Sweet to the Taste, Sour to the Stomach

Soon after the birth of our second child, my wife and I began looking for a new home. Which was funny, because only two years earlier we bought a basically new home.

The irony continued in that the next “new home” we bought was at least 30 years old and needed tens of thousands of dollars of work.

Other than that, it was perfect.


 

We hired contractors to put in new floors and a fresh coat of paint, but many small jobs fell to me. So on many Friday and Saturday mornings, I took my two year-old son to the local big box hardware store to pick up some supplies needed for various projects. Amazingly, we nearly always detoured through Krispy Kreme to grab coffee and a donut.

Or was it 6 donuts?

Twelve?

That’s the problem with donuts: they are sweet to the taste, but they sour the stomach.

They usually taste amazing going down, but the body has a terrible time dealing with them.


it’s because of that and similar experiences that I initially had a difficult time understanding this passage from Revelation 10.

Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.

Was John saying that the Word of God was … well … like a donut?

Was he saying that God’s Word wasn’t good for us but that it tasted like it should be?


No, and Eugene Peterson explains.

For most of us, our first experience with the Bible is sweet; we find ourselves in this book, and that is so wonderful. We acquire a taste for the promises and blessings of God, we learn to appreciate the sound counsel and direction for our lives, we memorize a few psalms that we can recite in dark and lonely times and find comfort. There is so much here to delight us.

But sooner or later we find that not everything is to our liking in this book. It starts out sweet to our taste; and then we find that it doesn’t sit well with us at all; it becomes bitter in our stomachs. Finding ourselves in this book is most pleasant, flattering even; and then we find that the book is not written to flatter us, but to involve us in a reality, God’s reality, that doesn’t cater to our fantasies of ourselves.

There are hard things in this book, hard things to hear, hard things to obey. There are words in this book that are difficult to digest.

John got a severe case of indigestion.

Have you ever read the Bible and initially thought it “sweet” but later found it disagreeable with your “constitution”? If not, and you continue to read it, then you will. You WILL have those moments where the Bible confounds you, confuses you and seemingly speaks against everything you thought to be true about God. You’ll try your level-best to make what you read fit into your preconceived notions about God, and you’ll even find others who agree with you, but that won’t make your tummy feel any better.

That’s because there are times when the Bible is sweet to the taste, but sour to the stomach.

 

 

Seeking Justice in an Unjust Manner is to be Equally Unjust

It seems like every day I’ve visited a news website over the last week or so, I’ve seen a headline warning about the violence that will certainly follow the decision by a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri. Certain, that is, if the jury chooses not to indict the officer. Here are the headlines I’ve seen today.

I don’t pretend to know the slightest thing about this case, nor do I pretend to know what it means to experience injustice (minor or major) because of my ethnicity. But the principles at work in this potential scenario of violence transcend race.

Violence does not have to follow a grand jury’s decision to not indict the officer.

The community of Ferguson can choose to believe that the gospel instead.

And if they do, they won’t seek justice in an unjust manner, thus showing their hearts to be equally corrupt.

Let’s assume for a moment that the officer is guilty of a crime, yet is not indicted (which is the expectation of some who are ready to violently protest such a decision). Biblically speaking, in what sense is violence justified? Where did Jesus cry out for revenge and retaliation? Where did Jesus advocate for looting and theft as the proper response to injustice? When did Paul retaliate against the Jewish leaders for the many unjust beatings he received while preaching the gospel?

By seeking justice in an unjust manner, we show ourselves to be equally unjust. If we respond to hate with hate, we are no better those who hated first.

I hope that the people of Ferguson will not turn into the very people they protest.

Cry.

Weep.

Mourn.

Pray.

Seek justice lawfully.

But please, do not seek justice in an unjust manner.

Believe the gospel instead.

Bonhoeffer was right, and he experienced a grave in justice.

“Jesus will not accept the common distinction between righteous indignation and unjustifiable anger. The disciple must be entirely innocent of anger, because anger is an offence against both God and his neighbour.”

“Nothing that we despise in other men is inherently absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in light of what they suffer.”

Jesus was right, and He experienced the worst injustice.

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment. 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. Matthew 5:21-22, NLT.

Ferguson, you can choose to believe the gospel, and I pray that you will.

Seven “C’s” for Every Leader and Organization

I’ve been fortunate enough to sit on both sides of a job interview in both church and para-church related settings, and these seven “C’s” have served me well in looking for teams or churches I might serve, and they’ve served those teams and churches well also.


  1. Competence. Within the context of the role I am seeking in this organization and the needs of this organization, do I have the ability/talent/proven history to lead in an intentional and focused way?
  2. Coherence. Do I have the ability to explain persuasively the reasoning behind why I do what I do to this particular organization’s context?
  3. Credibility. What story does my past tell the organization I’m seeking a relationship with? Am I person of integrity, or nothing more than smooth-talking salesman who never truly delivers? You might also call this “character.
  4. Culture. There are lots of great organizations, and there all different. There are lots of great pastors or other leaders, and they are all different. Just because the organization is great and the candidate is great doesn’t mean they are right for one another. Is the culture of the organization right a good match for this leader?
  5. Chemistry. How does this potential new team member “gee-haw” with the existing team? It’s one thing to fit in culturally; it’s another to have a great chemistry with the existing leaders.
  6. Calling. Do the core responsibilities and key relationships associated with them fit well with who God made me to be and what God called me to do?
  7. Clarity. Do the leader and the organization know the general direction each feel led to go, and do they align? It’s not about certainty (knowing and agreeing upon every detail), but clarity (mutual trust in the same direction that the details will not divide).

