High

Young people in Indonesia are boiling women’s sanitary products (there’s a euphemism for you) and drinking the water.  Evidently it gets them high.  I am not making this up.  This is real.

This process is not safe; that fact probably does not take you by surprise.  But the illness that it reveals is far worse than any condition that might result.

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Separating human myth from Bible fact

Jesus was almost certainly not born on December 25.  Shepherds watched over their flocks in the open fields, a la Luke 2:8, during the spring and summer, not the winter.  To keep such an arrangement during the cold of winter would be cruel to the sheep, let alone the shepherds.

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Holiday coping mechanisms (some better than others)

Is the holiday season getting you down?  I mean, even more “down” than normal?  Do you instinctively head for the firearms section in your local Walmart when you hear yet another Christmas carol slaughtered by some boy band or country crooner?  Be of good cheer, citizen — there are a variety of remedies on the market.

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Biscuits

In the latest installment of This Week on Facebook, I present a meme: “Just imagine how great life would be if biscuits and gravy made you skinny.”

       Well, sure.  But why stop there?  Let’s wish that video games increased our intelligence, or alcohol improved our driving, or pornography strengthened our marriages.  The only difference is, I’ve heard people actually argue the last three.  Not even kidding.

Here’s the report from planet earth, though: Good choices are frequently painful choices, and indulgent choices are rarely good choices.  I am no stoic, but I must decry the rampant hedonism in our culture that has been sold to us as a tonic for what ails us.

Medicine tastes bad.  Exercise hurts.  Work wears you out.  And yes, tragically, healthy food is less appetizing than fattening, artery-clogging food.  Frankly, we should be highly suspicious when someone tries to tell us different.

But we do have a tendency to believe “information” that supports our indulgences.  Most of my brethren who have tried to get around the clear teaching of Matthew 19:6 and Matthew 19:9, for instance, have a divorce and remarriage situation very close to home.  The truth does not always hurt, granted; however, it doesn’t become less truthful when it does hurt.

God’s word is truth (John 17:17).  Our current understanding of it may or may not be truth.  We owe it to ourselves to be honest — painfully honest.  If it means giving up a tasty morsel or two, so be it.

 

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Dumplings

I frustrated Tracie for years over chicken and dumplings — a high-carb dish that, sadly, no longer occupies a place at the top of my requests list.  (Don’t let that deter you, ladies of the church; I will break whatever dietary rules I must at your respective houses.  It’s just the kind of guy I am.)

Tracie’s dumplings, you see, never suited. And she tried everything.

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Heaven or hell: You choose

In heaven you will find holiness; in hell you will find wickedness and impurity (Revelation 22:14-15).

       In heaven you will find those who obeyed the gospel; in hell you will find those who did not (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

       In heaven you will find Jesus (John 14:3); in hell you will find the devil and his agents (2 Peter 2:4).

 

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Trending

The word “trending” has gone through an interesting metamorphosis in the social media generation.  Used to be, something was “trending up” or “trending down,” depending on whether one was discussing (respectively) butter or margarine, cauliflower or broccoli rabe.

Now things are just “trending.”   It is as though the quality of an item or topic is irrelevant; all that matters is that people are talking about it.  It’s the new version of “no publicity is bad publicity,” I guess.

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Who is my brother?

One of my Facebook “friends” (actually a complete stranger to me — social media makes for odd relationships) posted the following last week: “Don’t you dare tell me who I can call my brothers and sisters in Christ!  That is way above your pay grade!”

I was tempted to respond, “Is it above yours?”

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You are what you eat

Perhaps you have heard of “food deserts.”  The term refers to places where people have limited (or less) access to grocery stores and other sources of healthy food.  Now there are “food swamps” — that is, where food is plentiful, just not nourishing.  Food swamps feature lots of gas stations, fast-food joints, and other places that promote obesity and bad eating habits.  No farmer’s markets or kale smoothie shops, though.

Studies differ with regard to whether proximity to grocery stores is actually an indicator of general health.  (They sell Snickers bars at Publix, you know.)  But there’s certainly a case to be made that the food’s quality may be as much a factor as its availability.

