I can do so in all good conscience, I am going to engage in the practice, regardless of the consequences, and regardless of how it affects others.”

When we approach debatable practices with this attitude, we are demonstrating that we are not addressing them with Godly wisdom, but worldly wisdom; that which is earthly, selfish, and unspiritual.

May we always strive to continually attain and accumulate knowledge, but may we also continually seek to apply that knowledge with Godly wisdom.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” (James 4:13) ESV

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10) ESV

“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.” (Proverbs 8:12) ESV

The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” (Proverbs 14:8) ESV


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My Wife Does The Most Disgusting Thing! I Almost Gag Just Thinking About It.

My wife does something that is really disgusting.

It’s so gross that I almost gag just sitting here thinking about it.

I know you’re not supposed to gossip or talk about others, but I just can’t help it.

The thing my wife does is . . .

. . . put a strainer in the kitchen sink drain so that it catches all the food scraps that might clog the drain.  I hate having to empty this slimy contraption when I wash the dishes.

(Now, for those of you who eased up in your seats to get a better view of a tidbit of juicy gossip, you may settle back into your comfortable position.)

A scrap strainer placed over the sink drain is designed to keep particles from flowing through the pipes and eventually building up into a clog. The captured food appears disgusting. But I can tell you from experience, the prevention is far less gross than a repair.

When it comes to our communication with others and about others, how many times would a strainer prove abundantly useful for our mouths, our ears, our eyes, and our fingertips.

If only we could purchase an inexpensive screen to filter our communication before we pass it on to another person.  If only we could buy a wire mesh which would prevent scrap-like communication from entering our minds. If such a device existed, it would majorly decrease our troubles. And it would amaze us just how disgusting the messages we often send and receive truly are.

But we can’t purchase such a device.

All we can do is work toward being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. (James1:19).  When we realize that the things we say directly reflect the condition our hearts, then we may become more careful about what we send and receive. (Matthew 12:34-37). Being unable to restrain our communication renders our religion null and void. (James1:26).

May we ever strive to make our communication gracious, perfectly seasoned with the salt of Christlikeness. (Colossians 4:6).

(P.S. I received my wife’s permission to publish this as long as I included a disclaimer that I would not have to deal with a gross strainer if I would install a garbage disposal. But that’s another story completely.)


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Life Is Like A Mud Puddle. Or At Least It Is In The Eyes Of A Toddler.

Our 2-years-old granddaughter loves to play in mud puddles.  She runs through them, stomps her feet to make splashes, creates waves with her hands, digs into the muddy bottoms, and casts rocks into them. Her first order of business when we go outdoors is to check each depression to see if there is enough water remaining for one last splash.

The puddles in which our granddaughter plays are not very deep. She may get wet and muddy, but she stands no chance of drowning.

A couple of days ago, her father and I took her to a pond.  When we exited the truck, the little one joyfully exclaimed, “Puddle! Puddle!”  I hovered over her the whole time, trying to stay between her and the pond.  Had I not done so, she would have readily run into the deep water.

Our granddaughter’s childish outlook and wisdom about life did not allow her to understand the differences between her play puddles and the huge “puddle.”  In her mind, the pond simply presented lots more opportunities for fun and excitement. She thought she had everything under control.  She did not recognize the extreme variations between the depth of her mud puddles and the massive body of water.

Watching the world’s tragic stories reported by the mass media; reading rants and opinions outlining solutions to the world’s problems; listening to the members of the older, wiser generation as they opine back and forth as to the best plan of actions for the country; and encountering social media threads written by people who are drowning in the cares of this world; remind me that when it comes to dealing with this world, we are all like 2-year-olds.

We all have our own mud puddles in which we feel safe.  We love to splash and play in our shallow water holes. We feel safe and in control.  We are in our little section of the world.  We are home.

Then, we are introduced to the pond; the ocean of this world. In our minds, it is just a bigger version of our puddles at home. We believe that it is no deeper than our play pools.  So, we try to rush out into it, believing that we have everything under control. But we don’t. Nor can we. For the world is far deeper, and far bigger than we can imagine. So, we panic. We lose control.  And sometimes, we drown.

