Posts Tagged With: food

The Soul-Saving Beauty of a Thankful Heart, Part I

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(Photo courtesy of Bob Scott)

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Thanksgiving is usually about the three F’s for most of us: family, food, and football. In fact, we have some who are already gone for Thanksgiving weekend, while others may be getting ready for family to come in.

Food? I was at King Soopers yesterday, and it was packed. People had one, two, three, some four turkeys or some other kind of bird in their shopping cart—along with all the trimmings.

Football? I know some of you enjoy a game or two of football. On Thanksgiving, the NFL brings us three games: Texans-Lions, Redskins-Cowboys, and Patriots-Jets.

I submit to you that another F needs to be included in this: faith! The holiday is Thanksgiving, and many may express how thankful they are for their family, for the food, for the football, for the time off, etc. But when you have thankfulness and when you are in the faith, each of these things has an object. We can express what we are thankful for, but do we take time to express to whom we are thankful?

Thankfulness marks the Christian life—not simply for the things in the hear and now and not simply for material things. James tells us that “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change
(James 1:17). Paul writes to the Corinthian church, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it” (1 Corinthians 4:7)? So what we find ourselves thankful for has a whom behind it. God gave us all we have.

Even with this, some fail to recognize this. Thankful hearts that should mark a Christian can become entitled hearts: “Well, God, I know you gave me this—but that’s your job!” We can become bitter hearts: “Well, God, I know you gave me this—but I really wanted that.” We can become proud in heart like Nebuchadnezzar, who when looking over his kingdom from his monstrous palace in Babylon, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). Immediately, to show who truly ruled over all men, God immediately took away Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom until He gave glory to the Most High.

What’s the basis of a thankful heart? Look with me at the thesis, if you will permit me to use that term, of the entire book of Romans is found in Romans 1:16-17:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Paul shares the reason for his lack of shame: the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The believers are not restricted to one group of people, but revealed to the Jew first, then to the Gentiles.
But we notice that God reveals Himself! We will see that to those who do not believe in Him, God has made himself clear in many obvious ways though there are many who are blind to this. For believers, he revealed something else: his righteousness. The righteousness that God requires for salvation is not something which we earn—it is something that God reveals and puts toward our account. This is God’s way of making us right with Him.

But what happens if even the very basics of what God revealed are smoothed over or even ignored? Taken for granted? A thankful heart is trouble and even destructive to your soul.

God reveals much—we are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).

Look with me at Romans 1:18-20:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).

What is the wrath of God? God’s wrath is different from human wrath. Human wrath is most unrighteous. Stott notes that this is “an irrational and uncontrollable emotion, containing much vanity, animosity, malice and the desire for revenge.”[1] What God’s wrath is toward is evil, and its hatred therein. He does not condone it, but will judge it.

So it is this wrath that is revealed. To what end? Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who … suppress the truth. So God’s wrath has a laser focus—those who suppress the truth. And this truth is ‘plain to them, because God has shown it to them.’

What is known about God? His ‘invisible attributes’ such as ‘his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived’ in creation.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world (Psalm 19:1-4).

The Psalmist shows that Creation is the calling card of God’s characteristics. All around we see this. God never intended for His nature or work to be hidden. He has given us plenty of clues.

We here in Colorado have no trouble in seeing the glory of God’s creation. The mountains are so close that many look forward to the weekend so they can spend it there. Isn’t it interesting that folks run to the mountains every chance they get, enjoying that aspect of God’s creation, yet miss him? Nicy Murphy got it right:

“Missions in Colorado is ministering to those who live in the mountain grandeur, but who never ‘lift their eyes to the hills’ to see from whence their help would come; who enjoy God’s placid lakes, tumbling streams, and majestic waterfalls, but who have never drunk of the Water of life; who shepherd the sheep on a thousand grassy hillsides, but who have never met the Good Shepherd; who reap the golden grain from the fertile plains, but who never partake of the Bread of Life.”[2]

Maybe the reason so many go to the mountains is due to their desire to connect with something bigger than themselves, to see breath-taking beauty. Yet, they do not realize that their desire to connect with something is a longing in every human heart. Ecclesiastes 3:8 says that God has placed eternity into the hearts to man. So many are so close, yet they are so far away.

Because of all that God has clearly revealed, He tells us that “we are without excuse.” There is no way that we could not ever say in any way, “God, I had no idea you were there! You kept yourself hidden.” Not so!

Humanity rejects much (Romans 1:21-23).

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

The downgrade begins here. Clearly, man knew God, but the ramifications of knowing God did not jibe with the desires of their lives. Even with God revealing His invisible attributes, showing His glory in the heavens and in earth—“They did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” Here is the theme of the day: they failed to honor him or thank him. Remember, they suppressed the truth , exposing their unrighteousness. They wanted to be god over their own lives.

