The Spice of Life

charleston_hot_peppers_white_background2This is the time of year that fresh produce is being grown in the gardens around town.  When the tomatoes ripen and the squash and zucchini are harvested, new recipes are tried as backyard chefs’ fire up their grills. The key ingredient to the success of these culinary endeavors is that special spice you add to the entrée as it simmers on the grill.

Is there a favorite spice you use when you cook?  Spices influence and change the flavor of food.  If you were the spice of life, how would your influence be experienced?

  • Would it be felt as true compassion or random passion?
  • Would you be experienced as a warming fire or dangerous and easily provoked ire?
  • Would your presence be recognized as sweet encouragement or bitter discouragement?

The difference between a good meal and a bad meal can be the difference between the right spice and a bad substitute.  If the recipe calls for sugar, you can’t expect to get good results if you substitute cayenne pepper.

The same is true will a spiritual counterfeit and a genuine servant of God.   The influence of one is positive and the influence of the other is negative.

Jesus said that you should “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned (Matthew 7: The Message).”

As the spice of life, are you genuine or a counterfeit?

GNAT: Scripture That Bugs Me

Gungus Gnat - Boletina species - Mycetophilidae - 012340

If you are outside much in the Summer months, you know how pesky a little gnat can be:  They get in your face; draw attention to themselves; and, they won’t leave you alone.

Because they are just as pesky, there are some sections of the Bible that I refer to as GNAT Scripture, and Psalm 19:1-4, is one of these.  This Psalm is small, but pesky, in the way it prods you with its important principles.

When you read the verses below, notice the GNAT (Great, Noble, And Truthful) principles it contains:

The heavens are telling of the greatness of God and the great open spaces above show the work of His hands.  Day to day they speak. And night to night they show much learning.  There is no speaking and no words where their voice is not heard.  Their sound has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Here are a few of the pesky thoughts that prod me whenever I read this Psalm:

  • Just as the heavens testify of God’s greatness, the fruit you bear reveals your relationship with God . . . are you sweet, tart, or bitter?
  • Notice the frequency of the testimony . . . day after day and night after night. There is no room for a Sunday Saint in the understanding and application of this Psalm.  Do you live and breathe in such a way that the love of God flows from within you and is easily seen?  Is it the rhythm of your life?
  • Notice the far-reaching influence . . . through all the earth and to the end of the world. How far-reaching and powerful is your influence for Christ?

If your voice was the only voice that could be heard and your testimony was the only one that could be seen, how would your influence change the world?

Sodas, Saints, and Sin

big-gulpIf you’re like many Americans, you may believe that bigger is better.  Super-sized meals may be the  proof that this is faulty reasoning and that moderation might be a better approach to life.

In 1950 or shortly thereafter, McDonalds was selling 7 oz sodas, burgers that weighed in at 3.9 oz, and French fries in a portion of 2.4 oz.  Following the bigger is better mantra, the servings at McDonalds have increased  to 42 oz sodas, 12 oz burgers, and 6.7 oz fries.

The result of all this fast food grazing, is a raising in the average weight of Americans.  Women now weigh about 18.5% more than they did 50 years ago and the weight of the average man has increased 17.6%.

I find it interesting that during this same time period there has been both an increase in physical cravings and a decrease in spiritual appetite.  I’m not saying the food industry is the cause of our spiritual malnutrition, but we are a nation that is spiritually anemic.

The prophet Jeremiah ministered in a time like this.  It was a time when people had forgotten God and a time when the emphasis was physical and not spiritual.  It was to these people that Jeremiah said:

“My people have done two things wrong. They have abandoned me, the fountain of life-giving water. They have also dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that can’t hold water.”  ~Jer. 2:13

A society that turns its back on God is one that embraces a philosophy that simply cannot hold water.  It might grow in size due to government programs, and it might increase in weight due to financial gain; however the only true hope is to return to the “fountain of life-giving water.”

Cravings

Due to my love of ice cream, I often joke and say I have a body by Braums.  I have a particular fondness for their yummy Rocky Road.  Because I have trouble controlling my ice cream cravings, I keep very little of it at home.

My craving for ice cream is not hunger related.  There are many times that I feel hungry, but I have never felt the pangs of starvation.  The hunger I feel is directly connected to the fist sized part of my body that I call my stomach.

Even though the average stomach is just the size of an adult’s clenched fist, it has an above average capacity to influence the behavior of the rest of the body.  When a person is really hungry, he wants to eat his food.  When a person is starving he may even riot or steal to get food.

When we look at the ministry of Jesus, we find several cases in which he fed the people.  One of the more remarkable stories is when He used the bread and fish of the small boy to feed many people.

A key point of this story is that Jesus did not take the bread from the small boy, but the lad gave what he had to Jesus.  Even though the little guy had very little himself, he had a craving.  His craving was to help others who were hungry.

This young boy gave a swift kick to the can of logic, and showed his faith through his actions.  He craved the will of God, and he did what he could do.  And God, I think He smiled.

Then, there is you and me.  What about us?  Will we allow our lives to be controlled by the desires of our belly?  Let’s learn from the lad and crave the presence and will of God for our lives.