Struggling to Take it Easy

Recently I spent some time working from a coffee shop. The room was decorated with movie posters, one of which was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. If you want to watch a movie that defines my age of adolescence, watch this movie.

But it was the tagline that caught my attention: “One man’s struggle to take it easy.”

That sums up the movie well. Every “trial” Ferris has is related to his quest to have a day off. But the tagline spoke to me in a much more serious way.

Check out Philippians 4:11-13.

I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

You probably know that Paul was in prison, and you probably know that Paul was thanking the Philippians for their concern from him in prison. Therefore, we often interpret Paul’s message about contentment with regard to trials. Sickness? I can be content. Persecution? I can be content. Injustice? I can be content. Hunger? I can be content.

Such an interpretation is accurate, but not complete, for Paul also says that he can be content “with a full stomach” and “with plenty.”

I have often assumed that the reason Paul can be content with lots of money and a full stomach is BECAUSE he has plenty of money and food, but that’s a terrible assumption and one that does not do justice to the text. Paul says, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” … and by “everything” he means “times of plenty.”

Paul was not content in times of plenty because he had plenty, but because he had Christ.

Maybe you’re like me, and you have a strong, ambitious drive towards more.

More success.

More accomplishment.

More responsibility.

More gadgets.

More kids.

And even as you get more of these things, you’re still not content.

This is because “plenty” doesn’t provide contentment.

Jesus does.

So if you find yourself struggling to take it easy in your time of plenty, it may very well be because you’re seeking contentment in that “plenty” instead of Jesus.

Jesus is our strength in times of plenty.

Our contentment in times of abundance.

Jesus is the solution to our struggle to take it easy.

Finding True Happiness

Driving to downtown Nashville in October, I frequently noticed a billboard advertising for an event at the local symphony with a man named Sri Sir Ravi Shankar. According to the Tennessean:

Shankar will guide Nashville residents through a meditation event titled “Secrets to Being Truly Happy,” which coincides with his foundation’s Truly Happy platform. “We are here for just 60-100 years,” Shankar said in a press release. “This short span of life we spend on this planet is better spent happily and spreading happiness instead of bickering for various things, conflict, and war.”

Truly happy. Who doesn’t want to be truly happy?

When my boys pray at the dinner table or other environment, I learn what makes them happy. At ages 8 and 10, the bulk of the prayers are filled with gratitude for their many “blessings.” More recently, this list included “Abby Jane, Big Mama, and Chuy’s.” Their happiness, not unlike many adults, is tied to their experiences. They consider themselves “blessed” to the extent they experience or possess things that “make” them happy.

I don’t know what Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s secrets, but God has revealed the so-called “secret” to happiness, and it’s not a secret at all. Read Psalm 1.

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

This psalm does not deny that some happiness can be related to experiences, but it clearly asserts that there is a deeper happiness rooted in the Word of God.

It does so by contrasting happiness in God’s Word with attempting to find happiness with regard to sin. There is no true happiness in any kind of relationship with sin. Be it considering to sin (walking in counsel), performing a sin (standing in the way) or belonging to a sin (scoffing others who don’t do it too), there is no real happiness.

Happiness is found in delighting in God’s Word … filling our minds with it and shaping our lives to it.

To do so is to be a tree. To not do so is to be chaff. Can there a better contrast between a TREE and CHAFF? One is deeply rooted with multiple roots going out in all directions towards the water source in order to produce fruit for others to benefit from. The other is rootless and weightless and useless. Interestingly, chaff was also burned.

One is happy AND righteous.

The other is meaningless AND destroyed.

Are you truly happy?

Halloween’s History and How to be Christian with it

Southern Fried Faith:

It’s Halloween … or Reformation Sunday … or “Poke Reese’s Cups Down My Throat” Day … but where did it come from and what’s a Christian to do?

Originally posted on Southern Fried Faith:

The overall historical account given here is predominantly derived from History.com

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).  The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or…

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The Good Shepherd

Psalm 23 begins with what is admittedly an odd metaphor: “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

Shepherd?

YAHWEH … ADONAI … JEHOVAH … a lowly, insignificant shepherd?

Yet that is precisely what David intends for us to wrestle with.

The holy, sovereign God of the universe is like a shepherd.

How so?

  1. He insures we have everything good and right. Not everything that we want. Not everything we think we need. Everything He knows we need for our good and His glory. This includes green pastures and still waters, some of which may be on the other side of a stroll through very dark valleys. Even so, He is leading us to a better place than where we once were.
  2. He makes us righteous for His glory. This is what David means when he says that the Lord leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (v. 3). He is not making us righteous for any other reason greater than this one. If there were a greater reason, He would not be God. He is making us righteous so people can marvel at a righteous God.
  3. He passionately pursues me with goodness and mercy. The HCSB rightly translates the Hebrew here, whereas other translations traditionally say “follow.” The idea here is that in Christ, God is constantly pursuing me with His goodness and mercy, for it is mine to have by grace through faith.

So the Lord is your Shepherd. He has passionately pursued you with goodness and mercy in Christ. He is making you righteous for His glory. And in so doing, provides you with every good thing you could ever need.