How well does this describe us? Do our lives express to God and the world that we wish it to be our own way? Have we decided to try to build our own lives and chart our own path, then ask God to bless? Are we using all the gifts that God has given, yet failing to thank the giver of those gifts—then wonder why our lives seem to grown emptier and emptier the more we reach our own goals?

There was a man who was a gifted football player in the 1960s and 1970s. He played running back for USC, even winning the Heisman Trophy. He was drafted #1 over all by the Buffalo Bills in 1969 and in 1973 was the first to running for over 2000 yards. He was featured in a number of commercials and movies, showing his good looks and good humor. But in 1978, he made this comment: “I thought by the time I reached all of my goals, I would find peace and happiness. But now, I am lower than ever.” God gave him some incredible gifts, but he used those gifts to bring himself glory. The man’s name is OJ Simpson. All of us kept up with the trial in the mid 1990’s and heard about the robbery in the late 2000’s. Tragic.

But this was in the spotlight of Hollywood and the media. This happens all the time. If we fail to honor God and thank him, we have darkened hearts and futile thinking privately, and thus we “exchange the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

This phraseology, “exchanging the glory” is used elsewhere in Scripture. Turn with me to Jeremiah 2:9-13:

“Therefore I still contend with you,
declares the Lord,
and with your children’s children I will contend.
10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see,
or send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Even with all that God had done in delivering and taking care of His people, they still rebelled, still chased after false gods, aligned with the other nations, and forgot the One who named them, called them, delivered them, guided them, and settled them in their land. So the people of Israel exchanged the glory of their Creator for things created. This was such a calamity, that the heavens are those who are appalled, shocked, utterly desolate. Why? Because God’s people committed two evils: they forsook the living water, then tried to cut out cisterns for themselves, “broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

John Calvin noted,

“When one leaves a living fountain and seeks a cistern, it is proof of great folly; for cisterns are dry except water comes elsewhere; but a fountain has its own spring; and further, where there is a vein perpetually flowing, and a perennial stream of waters, the water is more salubrious and much better.”[3]

But this is what happens when we move away from what God has revealed to what appeals to man. Christians must beware of this. I came from a seminary whose history from the 1920s to the 1980s wanted a seat at the table of academia. They had to compromise the notion of the supernatural and miraculous, and treat the Bible as any other book. I grew up in a core area of Virginia who believed that Christians should have a seat in the area of politics, thinking this would change the direction of the church. As a result, they risked compromising the one direction of Christ as Savior in order to link with others who may have rejected them—thus putting Christ on the backburner for a cause. I knew of friends who were so involved in churches who wished to reach the culture, they compromised issues in Scripture that seemed to offend so they could reach them.

In each case, Christians on both sides of the aisle risked compromise—relying on the systems of our society to propel the kingdom of God rather than the clear revelation of God through Scripture.


[1]John R.W. Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 71.

[2]Accessed at Colorado State Missions Offering at http://coloradomissionsoffering.org.

[3]John Calvin, Jeremiah 1-19: Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume IX (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), 93.

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American Impressions: Eats Everywhere

How many of you know what a White Castle is?

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Let me just say: when your main menu item is a slider, that tells you all you need to know. They sell miniature burgers that are more grease than burger, so they slide down smoothly. Nothing more should be said.

Really, America has a great amount of eateries. No matter the style or the ambience, we have it. It’s the idolatrous blind spot in our culture. In our churches, all fashion of sin is dealt with or at least addressed, but gluttony is down the list if mentioned at all.

So much of our culture and so much of our fellowship is geared around food. While Scripture does speak of breaking bread with each other, I do not believe the intent was to consume the entire bread factory.

Are there other ways to fellowship? And if food is necessary, can we choose healthier options that will take better care of God’s temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20)?

Some food for thought.

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Books for Trinidadian Pastors for Pastor's Conference in January

Dear friends:

I will be leading a Pastor’s Conference in January in Point Fortin, Trinidad, and would like to provide them with small but helpful book by Art Azurdia called “Spirit Empowered Preaching.”

I have set up a Wishlist at Amazon where you can go and directly purchase a book for us. The book will be sent to Boone’s Creek Baptist Church where I pastor. I’m hoping to bring down 35 to pass out to the pastors.

Can you help? You can buy them new for $12.23 (plus tax and shipping), but there are also other options where you can buy them used.

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[FROM THE ARCHIVE, 2006] Overcoming My Addiction

I wrote this blog entry on March 29, 2006 after God convicted me and my body warned me regarding a particular addiction I have and many pastors have as well. While I have not progressed as well as I would like, reading this 2 1/2 years later helps me to see that work still needs to be done. I’d appreciate your prayers in the matter.

—-

I praise God that He gives us the strength to overcome addictions — and he has put me on a path to overcome mine, but I have a long, long way to go. It is really an addiction that began in college and continued on through seminary — right into married life where it all came to bloom. All night study sessions getting ready for the test the next morning. Being locked up in the library. Then getting married and leading an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Then on top of all that, I have been in the ministry going on 15 years, which allows for an increasingly sedentary lifestyle — on top of that, I’m am in Baptist ministry, which seems to feed my particular addiction more and more because it is just part of our culture.