Thankfully, we have someone available to help us deal with the world. We have someone to help us understand its vastness and depth.  We have someone to help us differentiate between its potential for beneficial good, and its potential for dangerous evil.  We have someone available to help us learn when and how to joyfully play within this world, and when to back away in respectful fear.

“25 My soul clings to the dust;  give me life according to your word!

26 When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!

27 Make me understand the way of your precepts and I will meditate on your wondrous works.

28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!

29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!

30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.

31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord let me not be put to shame!

32 I will run in the way of your commandment when you enlarge my heart!”                                                                                   (Psalm 119:25-32) ESV

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How Much Did That Cost Me? I Thought The Sign Meant I Would Receive That Much, Not Pay That Much!

I recently started playing a scrabble game online. The app provides hints and services through which users may locate an available play, or may exchange tiles without losing a turn. These bonuses may be purchased with coins which are collected by reaching certain goals.

In addition to allowing its competitors to play one another, the game offers “challenges” through which its users can play the computer. One can receive bonuses by achieving different levels against the app.

I have played the computer when I have not been involved in other games.  The play button which accesses each level has a picture of a coin and a number. I thought this meant that I could receive 5 or 10 coins if I beat the app. I discovered today, that the meaning of the symbol was that it cost me 5 or 10 coins.  Each time I chose to play the computer, it subtracted coins from my collection, thus depleting my stash with which I planned to buy more hints.

That which I thought was benefitting me and helping me win at the game was costing me opportunities to win. The advisory signs were plainly displayed, but they were displayed in such a way that I misunderstood them.

Satan presents sin in such a way as to make it appear beneficial. When we look at the advisory label, we think it means that committing a sinful act will benefit us and help us to win at life.  But each time we accept Satan’s challenge, it costs us far more than we thought we would gain.  The advisory label is deceptive.

Jesus came to help us see the truth about sin.  He came to love us out of our sin. He came to shine light upon Satan’s deceptions so that we might make wise decisions.

In the computer game, I discovered my mistake by being informed that I did not have enough coins when I requested to play. I discovered my mistake too late. I had depleted my stash of coins.

Evaluate your life today. Don’t wait until it is too late for you to end sin’s deceptive deprivation within your life. Look to God’s Son for your redemption. That is why he sacrificed his life.

“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) ESV

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest their works be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21) ESV


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Hearing Aids and Preachers Can Both Prove to be Valuable Instruments For Understanding God’s Word

Hearing aids are valuable instruments when they operate properly.  They can help a person detect sounds that he would not be able to detect unaided.  They can help a person interpret and understand speech which he would not be able to understand unaided. They can give a person needed confidence to operate in a social setting; confidence he would not possess unaided. Hearing aids are valuable instruments when they operate properly.

But when these tools do not operate properly, they become a hinderance.  The inserts act as earplugs, muffling sounds to the point that one can hear more clearly without the aids than he can with them. The digital interpreters emit static and distort any intended communication. One’s confidence to operate within social settings weakens because he doesn’t know for sure whether to wear the aids, or to go back to his unaided hearing.

Hearing aids are valuable instruments when they work properly, but when they don’t, they become more of a hindrance than a help.

Preachers and Bible teachers are valuable instruments when they operate properly.  They can help a person detect important words and phrases which one might not detect unaided.  They can help a person understand and interpret commands and teachings which one might not be able to understand unaided.  They can help a person build his faith upon truth and properly utilize it as he navigates his way through life.  Preachers and Bible teachers are valuable instruments when they operate properly.

But when these tools do not operate properly, they become a hinderance. Their teachings can act as stumbling blocks, concealing truths that one might clearly see were the word of the preacher or teacher not hiding them. Flawed preachers and teachers can emit static and distort the intended message of God to the point that a person misses plain truths which he would have no trouble understanding through an unaided reading of the scriptures. One’s faith can become weak and unstable when it is built upon a flawed theology which has been emitted from a pulpit or lectern.

Preachers and teachers of the scriptures can be valuable, irreplaceable instruments when they operate properly, but when they do not, they become a hindrance to the masses who are trying to find their way home to God.

“Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them to speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.’” (Jeremiah 14:13-14) ESV

“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14) ESV

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4) ESV

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For What Am I Willing to Die?