“Food” is relative — whether the food is carnal or spiritual.  We can pat ourselves on the back all we want for “going to church” or even “reading the Bible.”  But if we are not nourishing our spirits, what good is any of it?  A preacher who does not “preach the word” (2 Timothy 2:2), substituting human philosophy and personal opinions, may be doing more harm than good.  Reading for five minutes just to say you did it, without an eye for application or contextual understanding, may be feed a sense of “fullness” that is completely misleading.

With that in mind, consider the following spiritual nutrition tips:

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What costume do you wear?

I will be honest with you — I don’t get Halloween.  I mean no disrespect to those who consider it their favorite holiday, and I know there are some who do.  I don’t think every child in a mask is a Satanist.  In the devil’s world there are plenty of legitimate bogeymen to chase; I see no need to imagine any extra ones.

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The Beastly Human

It is no wonder that a society that tells its citizens constantly that they are no better than the animals — indeed, no different from them — winds up seeing those same citizens act like animals.  Why wouldn’t they? How could we reasonably expect anything else?

As Christians, we hope and expect humans to rise above the animal world. Animals can be trained, after all.  Why not humans?  But culture wins over holiness, time after time. And thus we see headline after headline, proclaiming in grotesque detail how degraded a culture bereft of God can become.

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Map

My good friend Brad Sullivan showed me the road to the preacher getaway to which I have made extensive reference recently in this space.  But I needed to leave the event early, so I drove home alone.  And I got lost.  As in, I didn’t know which road to get on, what direction to go, or even where to find a decent WiFi signal so my phone could educate me properly.

I needed a map. 

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Gather

When a bunch of preachers gather in a single area, they tend strongly to discuss the things of the Spirit.  Perhaps that is simply to “fit in.”  Perhaps it is to demonstrate our credibility in spiritual matters. Perhaps it is simply because it is what everyone else is doing.  In any case, we look more like preachers when preachers are the only ones in the room.

That can be a result of hypocrisy, and in some instances it probably is.  Maybe some are just going through the motions to blend in with people they admire.  Maybe that’s what I do.  But I like to believe, …

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Mega-Monstrosity

Full disclosure: I am the last person you should go to for reliable information on the lottery.  I deliberately avoid these stories — not because I want to limit my exposure to temptations of the flesh, but rather because I detest stupidity and because I wish to expect the best out of my fellow Americans.

That said, the figure $1.5 billion grabs the attention of even the most callous of ‘net-surfers.  So I poked around a bit. 

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Enslaved no longer

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’ ” — John 8:34-36

 

Sinners do not properly understand the principle of being enslaved to sin. They know nothing other than slavery. They have found contentment and even joy in slavery. They have convinced themselves that sin is the inevitable and preferred state of mankind. By committing themselves to slavery, though, they are prohibiting themselves from living the life that they were, in the most literal of senses, born to live.

 

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Simplicity

Simplicity, as pointed out to me recently by Bro. Ed Bragwell, is the opposite of duplicity.  Yet again, Hal slaps himself in the face and wonders how something so obviously true and practical escaped his notice for 52 years.

“The simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” is addressed in 2 Corinthians 11:3. 

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Companions

I spent the better part of the week at what Taylor delights in calling “preacher camp” while she and Tracie were riding out the hurricane.  Yes, I feel a bit guilty about that.  What can I say?  They made me go, and they wouldn’t let me come home early.  They had Elvis movies to watch.

But I’m glad I went.  I met a few dozen preachers.  I sat at the feet of qualified and motivated instructors.  I grew as a preacher and a Christian.  Almost as importantly, I got ample fodder for articles such as this one.  Stay tuned.

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A proper cause for boasting

Like the rest of us, Paul had plenty of opportunities for boasting if he were inclined to seek them. He lists some of them in Philippians 3:5-6. Circumcised. Descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Devout follower of Jehovah God for his entire life. A spotless reputation for righteousness among all who knew him. Such things were, in fact, used by many Jewish Christians to distance themselves morally and spiritually from others, particularly Gentiles.

But Paul abandoned such things.

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