My particular addiction that God is helping me to overcome is that of food.

A little history. I graduated from high school weighing a whopping 135 pounds soaking wet. In high school, I actually dropped down to 117 (which was about 25 pounds below what I should have been) because my trust was in my girlfriend at the time rather than in Christ. She didn’t want to eat lunch, so I didn’t eat lunch. Very unhealthy from every angle. But by the time I graduated in 1989, I was 135 and stayed that weight pretty much all through college when I graduated in 1994.

During college, I was a music major at Palm Beach Atlantic College. Aside from the jokes that music majors really didn’t do much, nothing could have been further from the truth. One study noted that the three hardest fields of study in academia are law, medicine, and music. I didn’t go into music because of any of that — God called me into the ministry and at that time it was music ministry.

At that time, everything seemed to affect me negatively — though it wasn’t necessarily bad in and of itself. But in order to get through, I had to practice on my piano 1.5 to 2 hours per day, plus be involved in a number of extra classes that were required but where we obtained no credit. Plus, I had a couple of extra jobs just to get by. I was busy, busy, busy with bad sleeping habits and addicted at that point to caffeine and pizzas whose establishments delivered into the wee hours of the morning. I stayed skinny, but the pattern was set.

By the time I graduated seminary the first time and got married, I was a meatier 175. But when I graduated, I was engaged to my now wife Cindy. I had a steady job, no more ridiculous class schedules, no more late nights to study for music history and hymnology tests. No more working two jobs, plus doing my church work. I was settled with the woman God gave to me. And I was peaceful, relaxed …

… and expanding.

Bad habits would develop. Have a hard day at work? Go eat. Need to celebrate? Let’s go eat. Having a fellowship at church? GOTTA EAT! It’s almost as if gluttony is the unspoken, pardonable sin amongst us Baptists. It’s our culture. But in reality, food can be the worst addiction of all. It’s not illegal or necessarily immoral, but it numbs the pain and the hurt and any issue that can go on the in heart.

At the beginning of the year, I found myself between 40 and 50 pounds overweight (206). For those with large or even medium frames, 206 is really not bad. But the point is, I have a small frame and was 40-50 pounds overweight. And it really began to affect me. How?

(1) Walking up stairs. Walking upstairs from my office to the sanctuary is not a long walk, but I found myself winded slightly. I began to have to time and space out when I would go upstairs. If I walked upstairs and immediately had to talk to someone or preach, I would have to work and labor to catch my breath. As a pastor and preacher, that is not acceptable.

(2) Airplanes. A deacon friend and I flew to New Orleans to scope out some upcoming missions opportunities in that region. We flew a Comair flight to New Orleans. You know how you have to put your carry-on bag either in the seat underneath you or in the overhead compartment? I put mine in the seat underneath me. When we were in the air and I had to bend over to get it, I almost choked because my gut had become so big that it pushed into my diaphragm. (If you find yourself laughing at this, that’s your right. But it is a struggle and it causes more pain than just physical.)

(3) The jokes. One friend of mine who lives in another part of the state began joking to me, “You’re beginning to look like a Baptist preacher.” Others come up and pat me on the belly and make comments. And do you know what they would always do afterwards?

Laugh.

And it may have been funny. And for many, it certainly may not have been intended maliciously. But I now know that most folks who struggle in this area look in the mirror and begin to acquire a sort of self-loathing. And they acquire another trait which is far more harmful …

(4) I began to feel enslaved and doomed to this. Yes, I as a minister of Gospel who preaches about how we can be free from self and free in Christ, would find myself telling my wife, “You know, I really don’t think I can lose weight.” No matter what I tried, I kept gaining. And gaining.
But my wife began a program called Lose It For Life by Steven Arterburn. It’s been really good. It’s not like a lot of diet fads. Basically, it’s lots and lots and lots of water. Exercise (and they give you good tips on how to do this in the midst of a busy day), cut down on snacks, and no eating snacks after 8:00.

As of March 29, 2006, I am now 191 — I have lost 15 pounds by the grace and glory of God. My goal is 165-168. You may say, “Matt, you have 25 pounds to go!” YES! I do. But knowing that God has set me and is setting me free from my addiction to food and soft drinks now only gives me hope that I can be healthier, it’s also a time of worship that God can truly set one free from anything that enslaves.

God must be our all-in-all, but for too many of us, food is. We must preach against this as we do other sins. Stephen Arterburn noted that pastors preach against every other sin — all the while carrying 200 pounds extra weight in the pulpit. We must lay this down as well. I love food — but I love my God more and He must be my ‘comfort food’ as the Bread of Life. I will pray that you all indeed feast on Him and Him alone.

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