The “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” theme song is the tune that keeps running through my head today; especially the part that says, “I’d die for you.” (“Everything I Do, I Do It For You” as performed by Bryan Adams)

Needless to say, it takes me to the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

But it also brings the question to mind, “For what would you die?”

Do you have anything in your life that you would gladly lay down your life for?

A love?

A loyalty?

A belief?

A cause?

If the answer is, “No,” then it may be time to reevaluate some things.

A person who has nothing to die for has nothing to live for.

“As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20) ESV 

“For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13) ESV

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Even Stand-up Comedians Occasionally Demonstrate Deep Theological Insight. (Or, The Emperor Has No Clothes!)

A good comedian creates laughter within his audience by causing each member of the audience to look in the mirror and to see himself in the quirky actions, eccentric behaviors, contradictory beliefs, and foolish sayings which the comic describes. The audience responds with a spontaneous, healthy laughter because it appreciates knowing that each person has been hit by the jabs and that the behaviors being “roasted” are common behaviors shared by the majority of mankind.

Most of the time, the comedian addresses relatively light subject matter; those behaviors that really don’t mean a lot to anyone or necessarily warrant change. Occasionally, a brave, or perhaps foolish comic will begin to take jabs at the deeper held religious beliefs and traditional practices of a specific audience. That’s when the laughter becomes forced and nervous. The audience members may see the flaw in the mirror. They may have seen it several times before. But they do not want to acknowledge it. And they really do not appreciate the comic making them feel uncomfortable by publicly highlighting a long-held contradictory belief, even though they share the belief with the comedian.

Recently, I heard a standup comic discussing sayings and teachings he had heard many times growing up as a child in a specific denomination. In his words, these were teachings that did not make sense to him as a child, nor could he understand them as an adult. From all indications, he is still a member of that religious group, so he was not taking shots at a denomination with which he had issues.

One saying which he highlighted was, “It doesn’t matter which church you are a part of. We are all going to the same place. We are all on different roads, taking different paths, but all headed in the same direction and to the same destination.”

He said that as a child, this didn’t make sense to him, and that even now as an adult it just doesn’t seem to stand up to reason. He challenged the audience to use that logic on the way home that evening; to just start driving, and not to worry about which direction they were headed, not worry about which road they turned onto, or not worry about whom they followed. He also challenged them to practice that philosophy the next time they planned to travel by flight; to tell the ticket clerk it really didn’t matter which flight they were on, to just give them tickets that had been drawn out of a lottery.

During this segment, the laughter was far less boisterous, and was laced with stress.

Yet, if we meditate upon the comedian’s insight, he is correct in his assessment of that common religious statement.

The Bible never teaches, insinuates, or hints that there are many paths (faiths, churches, movements, etc.) within the Christian religion; each one beginning at the same Christ, and each one meandering in a different direction than the others, but all ending at the same destination. Jesus and the inspired writers of the New Testament spoke of the church (Eph. 1:22, 23), the Way (Acts 24:14), the faith (Jude 3), and the body of Christ (Col. 1:18). They prayed that the church would be one (John 17:20-23) and that there would be no divisions among the brethren (1 Cor. 1:10). Jesus taught that there was a straight and narrow road that leads to life and that there is a wide, crooked road that leads to death; one of each; and each person is on either one or the other. (Mt. 7:13,14).

If it really doesn’t matter what the church teaches about such subjects as the definition and consequences of sin, the way one contacts the blood of Christ, the group a saved person is added to, the oneness of the church, and the organization and worship of the church, why were Acts through Jude written?

If just believing in Jesus is enough, and all other aspects of christianity are irrelevant, do not the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) contain enough information to create saving faith? Yet, Jesus himself told the Apostles, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak of His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me for He will take of Mine and He will disclose it to you.” (John 16:12-14) That which the Spirit heard from Jesus concerning the structure and the teachings of His church is recorded in the books we know as Acts through Jude. Nowhere, in any of these books, can we find even remotely implied that God originated and is pleased with the great division and multiplicity of churches that are found today under the label of “Christianity”.

Sometimes, it takes the innocence of a child to realize and to proclaim, “The emperor has no clothes.” In this case, concerning the statement, “We are all on different paths going to the same place,” from the mouth of a child who grew up to be a stand-up comedian – “The emperor has no clothes.”

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